ANCHORAGE — A desolate scene outside the Alaska Airlines Center at 1 p.m. Friday gave no indication that in 24 hours the first speaker is scheduled to take the stage at one of the state’s biggest-name political events ever.
A lone landscaper working outside a secondary entrance — “I’ve got the day off. I’m staying home,” she said when asked about the event — and a few television news employees waiting for a publicist to show them the designated media area were among the few people visible. Inside the arena — past outer doors that were unlocked and an unguarded vacant hallway — a couple of people were sitting in upper row seats watching a handful of workers decorate and set up the already brightly-lit space.
Sitting just inside the outer entrance were Tim and Kim Weeks, who were taking a lunch break before starting to help with the decorating for the Save America Rally on Saturday where former President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak in support of U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka, U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin and Gov. Mike Dunleavy. They also were returning that evening to get orientation for volunteering during the event.
“I think it’s our civic duty to volunteer,” Tim Weeks said, adding he heard about the event from a friend who’s helping organize it. “Do we like the fact that (Trump) is coming here? We love it.”
He add: “It’s going to be exciting. I think it’s going to be like a vacation — it’s going to be over too fast.”
If he could ask Trump one question?
“I want to know what he does for fun besides golf,” Tim Weeks said. “Did he get to go fishing while he was in Alaska?”
People going to the rally were able to register for free tickets online, but admission is first-come first-served and the official waiting line period begins at 6 a.m. The doors to the arena open at 11 a.m., with speakers starting at 1 p.m. and Trump scheduled to take the stage at 4 p.m.
The abundance of media folks will be operating on a similarly early schedule, as they’re required to show up between 6:30-7:30 a.m. to place any cameras, laptops and other working gear in the reserved space (again first-come first-served) before getting kicked out until 11 a.m. while security sweeps are conducted. Those failing to place gear early will “face significant delays during re-entry due to enhanced security checks.” And they are confined to the media area from 3 p.m. until after Trump departs, after which they’ve got 30 minutes to “clean up and depart.”
Plenty of Anchorage residents seem unaware of the rally (blissfully so in some cases, given their reactions when told about it), but plenty of buzz was also afoot as evening approached. A bus driver advising a departing passenger about a likely plethora of detours and delays along routes on Saturday said she will be absent from navigating her way around the arena.
“I’m going to get there at midnight, sit down and camp,” she said. When asked if she knows whether that’s allowed she said “I don’t know. I’m going to find out.”
Juneau Empire reporter Mark Sabbatini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.