Dozens of boats take to Coralville Reservoir for pro-Trump parade

Hundreds of people showed their support for President Trump’s re-election at a boat parade in Coralville on Monday. Boats flew Trump 2020 flags and American flags as spectators looked on from the Mehaffey Bridge.

A+group+of+boats+decorated+in+Donald+Trump+paraphernalia+pass+under+a+bridge+on+Monday%2C+Sept.+7%2C+2020.+For+Labor+day%2C+a+group+of+local+Trump+supporters+decided+to+drive+their+boats+around+Coralville+Lake+to+celebrate+and+to+show+support+for+President+Trump.+%28Tate+Hildyard%2F+The+Daily+Iowan%29

Tate Hildyard for The Daily Iowa

A group of boats decorated in Donald Trump paraphernalia pass under a bridge on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. For Labor day, a group of local Trump supporters decided to drive their boats around Coralville Lake to celebrate and to show support for President Trump. (Tate Hildyard/ The Daily Iowan)

Caleb McCullough, Politics Editor


More than 100 boats filled the Coralville Reservoir Monday afternoon for a Trump-themed boat parade, flying Trump 2020 flags alongside American flags as they made their way down the Iowa River.

Boaters took off from the Coralville Lake Marina on the south end of the route and the Scales Bend Marina on the north end of the route. They met near Mehaffey Bridge around 2 p.m., while around 150 spectators on the bridge clapped and cheered for the caravan.

Bonnie Beyer, 53, of Vinton, Iowa, showed up at the marina without a boat, but she hopped on a boat with other Trump supporters as the parade began. Beyer, a lifelong conservative, said she reluctantly voted for Trump in 2016 but has come to support him during his term.

“I saw what a good person he was and what a strong person he was, following the American dream, building up this empire,” she said. “And he was like our Ross Perot in 2016. We need a businessman; we need somebody who’s gonna not take any more crap.”

People gathered on the bridge said they were surprised to see the size of the crowd and the number of boats in the water.

Derek Mull, an Iowa City resident, waved a Trump 2020 flag from the bridge and wore a stuffed bear with Trump-style hair on his back while the boats paraded by in the water below.

Iowa City citizen, Derek Mull waves a flag over a group of boats passing under a bridge over Coralville Lake on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. For Labor day, a group of local Trump supporters decided to drive their boats around Coralville Lake to celebrate and to show support for President Trump. (Tate Hildyard for The Daily Iowa)

“This is a very Democratic part of Iowa, so to have this many in this area surprises me,” he said.

Johnson County is the most Democratic county in Iowa, with 54 percent of active registered voters registered under the Democratic Party, according to data from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

Boaters played music and flew flags as they made their way to the bridge. In addition to Trump flags and signs, boats had signs for Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Republican candidate for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District Ashley Hinson.

One boat showed up to counter the pro-Trump message of the other boats, with Joe Biden flags, as well as a sign that read “Black Lives Matter.”

The Labor Day event was one of several similar parades across Iowa over the weekend. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, parades were held on Saturday in Muscatine, Iowa, and on the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities.

A Trump boat parade in Texas on Saturday caused five boats to sink after large waves were made by other boats, according to reports.

Tiffany Goodale, 49, an Iowa City resident who took part in the boat parade, said she was surprised by the number of people that came out. She said the energy was exciting, and that she was happy the event avoided conflict.

“There was high energy, everybody was pretty pumped,” she said. “Very friendly, very respectful, very patriotic.”

Republican candidate for Johnson County Supervisor Phil Hemingway and his wife Anita pose for a portrait while watching a series boats pass under a bridge over Coralville Lake on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. For Labor day, a group of local Trump supporters decided to drive their boats around Coralville Lake to celebrate and to show support for President Trump. (Tate Hildyard for The Daily Iowa)

Phil Hemingway, the Republican candidate for Johnson County Supervisor, was on the Mehaffey Bridge during the event to show his support and to spread the word about his campaign.

Hemingway said there’s a good population of Republicans in Johnson County, but it’s difficult to find occasions to campaign because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It used to be if you campaigned in Johnson County, Saturday morning was at the farmers market, you met a large constituency of the community,” he said. “Well, that’s not happening now, and so it’s difficult to find times where you can actually reach a lot of people.”

Tony Andrys, the public relations chair for the Johnson County Democrats, questioned the reason for the celebration in an email to The Daily Iowan. He said Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has caused economic pain and is pushing the U.S. toward an eviction crisis.

“There’s something particularly tone-deaf about holding a yacht party during an economic crisis,” he said in the email. “Still, what we saw on the reservoir today is illustrative of who the Republican Party stands for. If you’re rich enough to own recreational watercraft, Donald Trump and Joni Ernst are looking out for you; if you’re not, too bad.”

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