Another Mar-a-Lago perk for the president: Trump superfans who wait to wave as he passes by
PALM BEACH, Fla. - They call themselves the Bridge Family.
When President Donald Trump visits Palm Beach, this loyal coterie of superfans tries to be there to greet him each time he travels to or from his Mar-a-Lago Club. They're connected by a fanaticism for the president - and by their willingness to show up whenever they hear that his motorcade will cross the Southern Boulevard Bridge.
"I thought I was going to faint," said Portia Dumond, a first-timer almost in tears Saturday afternoon after Trump slowed down and smiled through his window as he headed to Palm Beach International Airport.
"I thought she was too," said Mary Jude Smith, a veteran Bridge Family member who held up her friend when she nearly collapsed. "I can't believe how close he got this time."
On the other side of the street, about a dozen protesters waved signs reading "Corruption" and "Impeach." But on the side the president could see, it was all fans - about 60 of them, including Smith and Dumond. They waved to Trump as he left Mar-a-Lago after a trip of less than 24 hours to his Winter White House, during which he spoke to about 200 Republican National Committee donors at Mar-a-Lago and visited the golf course.
Smith brought a poster from a Trump rally nearly two years ago. It's weatherworn - she, like others in the group, will stand in the rain to greet the president, if that's what it takes - and bound with clear packing tape where it's about to fall apart.
"It's very precious to me," Smith said.
Bridge Family member Paula Magnuson can relate. She once plucked an empty plastic water bottle from the causeway to recycle it but stopped just in time.
"It was Trump water," said Magnuson. "That bottle has his name on it. I rinsed it out and put it in my cabinet. I'm not going to throw something like that away."
Trump himself has referred to supporters like Magnuson as "bridge people," according to Vanity Fair.
"'Bridge people' didn't sound so good to me at first," said Christy Moore, who was there Saturday with an "I heart Trump" sign. "But when I heard that President Trump was the one who said it, I was like, yes, OK, that's fine with me, we're his bridge people."
Moore sees it as a patriotic duty to show her support of the president. "He loves America as much as we do," she said.
"We text each other, we have a group text, so we keep each other informed about when to meet here," said Gene Huber, a Bridge Family member. "We're not going to miss a chance to show our president that we support him."
They also coordinate which side of the road to be on, so they're always facing the passenger side of the motorcade - the Trump side. On Friday, as the long line of black SUVs and sheriff's office trucks and Secret Service cars and other vehicles whizzed by, carrying the president from Air Force One to his Palm Beach club, the Bridge Family stood on the southeast corner, wearing Trump T-shirts and waving American flags.
"He gave us two thumbs up today. Did you see?" Huber asked. "He puts his face up to the window and smiles."
On a few occasions, Trump has gone beyond the smiles and thumbs-up. He's been known to stop the motorcade and jump out of his armored SUV to greet fans on the bridge. And last year, in March and December, he ordered his staff to bring some of the Bridge Family to Mar-a-Lago.
During his Christmas trip, he twice sent a van for his supporters at the bridge. After getting swept by the Secret Service, the stunned bridge fans posed for photos poolside with Trump - who was still in his golf course garb - and got a short lesson on the estate's history from the president. They were served snacks including meatballs and chocolate chip cookies - and given Trump-labeled plastic water bottles as well.
"It was cool," said engineer Donald Tarca Jr., who said he believes Trump's dealmaking will improve the economy. "We talked about NAFTA."
Seven "bridge people" were brought to Mar-a-Lago on March 19. This time, they chatted not only with Trump, but also his then-strategist Stephen Bannon. They talked for 20 minutes, Ronald Zuniga told the Palm Beach Daily News, including a discussion about the president's meeting two days earlier with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Bridge Family lives for moments like those. Magnuson likes to bring her three rescued Shih Tzu dogs in their stroller to the bridge gatherings, but twice they've kept her from meeting Trump at Mar-a-Lago.
"They told me no dogs allowed," a rueful Magnuson said.
Sometimes, the president catches the Bridge Family off guard. On Saturday morning, they didn't realize he'd be heading out to his golf course and missed the trip. But one fan was there when the motorcade returned. Corey Inganamort, 31, wearing a white Make America Great Again cap with a Trump banner draped over his shoulders, was still grinning in disbelief five minutes after Trump had passed.
"That was awesome. He smiled at me and gave me two thumbs up," Inganamort said. He'd read on Twitter that Trump might be heading out to the links.
Inganamort is from Arlington, Va., and was visiting family in Palm Beach County.
"I read about the bridge people and how he had invited them back to Mar-a-Lago," Inganamort said. "At first I thought they might be a little territorial, but they were really welcoming. They're just like a big family."
He said he might try to start a similar tradition in Virginia, for when Trump goes to his golf course in Sterling, but he's not sure if he can find as supportive of a group.
"It's my dream to meet the president," Inganamort said. "It seems like it might be easier down here. It's more personal. You wear a Trump hat up there, and you get all kinds of evil stares."
Author Information: Lori Rozsa is a freelance reporter and frequent contributor to The Washington Post.