They came to hear Donald Trump’s plans. They came to chant for him. They came because he’s famous.
A crowd of thousands filled the Civic Center of Anderson on Monday, standing shoulder to shoulder near American flags and the South Carolina flag to listen to the Republican front-runner for president.
“It’s very gratifying to see a crowd of this size, if for no other reason than it means people are paying attention to politics,” said Dan Harvell, the chairman of the Anderson County Republican Party. “Politics affect us every hour of every day, and if you’re not paying attention to them, you’re either not doing your duty or you are ceding your rights.”
Herbert McClure, a Marine Corps veteran and a math teacher at Tri-County Technical College, brought his 8-year-old son Walt.
“I’m supporting all the nonpoliticians,” McClure said. “I like Trump and Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. I’d send all three of them to Washington if I could, because I think the politicians who are up there aren’t getting anything done.”
Keith Ridge munched on popcorn as he talked about making the drive from nearby Ware Shoals.
“I support Trump on jobs and immigration,” Ridge said. “I’m an old textile man, a weaver and a supervisor and I have watched those jobs go abroad. Right now, unless something changes drastically, I will vote for Trump. But I do wish he would tone down the rhetoric on how he talks to other people and about other people.”
Every time Trump uttered “Hillary,” in reference to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, many in the crowd booed. At various points in the evening, the crowd chanted “We Want Trump!”
“I find him to be honest and sincere,” said Art Schneider, who lives in Anderson. His friend, Barbara Herold, is visiting from Denver and asked him to register so they could attend.
“When I read in the paper that there were free tickets, I knew I had to be here,” she said. “I’m originally a New Yorker and I have loved him my whole life. He has charisma and gets things done.”
She laughed heartily when Trump said he didn’t need to advertise because he gets enough media attention.
“This is a movement,” Trump said. “It’s really a movement and we’re going to take our country back.”
Herold and Schneider burst into applause, along with thousands of others. Many had been on their feet for more than two hours, waiting for, then listening to, Trump.
Sarah Ball, a freshman at Anderson University, asked her suitemate to drop her off so she could see Trump.
“I forgot my wallet, so I can’t get any buttons or anything,” she said. “But I mean, it’s Donald Trump — in Anderson. I had to see him. He’s a celebrity. And I just turned 18, so the 2016 election will be the first one I get to vote in. I wanted to hear him so I can make a good choice.”
After Trump left, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” blared over a speaker a second time. Debra Merck of Pickens sat by herself, waiting for the crowd to thin.
“He said all the right things for me tonight,” she said. “He won my heart.”