People arrived early, some from other states, to see former President Donald Trump speak in Alabama for the first time in four years.
They parked in the fields at York Family Farms in Cullman and joined a long line that passed Trump souvenir tents doing a brisk business.
Congressman Mo Brooks, who will speak before Trump, mingled with some of the people in line.
The rally attendants said many of the same things when asked why they came. They believe in the former president.
Chuck Phillips, 70, who lives in Cromwell on Logan Martin Lake, joined the line before noon, more than two hours before the gates opened.
“I’ve always heard about these Donald Trump rallies, and I always said if he ever gets close enough to Alabama, I’m going,” said Phillips, who said he works as a truck driver, mechanic, machinist and bartender. “Here he is in Alabama, so I’m not going to miss it. I’m here.”
The gates opened about 2 p.m. After clearing Secret Service checkpoints, people streamed into the grassy field to await the main program, which starts at 5.
Cattle farmer Daryl Mutter, 48, came all the way from Fountain Run, Kentucky.
“Our country is in a terrible situation,” Mutter said. “A desperate situation. A lot of people don’t realize it. President Trump, I think he has the nation’s best interest at heart, the working class people. And that’s my reason for being here.”
Tom Shaneyfelt, 66, a retired welder and Navy veteran, came from Cleveland, Tennessee, with his sister.
“I can’t believe the election fraud that’s taken place,” Shaneyfelt said. “We’ve got to straighten it out. We’ve lost this nation. We’ve got to get rid of this establishment that’s in. You see what he’s done in the last four years versus the first six months of this year. There’s no explanation for what’s going on right now except for corruption.”
There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud despite claims by Trump, Brooks and others.
A band belted out rock classics until rain started about 2:30. The crowd was advised they could return to their vehicles and be readmitted. Some stayed in the steady rain, many wearing ponchos. No chairs or umbrellas are allowed.
Authorities are expecting roughly 40,000 to attend. About 30,000 attended Rock the South each night of the outdoor concert in the same location last weekend.
David Fogle waited in line with his wife, son and daughter. Fogle, a California native is a golf instructor in Thompson Station, Tennessee.
He explained why he made the 90-minute drive to hear Trump.
“Just because he tells the truth about everything,” Fogle said. “I want my kids to experience it. I want them to know the country is still being fought for.”
Fogle said he moved to Tennessee from Orange County, California in April, partly because of the high taxes in California. He said he felt at home in the crowd today.
“You’re with people that actually have the same values and same beliefs,” Fogle said. “People out here actually fight for their values.”
Trump is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. His last speaking appearance in Alabama was in Huntsville in 2017.
Alabama Republican Party Chair John Wahl said nine speakers are lined up to precede Trump.
Other speakers include Wahl; columnist and commentator Todd Starnes; state Sen. Garlan Gudger of Cullman; Congressman Robert Aderholt of Haleyville; state Rep. Andrew Sorrell of Muscle Shoals; Attorney General Steve Marshall; Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth; Sen. Tommy Tuberville; and U.S. Rep. Brooks, who carries Trump’s endorsement in the U.S. Senate race.