Trump tents at Red River Valley Fair reflect former president's ongoing draw
Cody Cashman, CEO of the Red River Valley Fair, said he has heard no feedback this summer, positive or negative, regarding the tents selling Trump-related items, though he said last year he heard from two people who were upset with the presence of such stands. He said he told one of them that at the fair everyone has freedom of speech and that as long as people are cordial and having a good time, "you don't have to look at it, you don't have to go buy it."
WEST FARGO — Former President Donald Trump has yet to announce whether he'll run for president again in 2024, but that doesn't worry Derek Allen.
Allen is one of the operators of a business called Showtime Novelties, a Minnesota-based company that for many decades has been in the business of operating concessions and in recent years has taken up selling Trump-themed merchandise.
For a time, the company operated out of numerous pop-up stores around the country, including one in Fargo , but many of those stores disappeared after Trump lost the 2020 election.
Now, Allen is again selling all things Trump, this time out of tents that are being set up at summer fairs across Minnesota and elsewhere, including the Red River Valley Fair in West Fargo.
Allen said business has been good and if Trump does announce another run for the White House he plans to again open pop-up stores to handle what he expects will be strong demand for Trump merchandise.
And if Trump doesn't end up running?
"We'll just liquidate," Allen said.
On a recent afternoon at the Red River Valley Fair, Allen chatted with people as they strolled past one of two stands he is operating at the fair this year.
He was offering a small amount of free gear to any folks who stop by just to take a look.
Among those on the receiving end of his generosity that particular afternoon were Tiffany Ollerman of Elbow Lake, Minnesota, her son, Wyatt, and husband, Ernie.
After visiting what Allen calls his "one-stop Trump Shop," Ollerman declined to dive deep into a political conversation, but she did share that she felt President Joe Biden has not done a good job since taking office.
"We need him (Trump) back in it," Ollerman said.
She is not alone in her unhappiness with President Biden, based on a recent New York Times/Siena College poll.
The poll found lagging support for Biden even among Democrats, with 64% of Democrats who took the poll saying they would prefer a different candidate in 2024.
On the other hand, the survey showed Biden with a narrow edge in a hypothetical rematch in 2024 with former President Trump: 44% for Biden to 41% for Trump.
Voters nationwide give Biden a 33% job-approval rating, with widespread concerns about the economy and inflation seen as contributing to the president's poor rating.
In the case of Trump, the former president continues to enjoy widespread support in many parts of the country, even as the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to collect testimony regarding the violence that took place as well as perspectives from witnesses on the actions the president did or did not take as violence unfolded that day.
Cody Cashman, CEO of the Red River Valley Fair, said he has heard no feedback this summer, positive or negative, regarding the tents selling Trump gear, though he said last year he heard from two people who were upset with the presence of such stands.
He said he told one of them that at the fair everyone has freedom of speech and that as long as people are cordial and having a good time, "you don't have to look at it, you don't have to go buy it."
"My goal here is just for everyone to have a good time," Cashman added. "I want everybody leaving here wanting to come back tomorrow, because it was so much fun."
Cashman said in past years the fair has seen stands highlighting candidates from both major political parties and there have been no problems to speak of, though he added: "We're smart enough to keep 'em away from each other."
One of the Trump-themed merchandise tents at the fair this year is situated not far from a stand operated by Sarah Fisher.
Fisher's stand represents the Garden of Healing & Health, a nonprofit group her family established to honor her son, Cameron Bolton, who died in a car crash in 2018 and went on to save several lives through organ donation.
Fisher's stand gives her a good view of the foot traffic flowing past the Trump stand, and she said she was impressed by what she doesn't see — any incidents of political rancor, either for or against the personality behind the merchandise.
"No one throws eggs at 'em," she said, referring to the individuals working at the Trump stand, and she added the people manning the stand aren't pushing anything on anyone.
All of which is a good thing, she said.
"We need less hate," Fisher said.