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'Trump train' chugs through the Sauk Valley

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DIXON – Adorned with American flags and signs reading "Make America Great Again," a caravan of about 75 vehicles cruised through the Sauk Valley Sunday to show support for Republican candidate and President Donald J. Trump ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

The first leg of the parade, which launched near the Walmart on South Galena Avenue, in Dixon, traveled through downtown Rock Falls and downtown Sterling. A second leg gathered at the Northland Mall in Sterling, with plans to complete a loop from Morrison to Prophetstown.

The local demonstrations were part of a larger network of "Trump Trains" scheduled to drive across northwest Illinois, western Iowa and southern Wisconsin on Sunday.

They largely function as a chance for rural residents to gather to campaign in support of Trump and to remind voters of the election, both of which have been challenging during the coronavirus pandemic, said Dominic Kowalczyk, of Bartlett.

"The more support you show, the more it gets people enthused about voting," Kowalczyk said. "We just want to let people know 'get out there and vote.' If you don't vote for Trump, that's fine, just at least do your civic duty."

In 2016, Trump received 8,612 votes, or 55% of the totals votes cast in Lee County, and 12,615 votes, or 49.31% of the total votes cast in Whiteside County, according to local election results.

Kowalczyk said he hopes the parade and others reach both voters who are already support Trump, and voters who may be undecided.

For some supporters, like Daniel Robbel, of Winnebago, who has participated in similar events, the parades serve as an opportunity to promote a perspective on a specific issue, like police reform.

"I personally put on about 300 miles a weekend," Robbel said. "We're just a bunch of patriots supporting Trump and trying to get the word out there about important changes that need to be made in this country."

Both Robbel and Kowalczyk said the caravans also serve as a buffer for push-back from counter-demonstrators.

"With the driving there's less of a chance of interaction, or resistance or conflict," Kowalczyk said.

"For every 30 honks we get about one middle finger," Robbel added.

A group of eight Trump supporters stationed in lawn chairs, waving signs and flags along the route of the first leg of the caravan, said expletives and hand-signals were directed toward them by some passing drivers.

The goal of lowering personal income taxes is one of the reasons why Jeremiah Settles, of Franklin Grove, intends to vote for Trump this year.

"He's a business man looking to make America strong economically," Settles said. "His tax cuts have put more money in my pocket day-to-day. Every week my paycheck shows a little more, and my 401k is sky-rocketing right now."

Settles, who was dressed like former President Abraham Lincoln and was joined by his son, dressed as former President Ronald Reagan, said he thinks both presidents would support Trump's approach to the presidency.

"I know Trump's got a little problem with his mouth here and there, sometimes he goes off the rails, but I think as a president he's doing a good job," Settles said. "But if someone is undecided, just take to heart what the candidates say and ask yourself 'What do you really believe-in, and what do you want America to be?'"

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