Politics & Government

Weather trumps venue change for at-capacity Donald Trump campaign stop

Talking Trump: Vice chair of Beaufort County Republicans weighs in on 'The Donald's' upcoming visit

Richard Geraghty, who will be at Donald Trump's speech Wednesday at The Westin Resort & Spa on Hilton Head Island, says to count him among those who initially viewed Trump's candidacy as less than serious.
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Richard Geraghty, who will be at Donald Trump's speech Wednesday at The Westin Resort & Spa on Hilton Head Island, says to count him among those who initially viewed Trump's candidacy as less than serious.

This story was updated Dec. 29 to clarify where shuttles will pick up attendees.

A venue change for Donald Trump's planned campaign stop on Hilton Head -- and then a reversal of that venue change -- created confusion Monday.

Now some people who reserved free tickets Monday may not be able to get into the Wednesday event that organizers said was at capacity last week.

The leading Republican presidential candidate will speak at 11 a.m. at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, as originally scheduled.

Attendees must park at Shelter Cove Towne Centre, however, and will be shuttled to and from the hotel, campaign officials said Monday night.

On Monday afternoon, organizers tried to move the entire event to the community park at Shelter Cove to accommodate "overwhelming demand" for tickets, but a chance of rain spoiled those plans, said Jeff Taillon, Trump's S.C. political director.

"We were fully prepared to move, but it looks like the weather is not going to cooperate with us," he said just a few hours after announcing the location change. "We're going to get as many people inside the (hotel) venue as we can."

Changes to the set up of the Westin's ballroom will be able to accommodate 2,480 ticket holders, Hilton Head Fire and Rescue officials and the U.S. Secret Service determined Monday evening.

But due to parking limitations at the hotel, which is tucked between Port Royal Plantation and Folly Field neighborhoods, the campaign must shuttle those ticket holders from the vast parking lots at Shelter Cove, Taillon said.

Last week, capacity at the Westin location was expected to be much lower and all tickets were reserved before the holiday, Taillon said. Officials switched registration to a wait list, which continued to grow throughout the weekend, he added.

Campaign officials announced the planned location change early Monday afternoon and re-opened ticket registration at that time, hoping the park venue would accommodate "thousands more enthusiastic supporters," Taillon said. Notifications also were sent to those on the event's waiting list to claim tickets.

Now Taillon says the campaign will do its best to accommodate every ticket holder. They expect some attrition between those who registered and those who actually arrive Wednesday. He would not say how many tickets have been reserved as of Monday or how long the wait list is now.

"It'll be first-come, first-served, but we're hoping to get everybody inside," he said.

Shuttle service to the hotel will begin at 8 a.m. and doors at the ballroom will open at 9:30 a.m. Representatives will be on site to assist with shuttles and event check in, Taillon said.

Shuttles will return to Shelter Cove as long as required to get attendees to their cars, he added.

No planned protests have been announced publicly ahead of the event, which will be the real estate and media magnate's second visit to Beaufort County since taking the reins of the Republican primary race this summer.

None will be tolerated on Westin property, either, said Gail Wargo, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.

"The Secret Service has made it clear that they will not allow anyone on the property that does not have a ticket for the event," she said.

How to get there

To try to reserve a ticket for Wednesday's campaign stop, go to http://trumphiltonhead.eventbrite.com.

Those who already reserved tickets are still registered for the event, regardless of the changes made Monday. Entrants should print off the ticket or be prepared to show it on a mobile device at check-in.

Shuttle service will begin at 8 a.m. at the old Shelter Cove Community Park lot. There will be security along Shelter Cove Lane directing traffic. Shuttles will run back to the shopping center as long as required after the event to return attendees to their cars.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach and on Facebook at facebook.com/IPBGZach.

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