MAGA merchandise and MAGA culture all but shouting at you in Donald Trump’s voice amid a bazaar of cheap flea market items and carnival food.
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“One for Biden, One for Harris,” says a T-shirt with a drawing of Donald Trump raising two middle fingers for the president and vice president.
Another T-shirt says “LGBT,” with a drawing of the Statue of Liberty over “L”; a gun (actually a rifle) over “G”; a beer over “B”; and You Know Who over “T.”
“Don’t Tread on Trump,” says a different take on the Gadsden Flag with a coiled rattlesnake. “Keep America Great.” The Trump flags above that tent included, “Only GOD and Trump Can Save Our Country.”
This isn’t a Trump rally.
But here in Parke County, which voted 77 percent for Trump in 2020, Trumpism now permeates what, not long ago, was a mostly apolitical event designed to herald autumn and Americana.
It’s a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in many swaths of red-state rural America, where Trump hero worship and evangelization, and the prospect of the former president’s return to power, override other, more genteel community-centric considerations.
There’s also money to be made off Trump’s followers with T-shirts such as “F– Biden and F– Everyone Who Voted For Him!”
Multiple tents at the Covered Bridge Festival’s Mansfield, Ind., site sold only Trump merchandise. Mark Alesia/Raw Story
David Dixon, one of the vendors selling nothing but Trump merchandise, said he travels the country to Trump rallies and usually avoids flea markets, but the person who supplies tents for the Covered Bridge Festival urged him to come and set up shop.
While most other vendors declined comment to Raw Story, Dixon welcomed discussion about his politics and his business.
“I am a business person, but I’m extremely political,” he said. “I’m real conservative. I probably lean more Libertarian than Republican. I love seeing smaller government.”
Dixon’s Trump-y wares did not include obscene items found elsewhere at the event. He said he started selling Sarah Palin merchandise in 2008 when she was a vice presidential candidate. That proved lucrative. Business cooled off in 2012 when Dixon sold items at events for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, then the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees who lost badly to then-President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
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“We actually did better with Mitt’s wife than we did with Mitt,” Dixon said. “Mitt didn’t inspire the people. Sales come when the candidate really inspires the people.”
Dixon was going to follow Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker in 2015 but switched to Trump when Walker bowed out early.
Dixon said he shows up about five days ahead of Trump’s rallies and starts with roadside sales. He sold merchandise at Trump’s speech before the January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., but said he didn’t go with the crowds to the Capitol.
At the Covered Bridge Festival, Dixon faced a lot of competition in the Trump category. He said he bought the inventory of one disappointed Trump vendor.
“People come out here and think they’re going to get rich, especially older people,” Dixon said.
David Dixon, a vendor at the Covered Bridge Festival in Parke County, Ind., travels the country selling Trump merchandise at Trump rallies. Mark Alesia/Raw Story
The Trump fervor at the Covered Bridge Festival didn’t dissipate after his loss in 2020. A seller at the 2021 event, for example, prominently displayed large flags saying, “TRUMP 2024 – F— THE NEWS” and “BIDEN IS NOT MY PRESIDENT.” (The actual flag used the full curse word.)
The same year, a vendor tent peddled T-shirts saying “Trump 2024 – The Revenge Tour” and “Trump 2024 – Because Black Rifles Matter.”
Vendors at this year’s festival that boasts, questionably, “fantastic food” and, unquestionably, “beautiful fall foliage,” also sold fear.
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“PROTECT YOURSELF – STUN GUNS,” says a sign on one tent, which also offers free pepper spray with a sale.
Another tent flew large flags for “Concealed Weapon Purses,” with drawings of a gun and purse. One of the styles for sale has a sequined American flag.
Yet another seller offered “Native American Medicines” touted for any number of maladies including tooth aches, lupus and psoriasis.
T-shirts for sale at the October 2021 Covered Bridge Festival. Mark Alesia/Raw Story
Steffannee Werner, who runs a screen printing and embroidery business, had a tent filled with a variety of shirts for sale. Anti-Biden wares hung prominently outside, prompting people to stop for a look. Those shirts included “Dumb and Dumber” with a photo of Biden and Harris; “We the People Are Pissed Off”; and “BIDEN” as an acronym for “Brain dead, Idiot, Destroying, Entire, Nation.”
It turns out that Werner is not, as one of her T-shirts said, “Ultra Maga.” She’s about business.
“We’re apolitical,” Werner said. “We equally hate both sides. We try not to talk too much politics with customers.”
But what about the anti-Biden stuff? Among them was a parody of the Chef Boyardee pasta logo: “Chef Boyarewe Screwed” with a photo of Biden wearing a cook’s hat.
Said Werner, who offered no pro-Biden items: “We go for what people ask for.”