Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will hold a campaign rally at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden on Saturday, May 7, Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis confirmed. Korthuis said the contract for the venue was signed after 9 p.m. Thursday, May 5.
“Normally when we have an event of this magnitude, we have several weeks to prepare,” said Whatcom Sheriff Bill Elfo.
Authorities will be working “diligently” to prepare for the event with the U.S. Secret Service on “very short notice,” he added.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said the event will be scheduled for 3 p.m. Ericksen is part of Trump’s state campaign team.
“Our goal is to have one event in Spokane, and one on the west side, which in all likelihood will be in Lynden, but we are waiting for that contract to be finalized,” Ericksen said Thursday afternoon.
“The Northwest Washington Fair is a non-profit organization that routinely rents space to outside organizations as part of our business operation. Last year, we rented space for more than 100 events held by outside organizations,” said Jim Baron, general manager at the fairgrounds in Lynden. “When we rent space to a political party or candidate, it is in no way an endorsement but simply a business transaction.”
The event will be scheduled for the main grandstand outdoors.
The fairgrounds can hold about 5,000 people depending on the seating configuration and other requirements.
Trump also plans to hold a rally at noon Saturday at the Spokane Convention Center.
He is expected to fly into Bellingham International Airport, Elfo said.
Trump effectively earned the nomination after Ted Cruz dropped out of the race Tuesday and John Kasich quit Wednesday. But he has yet to earn the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.
Washington state’s 18-day early voting period starts Friday. The GOP primary is May 24. Republicans will use the results of the primary election to allocate the state’s 44 delegates, but with no other candidates, Trump is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
The event is expected to bring a surge of Trump supporters and protesters alike to Lynden. At other Trump events scheduled for May 5-6, prospective attendees had to sign up to receive a text message to reserve tickets. Only two tickets are allowed per mobile number.
The sheriff’s office planned to meet with the Secret Service on Friday to plan for security, Elfo said. Extra deputies will be brought in, as well as officers from Ferndale, Lynden and possibly other agencies.
“We frankly don’t have all the details,” Elfo said around 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
It’s been more than a decade since the last time a candidate from one of the two major parties campaigned in Whatcom County.
On Nov. 7, 2003, Democrat Dennis Kucinich spoke at Western Washington University during a campaign swing through the state. A few years earlier, on Feb. 25, 2000, Democrat Bill Bradley held a rally at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal during his primary race against fellow Democrat Al Gore.
News of Trump coming to Lynden came as a shock to Brian Poag, who owns Jake’s Western Grill at 8114 Guide Meridian, near the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds. Prior to the announcement, Poag already was anticipating a big weekend for the restaurant because of Mother’s Day.
“We were already preparing for a lot of business this weekend, so hopefully we will be ready,” Poag said. “This is going to be very exciting for Lynden and Whatcom County. Love him or hate him, he’s exciting.”
Lynden Chamber of Commerce President Gary Vis realized something was up when his phone started going nuts with calls and texts asking for comment on Thursday afternoon. He noted that Lynden is used to handling around 200,000 people during the week of the fair, but the community has a year to prepare for that. With this event, they’ve had about 48 hours notice.
“We know people on both ends of the spectrum will be here, and we want to make sure we can accommodate everyone,” Vis said