President Donald J. Trump’s planned rally for Tuesday, Jan. 28, in Wildwood coincides with an unprecedented first 30 days in office for newly elected Wildwood Mayor, Pete Byron.
“Two weeks ago, I had the second most powerful man in the state swearing us in, and then five days later the most powerful man in the world wants to swing by and say hi,” says Byron of the Trump rally. “Wildwood has such a small budget for advertising. A situation like this puts us in the national spotlight.”
While Byron is a new mayor, he’s serving his third term on Wildwood’s City Council, and is thrilled with the recent turn of events.
“I’m pumped for Wildwood. That’s why I think this is so exciting. 1891 is the last time a sitting president came to Cape May County. Needless to say, it’s been a couple of years. It’s not about the man, as much as it is about the position,” says Byron about Trump, who he recognizes as being a divisive figure.
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“There’s no in between. You either passionately support him, or you’re passionately against him,” says Byron, who emphasizes that this is a chance to see a sitting president. “Check your party affiliation at the door, because this opportunity is rare.”
So whether you love him or hate him — and there are plenty of people in each camp — Jan. 28 marks an historic day in Cape May County.
Here’s what you need to know
1. A who’s who of the Trump rally. The main attraction at the Wildwood rally is obviously President Trump himself, but this won’t be a solo appearance. In fact, flying alongside the President on Air Force One will be none other than the newest Republican Congressman, former Democrat Jeff Van Drew, who defected from his party in December, pledging his “undying support” for President Trump.
2. The main event. President Trump has in many ways redefined the American presidency, not least of all because of his penchant for utilizing media in unprecedented and unorthodox ways. His rallies have become signatures of his presidency, serving as both political campaigning as well as a personal promotional tour. Expect a rallying cry to vote Republican as well as an opportunity to buy T-shirts and red hats.
3. When to arrive. While the official start time of the Wildwood Trump Rally is 7 p.m. with doors opening at 3 p.m., the best bet is to get there early as the town is likely to be an absolute mob scene.
“The line was very long and that stadium held 10,500 people in it,” says Carmela Desiderio of Sea Isle, who attended a rally for President Trump in December. “A lot of people didn’t get in and the ones who didn’t watched from outside on a jumbo screen. For an event like this with the president … don’t show up at 5 or 6. Get there early. I know this might sound crazy, but to get good seats you should get there at noon or before.”
4. The Venue. Wildwood sees thousands upon thousands of guests in the summer, but come winter, it’s quiet — really quiet. This is all going to change when the President comes to town. The event is scheduled to take place at the Wildwood Convention Center, which holds approximately 7,500 guests, according to Mayor Byron. And while the Convention Center is the site of the main event, people can expect enthusiastic crowds as well as equally enthusiastic protesters en route to the entrance.
It’s not everyday a President comes to town, and local residents can plan to contend with more than just traffic jams on the Parkway. Already, Wildwood schools have been closed for the day. In a letter to parents, Superintendent J. Kenyon Kummings said, “The event would affect Wildwood Middle/High School due to its proximity to the Convention Center (less than 1,600 feet) and the schools’ dismissal times, which would occur just prior to the doors opening for the event.”
And as expected, there are plenty of local opinions.
“I’m attending the rally because like him or hate him, he still is our President. There has never been a sitting president, in mine or even my parents lifetime, who has visited South Jersey. This is history and I want to be part of it. This is exciting for all of us.”
— Barbara DiNardo, Greenfield
“I will be participating in the CMC Indivisible Rally in Wildwood. It is important that we show residents of South Jersey that they are not alone in opposing the Trump administration’s policies.”
— Gretchen Landenburger, Cape May Point
“I’m going to support the President. He has exposed how broken and corrupt Washington D.C. is, on both sides. I’m so happy it’s so close to home!”
— Paul Baker, Marmora
“I’m planning on going. I’m not sure that the demonstrations will have much of an immediate effect on anything, but by not being there we would be saying that Van Drew’s perfidy and Trump’s corruption and unconstitutional behavior is OK. They are not OK.”
— Don Oral, Former Candidate for Upper Township Committee, Marmora
Registering for the Event
Those wishing to attend the event should do so directly through the President’s website at DonaldJTrump.com.
Guests can register for up to two tickets per mobile number per event. Please note however that registration does not guarantee admission. Admission to the event is first come, first served.
The 411 on the Trump Rally
The Trump team is working on the logistics for the event, and nothing has been announced as of this writing. However, Mayor Byron is anticipating top notch security.
“What guests can bring into the event is going to be limited, probably similar to an airplane. They won’t be able to have even a nail clipper in their bags. If it’s a rainy day, and they’re carrying umbrellas, they can expect to leave their umbrellas outside,” says Byron.
Additionally, be prepared to walk.
“Parking is going to be an issue. Get here early, look for parking, and expect to park your car a minimum of two blocks away,” says Byron.
As for the party atmosphere and availability of local bars, Byron recommends caution.
“Be careful, have a designated driver,” says Byron. “Practice whatever safety precautions you’d take on a regular Friday night. It’s going to be an experience.”
The Side Acts
While the President and his rally are the main event, there are expected to be a number of side acts, most notably the “Trump: You Are Not Welcome Here” rally organized by Cape May County Indivisible and co-hosted by dozens of other groups from all over New Jersey and Philadelphia including ATNJ, NJ-11th for Change, Indivisible Philadelphia and NJ7 Forward, among many others.
“Protest is patriotic,” says Cassandra Gatelein, who co-chairs CMC Indivisible. “We stand in peaceful protest to reject the racism, bigotry, violence and corruption of the Trump regime. It is our diversity which makes us truly great, and we are committed to making this country a better place for ALL of us.”
According to Gatelein, confirmed speakers include Marie Blistan, President of the NJEA, and Democratic congressional candidates Ashley Bennett, Will Cunningham, and Amy Kennedy, all of whom are running against Rep. Van Drew. The protest will be joined by a veritable who’s who of New Jersey progressive politics.
“There’s a lot of lively debate in Trenton and the national presidential primary debate where the left is hashing out policy differences and opinions about healthcare but the Trump rally presents a unique opportunity in that the left is completely undivided. It’s an opportunity for democrats, progressives, green party, and those that lean left to demonstrate our complete rejection of all of the Trumpian misogynistic, shortsighted and racist agenda. We’re looking forward to showing our fierce power and that hate has no home here in the Garden State,” says Sue Altman of Working Families United, who will be traveling to the protest from Camden City.
Additional protests include “Defeat Trump and Van Drew Too” hosted by both the Democratic Party of both Cape May and Atlantic Counties; and a Wildwood Beach Cleanup Rally, meant to be a constructive and positive counterprogramming event with live music and speakers, organized by activist Mark Heany.