On Monday night, Presidential hopeful Donald Trump spoke to an estimated 8000 people at the Macon Coliseum in Georgia. Later this week he's expected to fill the 5000 seats at a North Carolina arena. But last night he spoke in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire - population around 350 - at an indoor tennis court converted into a makeshift stage.
As NHPR’s Sean Hurley reports, Trump’s visit was big news for the small resort town.
Waterville resident David Olarsch says he's not sure why Donald Trump is coming to town. "I find it very strange that he's coming here," Olarsch says, "we only have approximately 300 full time residents. Politically, population wise it just doesn't make sense on many many levels."
From Olarsch's house you can see the snowy summit of the ski mountain. Just down from a day of training Ski Coach Matt Chester says he's excited to hear what Trump has to say. "I'm a Bernie Sanders supporter," Chester says, "but you know I'm willing to hear all the candidates. If they're gonna come to Waterville, I'd love to hear him speak."
Chester introduces me to a huge Trump supporter and one of the most recognized lift operators on the mountain - the retired Russian opera singer Vladimir Popov. Popov puts a hand on his chest and says "I sing for Donald Trump, Russian song. Russian guy singing for Donald Trump!" And then he sings.
Over at the White Mountain Athletic Club, the indoor tennis courts have been covered in a white tarp and lined with a 1000 chairs. Trump Volunteer Sandy Woodmansee, from Epping says he's been a Trump supporter from the start. "At first I thought he was absolutely wonderful. Everything that he did. Have I been tempered a little bit? Yes," Woodmansee says, "I think he proves to me that he's human. But I still think that by far he is the most qualified."
At almost 7 exactly, Trump takes the stage and addresses the crowd, "This was a tough one tonight. Those roads were wet. They were icy and miserable, but boy is this beautiful country."
Trump moved quickly along through a range of topics. The Second Amendment, Common Core and Obamacare. "It's a disaster," Trump says, "but the good news is we repeal it and we replace it. We don't try and fix it cause it's not fixable."
After the Paris attacks, Trump says he's shifted his focus away from China to borders and terrorists - to building a wall and keeping the bad guys out. "Somebody said, 'But you can't build a wall. A wall.' I build buildings that are 94 stories tall and that's tough stuff. You know, this is...this is so easy. You put a foundation. You put a rut. You make it beautiful. You put a little design in the concrete, you can do that easily. And some day, you know what it's gonna be called? The Trump Wall!"
After 45 minutes Trump solicits questions from the floor and a little boy near the front raises his hand and asks, "What will my life be like when I'm older if you become President?"
To which Trump replies, "That's a great question. That's probably the best question, I hate to tell you! I hate to tell you. Ok. So here's what my hope would be. That if I become President your life would be much better than it would have been if I didn't become President."
Afterwards, as the audience of a thousand filed out, Waterville resident Maeve Lawlor says she's still voting for Bernie Sanders, but seeing Trump in person made an impact. "I was not very impressed with him until tonight and I thought he was marvelous," Lawlor says.
As for Vladimir Popov, if you hear him singing on the mountain, he says he'll be singing for Donald Trump.