MENDON, Ill. — Saturday was arguably the biggest day in the history of this tiny town (2010 Census says 953 people) because of the “Save America!” rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds, highlighted by an appearance by former President Donald Trump. Here’s how the events of the day unveiled in my eyes.
7:50 a.m.: Alarm goes off.
8:38 a.m.: After a piece of toast and a glass of milk, and a small editing emergency on the Muddy River News website, I’m in my car and headed to Mendon.
8:40 a.m.: After heading north on 12th Street, I get to the intersection of U.S. 24 and realize I have to turn around because of construction.
8:51 a.m.: The first “Trump 2024” sign can be seen driving north along Ill. 336 at the intersection of N. 1925th Avenue. Someone plastered the sign to the side of a truck.
9:02 a.m.: Arrive at fairgrounds and park in media area. Follow the herd of media types to a riser, which is about 100 feet from the main stage. Supervise photographer Aaron Beaston and videographer Ryan Stark as they set up equipment. (Supervise is the technical word for “stand there and watch.”)
9:10 a.m.: The rain starts. I have nothing to keep the equipment dry.
9:12 a.m.: Friends from KHQA-TV offer a plastic bag. Thank goodness.
9:18 a.m.: A man wearing a red, white and blue jacket, pants and hat with the words “Uncle Jam” on the back of his jacket offers an enormous plastic bag. Sure, another one will help. (NOTE: Several people are wearing getups similar to Uncle Jam.)
9:45 a.m.: Everything is set up, and the media has to leave the area for a security sweep. I decide to leave the fairgrounds.
11 a.m.: After filling up the gas tank, I arrive at home. Time for a nap that will help me get through a long day.
11:30 a.m.: Eyes shut.
12:30 p.m.: Alarm goes off.
1:25 p.m.: A couple of slices of pizza for lunch, and it’s time to leave the house for Mendon.
1:42 p.m.: I’m about 60 yards from the entrance to the media parking lot.
1:51 p.m.: Those last 60 yards took about nine minutes. Not bad overall.
2 p.m.: Arrive at the press gate.
2:05 p.m.: Go through Secret Service checkpoint. After I emptied my pockets, the Secret Service man looks at my phone and says, “Your daughters are beautiful.” For as many people who will be here, this has been a fairly smooth process — and the Secret Service guys have been very cordial.
2:08 p.m.: A couple of Quincy media folks say they were booed and jeered when they entered the grounds. Something about “fake news.”
2:10 p.m.: Run into Tom DeVore, who is running for attorney general. Remember him when the debate about schools and COVID vaccination?
2:14 p.m. Hoo boy, it’s getting warm.
2:36 p.m.: The party can start: Mike Lindell, the founder and CEO of My Pillow, goes through the Secret Service checkpoint.
3:10 p.m.: All the Muddy River News team is here. Let’s get to work.
3:25 p.m.: Too many people over the age of 80 and under the age of 3 months are here. Good grief, people. Did you not check the weather forecast? I spoke with someone in the health services profession (only here as a Trump supporter) who said he had already seen 10 people being assisted because they were suffering from the heat. Another person tells me a man “who was on oxygen and weighed 450 pounds” collapsed while waiting in line.
3:32 p.m.: Talked to a handful of people who security did not permit inside the seating area, so they get to stand in the front row. They still seemed pretty happy.
3:42 p.m.: The lines to get concessions are at least 150 people deep. Organizers of this event tried to keep people hydrated by giving away free water, but they have run out. People are dipping their hands in the slushy ice water. I don’t even want to know if they’re trying to drink it.
3:54 p.m.: It’s 91 degrees with 60 percent humidity. That makes the “feels-like” temperature about 120, doesn’t it?
4:12 p.m.: Don Blickhan, retired chaplain at the Illinois Veterans Home, says a prayer. (Sounded more like a campaign speech, but who am I to argue with a chaplain? He did pray for everybody here. So it counts.)
4:15 p.m.: Doris Sanders of Quincy sings a rousing rendition of the national anthem.
4:16 p.m.: Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado is the first scheduled speaker. She greets the crowd with, “Who’s ready to take back America?”
4:17 p.m.: Boebert makes the first joke about President Joe Biden riding a bicycle.
4:19 p.m.: Boebert makes the first reference to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. “Those were Trump’s justices he appointed,” she said. “Promises made. Promises kept.”
4:20 p.m.: Crowd erupts into first “Thank you Trump” chant.
4:25 p.m.: Lindell is the next speaker.
4:32 p.m.: The sun goes under a big cloud. Whew. We all needed a little break from the heat.
4:35 p.m.: OK, Mike’s been on stage a little too long.
4:38 p.m.: Lindell says Trump has 81 million votes in the 2020 election, and Biden had 66 million. “(Trump) won the election,” he bellows. “He got so many votes, he broke the computer algorithms.”
4:39 p.m.: Lindell concludes by saying, “We are in the greatest revival for Jesus Christ in world history.”
4:40 p.m.: Mary Miller commercial plays on large screens behind bleachers.
4:41 p.m.: Miller walks on stage.
4:42 p.m.: Miller says, “Quincy is the heartland of the Midwest. We are the pulse of America.” (Hey, Mary, need to check your GPS. We’re in Mendon. I know it’s only a few miles from Quincy, but little ol’ Mendon needs to get its props.)
4:45 p.m.: Miller announces she has been endorsed by Darren Bailey, one of several Republican candidates for governor in Illinois. First big cheer of the day for Bailey.
4:47 p.m.: Miller calls the decision to reverse Roe v. Wade “a victory for us who believe in the Constitution. We owe this victory to Donald Trump.”
4:49 p.m.: Miller tells the crowd that her opponent, Rodney Davis, voted against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. “If Rodney Davis had gotten his way, we would have had crooked Hillary Clinton in the White House,” she said.” First Hillary reference of the day.
4:50 p.m.: A few sprinkles, but no rain. Forecast was calling for rain around 6 p.m.
4:52 p.m.: Miller asks for the crowd’s vote on Tuesday. She leaves the stage to a standing ovation.
4:53 p.m.: We get a break from the speakers.
4:58 p.m.: Talked to one of the many men (and a handful of women) providing security for the event. It appears if want to be on the security team, you must be able to bench press a Volkswagen. Holy cow, these guys are ripped. Muscles are bulging out of their olive green shirts. These people come from all over the country to provide security at events like this.
5:06 p.m.: When you have a chance to pose for a selfie with Lindell, you take it.
5:08 p.m.: My sunglasses, which were hanging from a button on my golf shirt, fall off and now are about 10 feet below the media riser.
5:10 p.m.: Ashley Conrad, host of the Daily Muddy on Muddy River News, goes under the riser to look for my sunglasses. No luck. God bless her for trying.
5:25 p.m.: A photographer from St. Louis has retrieved my sunglasses. Whew. I would have had to spend another dollar at the Dollar General to replace them.
5:41 p.m.: The crowd dances to “YMCA,” by the Village People. To be honest, the music selection has been pretty good. They’ve run through the entrance songs to half of the top wrestlers for World Wrestling Entertainment.
5:44 p.m.: Damn. The sun is back out. When is Trump getting here?
5:45 p.m.: Someone says Trump’s plane is 10 minutes from the airport.
5:53 p.m.: Emily Novotny is handling press requests for Event Strategies, Inc., which is coordinating management of the rally. I ask her if the Trump campaign will announce an official crowd estimate. She says, “We don’t do crowd estimates.” Probably a good idea. I was told volunteers set 2,000 chairs in front of the stage. If that’s true, then I’m going to estimate the crowd at about 8,000 people.
6:12 p.m.: As the loudspeaker blares music for the masses, someone hits the wrong button. The entire crowd jumps as they hear a loud screech. OK, everybody is awake now.
6:24 p.m.: The crowd stirs when what appears to be a line of cars (one with flashing lights) arrives at the fairgrounds. Hey, maybe Trump can speak early and send everyone home early.
6:33 p.m.: Have I mentioned it’s hot? And people are dropping like flies?
6:36 p.m.: An elderly man collapses next to the media riser. Within seconds, an Adams County EMT is there to assist. The EMTs are working their asses off today.
6:38 p.m.: Someone tries to start the wave. No one else follows. It’s too hot, man. Just sit down.
6:39 p.m.: A text pops up on my phone. It’s from “Donald Trump.” He’s telling me he’s about to step on stage in Mendon.
6:42 p.m.: I have a quick chat with one of the Secret Service agents and ask for an estimate on the number of people who have needed assistance from Adams County EMTs because of the heat. “About 100,” he said. Then I asked how many of those people should have never been on the grounds because of their age or physical condition. “About 95,” he said.
6:44 p.m.: “I Am a Real American,” a song by Rick Derringer, comes on the loudspeakers. This was Hulk Hogan’s entrance song when he was at the height of his popularity. Could this be a sign Trump will be on stage in a few moments?
6:58 p.m.: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.” The song, “Proud to be an American,” greets him as he makes his appearance.
6:58 p.m.: Trump walks slowly toward the main stage, tossing “Make America Great Again” hats to the crowd. It’s easy to tell he knows what the crowd wants. He takes his time, facing the crowd in every direction and holding the pose for about five seconds so his fans can get their photos. He also points to someone in the crowd after each pose.
6:59 p.m.: “I’m thrilled to be back in the American heartland with thousands of proud, hard-working American patriots.”
7:01 p.m.: “Before we begin, we’ve got some very big news. Maybe the biggest right from the United States Supreme Court yesterday. The Court handed down a victory for the Constitution … and a victory for life.”
7:03 p.m.: “We are today the party of life. We are the party of everyone.”
7:06 p.m.: “We’ve never had anything like what’s going on right now than we have in our country than the fact that at this very moment, the radical Democrats are staging a ridiculous fake trial over January 6. Their party leaders are saying nothing about the violent intimidation of the United States Supreme Court.”
7:07 p.m.: “Why aren’t they investigating massive election fraud and irregularities instead of investigating the people who want to get to the bottom of a rigged and stolen election?”
7:09 p.m.: “The Russia hoax was the greatest in history. There’s never been anything like it in the history of our country. They totally fabricated (it) and made up stories that didn’t exist.”
7:12 p.m.: “Four more years” chant starts. This is supposed to be a rally to help Miller, but it sure sounds like the start of another run for the presidency in 2024.
7:14 p.m.: “With Mary, you get to elect a fearless America First patriot. That’s what she is. She’s about America First. She got it from the first moment you heard those beautiful words. I wonder who thought of those words.”
7:15 p.m.: Trump invites Miller back to the stage.
7:16 p.m.: Miller said, “I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.” (Yes, she said “white life.” NBC News later interviewed Miller spokesperson Isaiah Wartman, who said, ”You can clearly see she is reading off a piece of paper. She meant to say ‘right to life.’”)
7:17 p.m.: Miller concludes her brief remarks by saying, “I’m asking for your vote on this Tuesday, June 28. Thank you, President Trump. God bless you.”
7:18 p.m.: Trump then prepares to introduce Bailey. “Darren is just the man to take on and defeat one of the worst governors in America, JB Pritzker. I had to deal with this guy for a long time on COVID. He was as bad as anybody there is. He did a horrible job. He locked everybody in. He was a disaster. His numbers are terrible. Everybody’s fleeing your state.”
7:19 p.m.: Trump then tells of a photo opportunity backstage with Bailey. “I’m shaking his hand, and he said, ‘Sir, you have a hair coming down. … Here, let me get it, sir.’ And he grabbed it and ripped it out. I said, ‘Oh, that’s terrible.’ I’m still looking for that hair. You just ripped it out. Which tells you a lot about Darren. There’s no games, right? Somebody else would have been patted it gently back. He ripped it out.”
7:20 p.m.: Trump eventually says, “Darren has my complete and total endorsement.”
7:21 p.m.: Bailey says, “I’m glad President Trump told his story about his loose hair, because here’s the deal. I will not lie to anyone, and I will not let anything go unnoticed.”
7:22 p.m.: Trump calls Biden “the worst president in the history of our country. He’s turning out to be a combination of Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover.” He talks about “the rigged election,” fake news, unemployment, gas costing $1.89 per gallon when he was president, illegal aliens and the border patrol.
7:29 p.m.: “Today, it’s hotter here than it is on the border. In fact .. do you mind?” He grabs a towel and dabs at the sweat on his face. “I’m going to go home, and the First Lady’s going to say, ‘You were extremely warm today. 100 degrees.’ It is very warm out here.”
7:31 p.m.: Trump then talks about rising crime in Chicago before introducing the family of a fallen police officer from Champaign. He reviews the education views of “the radical left” and says children are captives to “unhinged Marxist educators” who are pushing “inappropriate sexual, racial and political material on our children.”
7:38 p.m.: “We will keep men out of women’s sports. Is that OK?”
7:42 p.m.: “One of the highest priorities under a Republican Congress will be to crack down on left wing censorship and to restore free speech. We don’t have free speech in America. Go out and sign up now for Truth Social. It’s much better than Twitter, by the way.”
7:46 p.m.: “We will restore law and order in America, and we will hold China accountable for unleashing the virus upon the world.”
8 p.m.: A bolt of lightning flashes.
8:01 p.m.: “I’m gonna get you out of this lightning. I just want to say I love you. Go home. Get out of that lightning. We will make America great again.”
8:03 p.m.: The rain starts.
8:06 p.m.: I’m a little wet, but I’m in my car.
8:07 p.m.: Wow, it’s really pouring right now. The rally has turned into a giant wet T-shirt contest.
9:02 p.m.: I arrive at home. Time to get to work.
9:05 p.m.: But first, a shower. It was a long, hot day.
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