Donald Trump’s May 11 Wildwood beach rally is expected to draw thousands of people

On a bitterly frosty January day in 2020, former President Donald Trump packed the Wildwood Convention Center with supporters in one of the largest rallies of the last presidential campaign.

Four years later, Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. learned that Trump wanted a repeat event but the elderly venue was unavailable. He proposed another idea:

“I said we have a beach,” Troiano said.

That’s how the event was planned to be a huge, raucous, seaside Trump fest on Saturday at the Jersey Shore in a city that draws tourists from across the Garden State and its swing state neighbor, Pennsylvania, six months before the high-stakes game. rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden.

Trump, who is campaigning three days a week in Manhattan during his hush money trial, is necessarily focusing on huge, one-off rallies rather than recurrent campaign stops. Wildwood, with its festival atmosphere and politically incorrect t-shirts, fits his campaign style. The city hosts country music festivals, muscle car shows, and jeep parades on the beach. Republican enclave in New Jersey is also a Trump-friendly blue state.

(*11*) said Troiano, a Republican and Trump supporter. “We are becoming the center of national attention. They see the size of the beaches, they see the amusement parks we have to offer, our restaurants and hotels are very popular.

Trump will speak at the rally around 5 p.m., and the beach venue will open at noon. The space can accommodate over 30,000 people. Troiano said the campaign is paying for the event and has made an advance reimbursement of $54,000 to cover the cost of law enforcement support from Wildwood and nearby departments.

There’s a story there. The last time Trump visited Wildwood, then-Mayor Pete Byron, a Democrat, criticized the campaign for failing to reimburse costs city ​​for some cost.

Troiano, Byron and incumbent City Commissioner Steve Mikulski will face indictments they accuse them of defrauding the state health care system by pretending to be full-time employees and collecting health insurance. So Trump, who has been charged in four jurisdictions, will speak in a city where two of the country’s three current elected leaders are also indicted.

Why Wildwood?

Cape May County is a largely Republican county in a predominantly blue state. In 2019, U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, whose district includes the seaside resort, changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and became a major Trump supporter. He currently heads Trump’s re-election campaign committee in New Jersey.

Wildwood is a town used to hosting large events and large crowds. On a typical day, Troiano said, the Shore can see a quarter of a million people at its peak. The island, technically made up of three separate boroughs, has long attracted working and middle-class families from the Philadelphia area for its three miles of arcades, pizzerias, ice cream stands and T-shirt shops along the boardwalk.

Local Republicans are planning events around the rally, hosting watch parties and after-parties, and creating digital countdown flyers to “TrumpWildwood2.0.”

Some in the area are less enthused. Elizabeth Skrabonja, a resident of Wildwood Crest for 37 years, sent a letter to commissioners and local businesses sharply criticizing the decision to hold the event in Wildwood.

“Hosting Donald Trump under the guise of ‘he’s good at business’ says a lot about the character of the people supporting this event,” she wrote.

Skrabonja, 62, who grew up in North Jersey, said the surge in pizza and rideshare sales should not overshadow Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “We don’t have to wait for the court to decide that this man is not worthy of performing in our city.”

For Trump, Wildwood is a tiny trip from New York and close to media markets in New York and Philadelphia. Earlier this month, the former president spent his only weekday outside the courtroom, holding rallies in Wisconsin and Michigan, two key swing states that, like Pennsylvania, flipped from red to blue in 2020.

“I have to do two of these things today. Do you know why? Because I am in New York at all times during the Biden trial,” Trump told supporters in Michigan, falsely implying that the president was involved in his hush money case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

When Trump arrived in Wildwood in 2020, his defense attorneys had just finished their arguments in his first impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, which supporters called a witch hunt.

This time around, polls show Trump with a slight lead in most swing states, despite numerous indictments.

Although most voters expressed frustration with both candidates, Trump’s core supporters remained steadfast – and vocal, treating his rallies like festivals, arriving hours early and listening to familiar playlists ranging from The Phantom of the Opera to Kid Rock.

Who is Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr?

The last time Trump visited Wildwood, the newly elected mayor was Byron, a Democrat. Byron said Van Drew banned him from attending the Trump rally, even though he supported him at the time as a driving force in the city’s economy.

Byron’s election seemed to mark a departure from Trumpism and Troiano, who was mayor for 19 years. However, Byron resigned from his position in September 2023 following his conviction in federal court following his guilty plea to tax fraud.

In January, Troiano was re-elected as mayor by vote of the Wildwood Board of Commissioners.

Like Trump, Troiano made headlines for his brash, unfiltered comment. He was born and raised in this city and represents the third of five generations of his family to live in Wildwood.

Troiano also faced legal problems. He was was indicted in August 2023 along with Byron and Mikulski in connection with their alleged fraudulent participation in the State Health Benefits Program. The men are accused of deciding to enroll in the health care system and then falsifying work schedules in order to qualify for the full-time work required to enroll in the program.

Their next court appearance is scheduled for May 17.

Troiano said party mostly positive, although some residents were concerned about Mother’s Day weekend crowds.

“People are calling and asking: will it be safe? Will my children be safe in the city with these MAGA thugs?” he said.

Trump’s rallies have been largely peaceful this campaign season, but the memorable image of the brutal attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, which followed a rally in which he exhorted his supporters to march to the building as Congress reaffirmed its failure in 2020

“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘You’re really screwed up.’ Most MAGA people are conservative. They are not the rioters,” Troiano said. “Maybe you think it’s Portland or Seattle. Nobody smokes anything here. This is Wildwood. We know how to do it.”

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