Sunny skies, hot wait
Crowds began forming outside Wapakoneta High School afternoon Sunday, awaiting their rides aboard Wapakoneta schools’ buses from the school, on the north side of the city, to Pratt Paper, on the south side of the city.
By 2 p.m., lines wrapped around the front of the school and across a parking lot, as people awaited their turn for a ride to the rally.
Buses stopped coming in around 3:30 p.m. Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker said he was on the last bus allowed in, and 14 other buses were turned around.
Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said the Secret Service made the decision to stop letting people into the venue amidst fears of people overheating. Temperatures were an unseasonably warm mid-80s outside, and the temperatures on the factory floor were higher. Rescue crews reported no one needed to be taken from the venue, but there were several people who had to sit down and drink cold water once they started feeling woozy.
Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann missed her chance to see Trump. She posted on Facebook that her bus was one of the ones turned away. She is the president of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.
Trump finally stepped on stage around 6 p.m.
Amidst the hoopla of the president’s visit, it was easy to lose sight that it was also the grand opening of a mammoth recycled paper facility, the largest in the United States, according to company president Anthony Pratt.
According to Pratt Paper, the paper mill created 1,200 construction jobs. It will generate 400,000 tons of paper per year. It’s expected to have 120 employees when in operation, with 25% being veterans and 5% being first responders.
Environmentally, the company says each year its plant will save 6.8 million trees, 2.8 billion gallons of water, 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, 1.3 million cubic yards of landfill and 400,000 tons of greenhouse gas.
The next phase for the project is its millugator. It will have 200 employees and generate 300 million boxes per year.
Eat, drink and be merry
Pratt Industries showed its hospitality to the whole crowd, with hundreds of sandwiches and thousands of bottles of water available to keep the crowd accommodated while they awaited the president’s arrival.
The menu for the Trump rally: deli meat sandwiches wrapped in cellophane and plenty of water.
An exhausting week
Sunday marked the end of an exhausting week for Auglaize County’s sheriff, Al Solomon, who recently announced he wouldn’t run for re-election next year and retire instead.
He credited the Secret Service and cooperation from the Wapakoneta Police Department, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office and Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office for an incident-free visit by President Trump.
“It is nice to show off our county,” Solomon said. “It’s been very exciting for everyone. One thing that is really nice is how helpful other agencies are when something big like this happens.”
Shortly after the presidential motorcade pulled away, he smiled and joked, “Now I can relax.”
The best-laid plans
Lima area residents Dick Vandyke, Courtney Kirchner, Nancy VanDyke and KeKe VanDyke spent some four hours constructing an 18-by-180 foot message in a grassy area at 4520 Bellefontaine Road, near the Allen County airport.
Laying pieces of cardboard on the ground, they spelled out “Build The Wall” and hoped President Donald Trump would see if from the air as he landed in Lima.
But heavy winds in the hours leading up to Trump’s arrival played havoc with the sign, scattering cardboard pieces here, there and everywhere.
Hoping to make a buck
Bob Millsaps of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was selling Donald Trump merchandise at a flea market in Bowling Green on Saturday when he heard about Trump’s planned visit to Wapakoneta the following day. After heading to Wapak and finding no good place to set up shop, he decided on a site near the Allen County airport.
He was stationed at the intersection of Greely Chapel and Hanthorn roads outside the Heavenly Stitches house of worship with an assortment of red “Make America Great Again” hats and T-shirts. “The best sites are always by the airport,” he said.
With public access to view Trump’s motorcade extremely limited, one of the few public spots to watch the president pass by was a grassy area on the south edge of Wapak at the County Road 25A exit. The crowd there was not large, with only a few dozen spectators on hand.
At approximately 4:20 p.m., after a motorcade passed with a heavy police presence and red lights flashing, several people folded up their lawn chairs and left. But the president’s plane at that point had not yet touched down in Lima. Speculation was that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have been in the early motorcade.
Among the many, many, many (did we mention many) law enforcement officials on hand for Trump’s visit to Wapakoneta was one most people probably wouldn’t expect. Tom Gonzales, a police officer with CSX Railroad, was stationed where the rail line crosses Short Road just south of Wapakoneta. He said he was in constant contact with his dispatcher and that all trains had been stopped during the president’s visit.
There were a variety of pro-Trump shirts in the crowd, including ones reading “Trump Girls,” “I stand for the flag; I kneel for the Cross,” and the old standby, “Make America Great Again!”
Pratt employees and their families stood out in the area of the celebration, which included gigantic American and Australian flags. They wore bright orange shirts with an American flag on the left sleeve and an Australian one on the right sleeve. On the back, it read, “Pratt Industries: Building the Future of Paper.”
A teacher from Wapakoneta Middle School showed off her shirt with “It took a Redskin” with a drawing of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The back of the shirts read “#Be Better.”
Politicians on hand
Elected officials on hand included Secretary of State Frank LaRose, State Auditor Keith Faber, who lives in nearby Celina, state Reps. Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, and Craig Riedel, R-Defiance, and state Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon. State Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, was out of state for a family event.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, joined Trump on stage and received some of the loudest cheers of the night when Trump mentioned them.
“God Bless the USA” played as President Trump walked onto the stage. The playlist prior to the event was a little more eclectic.
It included two hits from the Rolling Stones, 1965’s “Play With Fire” and 1964’s “Time is on My Side.” Other songs included Aerosmith’s “Dream On” from 1973, Lionel Richie’s “Hello” from 1984 and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” from 2008.
“Macho Man,” by the Village People, was playing just before Trump walked onto the stage and faded out to begin the presentation.