Monthly Archives: October 2020

Trump Returns to Omaha

President Trump returned on Omaha on Tuesday this week for a campaign rally down at Eppley Airfield in a series of last-minute events in an increasingly tightening Presidential campaign. The rally apparently trended on Twitter yesterday, and not for any of the reasons I would have guessed. More on that at the end.

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I brought my friend Jake along again for the rally, warning him ahead of time about the expected crowd (25,000 according to the Omaha Police Department) and hours of standing in line. We got there early at 2:30 PM hoping to beat most of the crowd. We immediately got on a shuttle bus that took us to the rally site, where trump staff took everyone’s temperature coming into the rally and had free masks, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and hand warmers for everyone. There was a respectable crowd in line already when I arrived, some having brought chairs, coolers, and even heaters like one big tailgate party. I saw some familiar faces while waiting to get inside, and I enjoy chatting with some of the die-hard Trump fans, one of whom wore a blanket with a photo of Trump they’d personally taken at the White House.

The crowd continued to pour in until OPD eventually shut off traffic around 6 PM — with thousands more still arriving. A series of local candidates and politicians got to up to speak before the President arrived, including David Young, Don Bacon, Kristi Noem, Deb Fischer, Gov. Ricketts and his brother Todd. Finally Rick Holdcroft, running to represent my state district, gave an opening prayer before the National Anthem.

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There was a bit of a lull after the speakers concluded. A couple staff members threw hats to the audience and other waiting in long, long lines for food vendors and free hot chocolate int he warming tent. Then around 7:45 PM, we saw the lights of Air Force One descending onto the runway, with plenty of cheers as it taxied along the tarmac behind the bleachers. President Trump emerged a few minutes later to the tune of Proud to be an American and took the stage. He made a few quips about the cold as he launched into his stump speech. This was his third rally of the day, but he had plenty of energy, taking shots at Biden (Joe and Hunter), particularly recent scandal involving Hunter’s laptop.Trump also had a few videos that played overhead, highlighting civil unrest among other things.

The crowd was very responsive, particularly when Trump pointed out various Nebraska politicians in the audience. The crowd started chanting “Bacon! Bacon!” when he pointed out the 2nd District congressman, and Trump took a brief shot at Ben Sasse, commenting that Deb Fischer was his “favorite Senator from Nebraska.” Then he wrapped up shortly before 9 PM, telling the crowd “we will make America great again” before dancing to YMCA by the Village People, which blasted overhead as people began to make their way out.

The Aftermath

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The long walk back.

As you may have heard, getting out of the rally proved to be a bit of an adventure, but the media has blown it way out of proportion. Jake and I followed the crowd out of the rally fairly quickly, hoping to get an early spot on a bus to get back to the parking lot. The buses hadn’t arrived yet, however, and the majority of the crowd seemed to just want to keep on walking down the road on foot. I didn’t quite realize they weren’t just walking to a bus stop but were actually walking the entire way back to the parking lots — a trek of over 3.5 miles.

It took Jake and me around an hour and a half to walk the entire way, at which point we were quite sore and tired and ready to collapse. Adding insult to injury, the first fleet of buses passed us along the way, making me wish we’d just waited a while at the curb for them to arrive. We had about half an hour after that to squeeze out of the south parking lot before we could finally head home.

The story didn’t seem to end there, however. The news media picked up the story, and declared that Trump supporters were “left stranded in freezing temperatures” after the rally, which was ridiculous. Only those of us dumb enough to walk back (raising my hand here) were left in the cold. Some folks discovered partway that they couldn’t make the trip and needed medical attention, some of which included blisters or cuts on feet from all the walking. What the media aren’t pointing out is that the crowd was far, far larger than expected — and may very well be a leading indicator for the election next week. We shall see.

Jake was a real trooper through the whole experience, and he even said he’d do it again if he had the chance. In particular he liked bragging to his dad that he got to see Kristi Noem, who they missed at the Governor’s steak fry a month ago.

A Day to #WalkAway

I spent the day on Sunday with Brandon Straka and his gang from the #WalkAway movement — a campaign of former liberals who’ve found themselves pushed to the center as the American left moves further to the fringe. The event was jointly-sponsored by the Nebraska Log Cabin Republicans and the Nebraska Liberty Caucus, and like Scott Presler’s visit a few weeks ago, there was a significant emphasis was on building a “big tent” party (specifically including the gay community).

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The day began with a “Walk Away Rally,” which was moved from Memorial Park to the Starlight Chateau due to winter-like conditions that dropped on the city with a dusting of snow, and a crowd of a little over 100 packed the hall. While they were mostly conservatives, I got to chat with one guy who supported Amy Klobuchar but was also voting for Don Bacon. He didn’t like the way Kara Eastman treated her Democrat primary challenger Ann Ashford, and he’d been brushed off by her campaign while being greeted by the Bacon Brigade with open arms. He’d also been called a “closet homophobe” for not supporting Mayor Pete and a racist for not supporting Kamala Harris, who was his second choice.

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The rally started with the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem, both initiated with a flag from the audience (as the venue didn’t seem to have one). Then Brandon Straka took the stage, introducing himself as a Nebraska native from O’Neill who left the state a liberal and returning as a conservative. He also talked briefly about the WalkAway campaign and highlighting the bias in the media, who refused to cover violence directed at his members and instead trying to blame them for initiating it. Congressman Don Bacon took the stage next, making his case for a third term in Nebraska’s second district, and then KFAB’s Chris Baker played emcee introducing the rest of the WalkAway gang. First up was Karlyn Borysenko, who found herself castigated when her knitting community went woke (knitting the “pink pussy” hats you may have seen at the Women’s March). Next was political commentator Shemeka Michelle, followed by the most “banned person on Twitter,” Mike Harlow.

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Straka re-took the stage briefly to introduce a woman named Lydia, who is a Catholic living in Bellevue who emphasized the “big tent” idea that we don’t have the luxury of voting only for people who align with all our religious beliefs. Straka then led the crowd in a sign-holding chant to wrap up the rally, which he posted as a video on Twitter.

Following the rally was around half an hour for pictures and selfies with Straka and his gang, and among the audience members getting photos were Straka’s parents, some of Omaha’s finest, and me, of course. After most of the guests had cleared out, Straka then took his WalkAway team downstairs to check out the crypt beneath the Starlight Chateau. The facility had once been a monastery with nuns entombed underneath in a series of vaults in a crypt, which the gang dubbed “Biden’s Bunker” before heading back upstairs.

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Then that evening, Straka and the WalkAway gang went up to the Cross Training center on north 72nd for a more dressed-up evening with a few more guests. More people got pictures and selfies during the cocktail hour, and then KFAB’s Scott Voorhees played emcee, introducing Straka and the WalkAway gang as they spoke a bit more about the campaign and their experience being homeless former liberals after the ground shifted left underneath their feet. Most interesting among the evening’s guests was Chris Janicek, the Democrat running against Ben Sasse for the United States Senate. I didn’t get the chance to ask if he were walking away, but he stayed a while chatting with guests, including Straka’s parents before the evening wrapped up.

It was a long, fun day for me, being engaged in politics, but I found it particularly interesting how the political ground has shifted so significantly since the days of George W. Bush. There is a clear libertarian movement on the right that eschews foreign wars and embraces gay marriage and legalized marijuana and a strange, almost religious purity test on the left that’s leaving more and more Democrats without a home. It will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve after Election Day.

Covid 19 and a Trunk or Treat

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October’s been a crazy, topsy-turvy month so far! It started with a couple weeks of quarantine as both Vivian and I tested positive for Covid 19. That meant I worked from home in a makeshift office while watching such things as Aaron doing virtual school on an iPad and Hannah building a fort in the backyard. We had some wonderful friends bringing us food during this time, and we also had some beautiful weather that tricked our lilac tree into blooming a second time. After my mandatory two weeks of isolation, I tested negative at a drive-thru testing site and was happily cleared to leave the house again.

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On Friday last week, we took the kids out for some trunk-or-treating down at Beautiful Savior Luthern Church. Aaron is dressed as Mega Man this year, and Hannah’s going as a tiger. It was windy and cold, so we didn’t stay long, but we got to see a handful of decorated cars and get the kids all sugared up early in the Halloween season.

Annual Trip to Vala’s

The Johnson Family kicked off the month of October with a fun, day-long trip to everyone’s favorite autumnal amusement park, Vala’s! We would have written about it sooner, but Vivian and I almost immediately came down with a couple cases of COVID-19 shortly after our trip, so we’ve spent the last couple of weeks in quarantine/recovery. But more on that later.

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We’ve been to Vala’s enough times to have a fairly good “game plan” to make the most of our day. Our first stop this year was the tricycle track, where ended our trip last year, giving Hannah and Aaron got to start their day pedaling around the little track with each other. Then, we walked across the road to the Lost Pumpkin Mine, walking through and saying hello to the Miners we usually visit toward the end of our day.

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We walked on across the creek and let the kids spend some time bouncing around on the jumping pillows. One real advantage to visiting Vala’s on a weekday is that they can have as much time as they want to jump, where on the weekends it’s so busy they have to have a time limit (and lots of waiting in line).

We went by the duck races afterward, but found the corn bin sadly empty — likely due to Covid concerns. Then we got some whole-family exercise taking a trip around a track on a pedal cart. I think I wound up pedaling for all four of us, which was quite a workout.

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I got some buckets of fries for a snack as Vivian got some seats for the dog show around lunchtime. We got to see a few trained “rescue” dogs doing tricks for us, including one little guy named Chrome who liked to hop for a frisbee or two. We’d never seen the dog show before, but I found careful attention to the Vala’s schedule helped us be in the right place at the right time.

We bumped into a few friends of ours before heading on to the train for a trip around the park, seeing a few of the goofy scenes of the old west before heading back to the train playground for the kids to play before we moved along.

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We took a trip through a Haunted House or two after our train trip, which is always one of Hannah’s favorite spots. Then we walked down to the opposite end of the park for a little extra exercise with the kids on a spider web. Another favorite spot is the neighborhood of tiny houses and rope bridges called Prairie Hill Town. Next door is a zip line, where Hannah and Aaron got to ride back and forth on a rope a couple times, along with an obstacle course that they both took a few trips on.

Then we walked up the hill to the Big Slide for a couple rides down on a burlap sack. Aaron discovered a few carnival games along the way and got to try his hand at ringing a bell with a hammer.

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Of course, no trip to Vala’s would be complete without a visit to a few of their signature live shows. First was up was the pig races, with everyone’s favorite pig wrangler. Sadly, Hannah didn’t get to be a Pig Leader this time around, but we enjoyed calling the pigs (“sooweee”) and watching them scamper around for a crumbled up cookies.

We stopped to pet a few goats on our way up the hill to see Xander the Dragon afterward. He picked up a pumpkin to smash, but he didn’t greet the line of kids by his fence post by name this time around, which was disappointing.

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We finished up our visit walking around the fairy tale village for a bit, getting a photo on the hungry caterpillar and pumpkin carriage. Then we stopped by a pumpkin bun to pick out a couple pumpkins to take home with us. It was a long, fun day, and I found visiting this early in October gave us more daylight at the end of our visit, so we weren’t walking home in pitch black.

Two weeks of quarantine with Covid unfortunately put an end to some of our other fun, fall activities, but I’m very glad we didn’t miss our on our annual trip to Vala’s.