Updated, 10:18 a.m. Jan. 20
Alex Pelkington wanted to go to Donald Trump’s inauguration.
He reached out to Pa. Sen. Guy Reschenthaler’s staff and even to an uncle who helped with U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s campaign with no luck.
Pelkington accepted that he wasn’t going.
Then, he went to an Allegheny County Young Republicans event last week, where there was a raffle for two inauguration tickets and two bus seats. Raffle tickets cost $1 each, so he and friend Ben Worst bought 50 tickets between the two of them.
They each were holding 25 tickets when the winner was called. Pelkington didn’t see the winner in his hand and for a split second, he said, he thought their plan didn’t work.
That was until Worst said “Hey, check this out,” and showed him the winning ticket, Pelkington told The Incline.
Whether they’ve already left or aren’t leaving until the early morning hours of Friday, Pittsburghers are headed to D.C. for the inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington the following day. Five Western Pennsylvanians who support Trump say it’s their chance to be a part of history. They expect it to be packed — but aren’t concerned about planned protests.
The dedicated volunteer
Tricia Cunningham, an active Trump campaign volunteer in Westmoreland County, said she has full faith in law enforcement for a peaceful event.
Like Pelkington, Cunningham — known for her voicemail wishing callers a “Trumptastic Day” — wasn’t planning to go to D.C. She had organized an inaugural ball for the Westmoreland County Republican Committee in her role as the organization’s finance chair.
But then, inauguration tickets from the Trump team showed up in her mailbox last week, she said.
“I was very humbled,” she said, adding that her tickets include the swearing-in ceremony, concerts and an inaugural ball.
Cunningham, 44, said she’s excited for the ball, but she’s keeping her red dress that “channeled Anna Nicole Smith” a secret until the event. While the ball will be fun, she said it’s the swearing-in that she’s looking forward to the most.
“I cannot wait until he puts his hand on the bible and says the oath, and that solidifies all our hard work,” she said.
Cunningham’s role with the Trump campaign during the election went from field director to grassroots volunteer coordinator and media relations, and she said she sees Trump’s election as winning a battle, not the war.
Inauguration Day will give “birth to a new nation,” she said, adding that going forward, it will be about holding lawmakers accountable to what the people want. Cunningham, who is also a health coach and radio host, said she’s noticed there is “more fuel under” Trump supporters than there was before the election. She’s looking forward to the Trump administration “getting rid of the establishment” and for the unification of Americans.
“I think it’s possible. I believe unification is possible when people on both sides will stop whining,” she said.
The raffle winner
Pelkington, a history buff, said he’s excited to be a part of history at the swearing-in ceremony and concerts on Inauguration Day.
“It will be really nice […] to be able to say to my kids, ‘Hey, remember President Trump? I was there,’ ” he said.
Pelkington, who graduated from Moon High School in May, studies mechanical engineering at Community College of Allegheny County and started volunteering for the county Republicans by signing up fellow students to vote.
He said he wants to stay active in politics and become a politician one day by working his way up from a local level. Self-described as economically conservative, but more socially liberal, Pelkington said Trump was “his guy” during the general election, and he’s looking forward to Trump’s economic policies.
And Pelkington said he knows there is both good and bad to Trump and that the president-elect is a “controversial figure,” but it’s about supporting the winner of the election.
“Obviously, he’s our president. I want him to do well,” Pelkington said, adding that the president’s success impacts the country’s success.
The college Republicans
For a trio of officers in the Robert Morris University College Republicans, going to D.C. is an opportunity to see history. They said they attended Trump’s rallies and are excited to see him become president.
Kaitlin Greco, a senior and vice-president of the club, said she expects events to have the same atmosphere as rallies she attended in Ambridge and Moon Township. She’s excited to see Trump’s changes for the economy and small businesses, but also “changes with PC attitudes” and changes with attitudes about national security.
Greco, club president Alana Hiner, a junior, and Samantha Medasie, a freshman and the group’s secretary are three of the 13 students in a group from RMU taking a bus to the inauguration. The University of Pittsburgh’s college Republicans are sending a group of six, too.
The trio from RMU said they’ve been to D.C. before, but never for an official event. And even though they don’t have tickets for inaugural events, they’re excited to be there and to hopefully see the parade.
It will be exciting to see the atmosphere and the sense of unity, Hiner said. Medasie agreed, adding that she wants to be there “to support a peaceful transition” of power.
Hiner added that the group isn’t worried about protests and said her experience with protesters at local Trump rallies turned out fine.
“We’re excited to show up to the inauguration and see it for ourselves,” Hiner said.
Here’s a roundup of attendees from the Pittsburgh-area who will be a part of the official inauguration plans:
- Jackie Evancho, the 16-year-old from Pine Township famous for being the runner-up on “America’s Got Talent” in 2010, will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Her sister, Juliet, is suing the Pine-Richland School District over a bathroom policy for transgender students. In an interview with The New York Times, the sisters said Juliet wouldn’t attend the inauguration, but her absence and Jackie’s performance were not political.
- The Franklin Regional Panther Marching Band will represent the state in the inauguration parade. Band Director Kevin Pollock told WESA that he wasn’t thinking about the election’s outcome when he applied in October.
- The Pittsburgh Police sent 13 officers and two supervisors to D.C. at the request of the D.C. police department. They will be there through Saturday to help with the inauguration. Between 50 and 60 officers volunteered to serve at the inauguration, acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said.