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Live coverage: Former President Trump's rally likely to be a big draw to Sarasota Fairgrounds

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Former President Donald Trump is holding his second big campaign-style rally since leaving the White House, with thousands expected at the Sarasota Fairgrounds today for the event.

Trump will speak at 8 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9 p.m.

The July 3 rally — Trump’s third in Sarasota — is billed as a celebration of the nation’s independence and an early effort to gear up for the 2022 election, but Trump likely has his own agenda.

Trump’s past Sarasota rallies have drawn large crowds, and this one is likely to be no different.

The Sarasota Police Department is warning of traffic congestion around the rally location, which is near the intersection of Fruitville Road and South Tuttle Avenue.

Still need tickets?: Trump rally Florida: How to get tickets for event at Sarasota Fairgrounds

From Sen. Joe Gruters: Donald Trump will always be America’s champion

From earlier this week: Trump’s Sarasota rally still on despite report DeSantis wants it canceled due to Surfside

The Trump rally has been especially peaceful since the Herald-Tribune arrived on-scene at 8 a.m.

Unlike other Trump events where protestors clashed with supporters, this rally hasn’t drawn any counter-protestors to oppose Trump coming. 

Most attendees were seen smiling and laughing while waiting for Trump’s arrival.

So far, no commotion.

If you’re heading out to the Trump rally today, make sure to have your tickets and parking passes printed out. Three cars were seen getting towed from the parking lot. 

If you’re not sure where to park, ask local law enforcement directing traffic to point you in the right direction. 

Suspected members of the Proud Boys group were seen at the Trump rally in black and gold T-shirts with the letters “PB” on them and baseball caps that read “Proud Boys.”

The organization, which has been known for its extreme right-wing beliefs, was seen handing out water to police officers and laughing with them.

The apparent Proud Boys declined an interview with the Herald-Tribune.

Bob Kunst isn’t your average Trump supporter. He said he’s a registered Democrat voter, but he’s tired of the politics.

This is the 226th Trump event he’s attended, and he has a message: Buy American.

At today’s Trump rally, there are at least 50 vendors selling T-shirts, hats, pins, and other merchandise. Kunst says everything they’re selling is made from China. He wants to see more vendors sell American-made products to support the U.S. economy.

“I want to hear Trump say ‘boycott China,'” he said. “That’s the only way people will listen. I wear my Trump gear every day. And when I wear my stuff so many people respond to me positively.”

He thinks more Trump supports should wear gear that’s specifically made in America to be more visible and get the message across that Trump is here to stay.

Newlyweds Courtney and Branden Mitchell are visiting Sarasota from Omaha, Nebraska, and they say Trump’s rally is the ultimate honeymoon gift. They just so happened to be visiting family and said this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

“When we heard about it, we were like we couldn’t miss it for the world,” Branden Mitchell said.

Both are looking for a glimmer of hope from Trump’s speech this evening.

“We’re really about keeping God at the center of what we do in life, so to have a leader that supports that would be important,” Branden Mitchell said. “So, I’d love to hear something about keeping God the focus of the direction where we’re headed in the country.”

A White House correspondent for the New York Times is reporting that Gov. Ron DeSantis will not attend the Trump rally in Sarasota. USA Today Network is seeking independent verification. 

According to the Tweet from Annie Karni, DeSantis spoke to Trump, “who agreed that it was the right decision because the governor’s duty is to be in Surfside.”

Whether or not DeSantis would show today was a mystery. The rally could have tested the relationship between Trump and DeSantis, a close Trump ally who has been preoccupied with disaster response in Surfside and now faces a hurricane aimed at Florida.

More things to watch: Trump arrives in Sarasota facing legal fight, fraud talk pushback

Kyle Mossbarger wore a “defund the media” shirt to the Trump Rally in Sarasota because he believes media outlets have agendas to sway the public. He believes media should be fair and free.  

“It’s the media’s job to explain the news to us,” Mossbarger said. “It’s our job to form political opinions around it. So, I’d like to see a more transparent media that’s supported by we the people.”  

Mossbarger drove from Fort Myers to hear Trump’s speech today, and he’s hoping the former president addresses the 2020 election scandal.  

“I wanna’ figure out what’s going on in Maricopa and when we can understand the results of the election,” he said. “I think that’s why a lot of people are here. We just want answers, so hopefully, he can share some light on that. And then I think everyone wants to know what his next move is. Are we looking at a 2022 primary situation? Or is it a 2024 race?”

Hundreds of Trump supporters stood in line outside of the Robarts Arena in Sarasota awaiting his arrival. Dressed in red, white and blue the crowd cheered “Trump won!”

Former President Donald Trump arrives in Sarasota for a Fourth of July weekend rally with his business facing criminal charges and his unfounded election fraud claims garnering fresh criticism from a top member of his administration.

Trump thrives on confronting his critics, though, and there is plenty of material for him to work with during his second big rally since losing the 2020 election.

What to look for: 5 things to watch as Trump arrives in Sarasota facing legal fight, fraud talk pushback

GOP leaders want Trump to focus on helping the party in 2022, but he’s sure to have his own agenda, namely keeping his base behind him as he mulls whether to run again in 2024. Whether Trump, post-presidency, can maintain his grip on the GOP Trumpan open question, and the Sarasota rally is an early test.

The rally also may be testing the relationship between Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally who has been preoccupied with disaster response in Surfside and now faces a tropical cyclone aimed at Florida.

See live coverage from the field