There is something about being in the same room with the leader of the nation that brings people out in droves.
Wednesday night’s rally by President Donald Trump in Erie certainly drew a lot of local residents, some who were already fans of the man, and others who looked at it as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see part of history.
The Erie Insurance Arena, with a capacity of about 9,000, was filled during the rally, with about a dozen-and-a-half Bradford residents in the VIP section behind Trump’s podium.
“To wake up and be on the cover of The Bradford Era and The Washington Post ain’t too shabby,” said Kathy Obermeyer, a real estate agent and Trump supporter. She is in the lower right of the photo, along with other locals, several of whom were visible on television coverage of the event as well.
The VIP tickets came through the Lou Barletta for Senate campaign.
She’s a Trump fan for several reasons. “What impresses me most about his entire election — his connection with people.”
She continued, “My son’s a police officer. (Trump’s) support of law enforcement is one of the top reasons that I support him so strongly.”
Obermeyer said she and other service industry people are very pleased with the direction of the economy as well.
“In my business, I’ve got people moving back to small town America,” she said. “The confidence of consumers, employers, is back.”
She appreciated, too, that the rally was alcohol-free.
“The amount of working class and business people in that crowd,” she said, smiling and shaking her head, saying Trump “connects to the everyday people. Three-quarters of the country is Bradford, Pennsylvania — and that’s the working class American.”
Regarding the rally, Obermeyer added, “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world.”
Several locals mentioned the president’s support of law enforcement, too.
Bradford City Police Sgt. Butch Bartlett and his wife Christine also made the trip to the rally.
“I haven’t been to one before,” he said. “I thought it was the opportunity of a lifetime to see a sitting president. Leaving the rally, I had a deeper understanding that the president really loves our country.
“I did hear him make numerous references to his respect for law enforcement,” Bartlett said. “That was heartfelt. I thought it was amazing. He’s a really great speaker.”
McKean County District Attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer was heartened by that as well.
“Trump’s speech placed great emphasis on manufacturing jobs and support for law enforcement — two areas that are important to our county,” she said.
“Politics can be very divisive but the common themes of the event were universal, starting with prayer, pledge of allegiance and national anthem,” Shaffer said. “There was a call to support veterans and law enforcement and to recognize their sacrifices; a call to support economic growth and hard-working people; and a call to support and defend America.”
These are themes that resonate for everyone, she said.
“Regardless of party affiliation, these calls are answered by nearly every one of us every day — holding veterans and law enforcement in the highest regard; hoping for economic success; rooting for people who work in every field to keep the country running; and supporting America,” Shaffer said.
Bradford City Fire Chief Eric Taylor mentioned the high-energy atmosphere at the event, and explained he has a Trump fan in the family.
He and his daughter Kierstin, 10, attended the rally together.
“She is a big fan of the president,” Taylor said. “She started paying attention to the last election and formed her own opinion of now-President Trump and has been following him ever since.”
He spoke of the chance for her to see a sitting president, and said he was glad he was able to take her.
“I also have never seen a sitting president live so it was a great experience to share with Kierstin,” Taylor said. “The one big take away I got from it was the mix of people I saw there.
“The impression I have always got from the media is only Caucasian males show up to a President Trump rally,” he said. “That was not the case at all. It was a very diverse and high energy crowd, all supporting our president.”