Randal Thom drove all over the Upper Midwest last year as he attended 23 of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rallies, usually showing up a full half-day early to claim a good spot. This week he piled into a car with three strangers he found online, Trump supporters all, and drove 19 hours to Washington, D.C., to see their candidate become president Friday.
“I’m confident it’s going to be a very patriotic inauguration,” said Thom, 56, who raises dogs in the southwestern Minnesota city of Lakefield. His group left Minnesota on Tuesday, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll have staked out a prime spot on the National Mall to revel in the sights and sounds, decked out in his red, white and blue cowboy hat.
Among the throngs descending on Washington to watch Trump become the 45th president are some of the Minnesotans who pushed hardest for his victory. Some made hundreds of phone calls and draped signs off the sides of highway overpasses. Others donated money and threw fundraising parties.
For many of the most fervent, Trump awakened their first real interest in politics. Now, they can’t imagine missing his inauguration — even if it means long car rides, expensive plane tickets and fighting crowds for a chance to get close to the celebration.
Some of Trump’s more ardent — and well-connected — Minnesota supporters scored tickets to official festivities. Over the past few weeks, the mail brought a series of missives complete with the monograms and fancy script of a wedding invitation: inaugural ceremony tickets, a concert and some of the formal balls Trump himself is scheduled to attend.
“As soon as he was elected, we bought our tickets right away,” said Sherry Perra, a Wayzata wine seller who backed Trump from the start of the campaign and was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention last summer. “We were going to go if we got the actual invite or not.”
Perra and her husband did manage to score all the right tickets. Now, even as many thousands of protesters plan weekend demonstrations in Washington and around the country, Perra said she hopes Trump’s inaugural speech will sound a bit like his speeches at campaign trail rallies.
“It seems like part of the country isn’t listening,” she said. “I’m looking for him to try to unify and speak to everyone, be the president for all of us.”
Jennifer DeJournett, a Maple Grove woman who worked for Republican Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign in Minnesota, cheered Trump’s victory, even though he wasn’t her initial pick. Getting a chance to see Trump sworn in, she said, “is really just wrapping a bow on the whole experience.”
DeJournett is proud of the bargain-hunting approach she’s taken to planning for the trip. She heard many people booked plane tickets for about $500, but she managed to snag hers for less than half that price. She’s staying in the townhouse of a friend and found good deals on the outfits she’ll wear to two inaugural balls.
“Because I’m a fiscal conservative, I went to David’s Bridal and went on the clearance rack and found two off-the-rack dresses for $50,” she said.
Some inauguration-goers admitted a little concern about planned protests and other security issues. DeJournett’s lunch reservations at the Trump International Hotel were canceled by the hotel, which notified her it was providing dining reservations only to hotel guests as a security measure.
Bob Anderson, a dental technician from Hastings, doesn’t have tickets to any of the events. Still, he planned to board a plane on Thursday night after work for a whirlwind trip to witness the culmination of what he sees as “a historic revolution.”
Anderson said Trump’s campaign and his victory prompted him to join one of the major political parties for the first time.
Being at — or at least near — the inauguration, he said, is “kind of like capping off a wild and crazy ride.”
Meanwhile, Cole Ignaszewski, a 19-year-old Iowa State University freshman from New Richland, will be one of 45 Minnesota 4-H participants at a youth leadership conference that coincides with the inauguration. Ignaszewski won the spot through a competitive process that wrapped up before Election Day. He and the other students selected for the trip had to pledge that they’d be willing to attend the inauguration, no matter who won.
Though Ignaszewski preferred Trump, he said he would have attended a Hillary Clinton inauguration, too: “no question.”
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be standing there when history happens,” he said.