"Trump Train" parades and similar rallies of President Donald Trump's supporters are consistently cropping up around the Chattanooga region as the November election nears.
With Trump nearing the end of his first term as president and battling for a second, supporters have been hosting rallies, concerts and parades of vehicles decked out with Trump gear, Thin Blue Line police flags, Confederate flags and similar images associated with the Republican party.
Recently, supporters have gathered by the dozens in and around Chattanooga to voice their support for the president, culminating in a group of nearly 1,500 local supporters and elected officials planning events between now and the election.
In the past week, Trump Train events in both Fort Oglethorpe and Dalton, Georgia, attracted dozens of like-minded Republicans to drive parade routes with flags flying, horns honking and people shouting "four more years."
This weekend, more local Trump events are planned, including one with over 600 possible attendees, according to the event listing on Facebook, born of grassroots and social media.
"So the Chattanooga Trump Train and Back the Blue event was really birthed out of just pure patriotism," Lauren LaFevor of Chattanooga said Friday of her Facebook event, which has nearly 700 respondents and the Facebook group by the same name which has garnered more than 1,400 members planning events, sharing political memes and pledging support to Trump in less than a month.
"I told my husband, I said, you know what, let's do this. Let's see how it goes," LaFevor said of planning the event, without an organization or formal group backing her, after attending one of the Trump Trains in Fort Oglethorpe. "I want to make sure that I personally had done everything that I can to, you know, make this area successful when it comes to casting the ballots in a manner that is true to American values."
The event — despite being named "Chattanooga Trump Train and Back the Blue" — is being held in Ringgold on Sunday afternoon, in the parking lot of the Gateway Business Mall, which sits on 22.94 acres and has 1,100 parking spaces, according to the business's website.
"We had a couple of other spots picked out and as this thing continued to gain traction, and it seems to be doing so by the hundreds every day, we needed a very large area and we need an area that could expand," she explained, adding that COVID-19 related regulations, including a countywide mask mandate in Chattanooga, did not contribute to the decision to hold the event outside the city.
"The issue really genuinely has been capacity," she said. "We're gonna do what we need to do to follow the guidelines. And then that's my answer on that."
Under an executive order by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, when individuals cannot maintain 6 feet or more of distance.
When asked if she worried about the potential size of the crowd during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is growing recently in both North Georgia and Southeast Tennessee, LaFevor declined to comment.
"The event is just supposed to be a fun and positive reminder that traditional American values matter," LaFevor said. "And so, there have been multiple Trump and back the blue rallies that have been held throughout the area, and none to this level, and we're really excited."
The rally is from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday and will include food trucks, Trump and Back the Blue merchandise vendors, and musical acts Brandon Maddox and Scotty Ray Morton, immediately followed by a Trump Train vehicle parade.
A similar event is scheduled for the Leisure Time Bowling parking lot in Cleveland on Saturday from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.