THE VILLAGES, Fla. -- With perfectly manicured nails, Denise Neal grips the steering wheel of her yellow golf cart and jets out of her driveway, the largest retirement community in America. The cart showcases two Trump signs on the front, one on the side and two on the back. Neal pulls into her neighbor’s driveway.
“I love her Trump mobile,” giggles Betty Lungsford. Another neighbor echoes the praise. Neal, 67, is a former nurse who married a carpenter and raised three children in Indiana before moving here. She is invigorated by the accolades in the community she calls “our little bubble.”
“When you drive around you get thumbs up, you get smiles, you get waves and they ask ‘where can I get one of those,’”explains Neal, who has never been involved in a political campaign before. She carries extra laminated Trump/Pence signs and bumper stickers around in her cart and gives them out daily. For special Trump Golf Cart parades she mounts a massive yellow wig, concocted by attaching yellow birthday streamers to a big sheet of paper, onto the back of the vehicle. The hair, she says, is a “tribute to Mr. Trump.”
On a practical level, the golf cart signs are a solution to campaigning in The Villages because the community does not allow door-to-door solicitation (i.e. door-knocking) or yard signs. On a Tuesday at noon there are eight golf carts with Trump signs outside of a local lunch joint. And early Sunday evening, as hundreds of carts flock to live entertainment at the community’s town squares, dozens are decorated in Trump signage.
“The golf cart signs are a genesis of something pretty easy to something pretty effective,” says John Calandro, Chair of the Sumpter County Republican Executive Committee. In The Villages, a Republican stronghold, it is about cranking up Trump’s numbers. Stanton expects the golf cart signs to help. So far the committee has given out about 1,000 golf cart signs. There are over 100 miles of golf cart paths on the retirement grounds.
On a more intimate level, getting to know the Trump cart owners shines light on the divergent life experiences of retirees supporting Trump in central Florida. This retirement community of over 100,000 people is growing faster than any other metro area in the Unites States. It attracts Americans from all over the country with a wide range of incomes -- homes on the market sell for anything from $150,000 to $10 million.
They call it “the happiest place on earth” or “Disneyland for adults.” Coozies fill the cup-holders in many carts.
The majority of Trump-enthusiast retirees say they are. “We hate to see the country taking in so many people who are immigrants who have not followed the rules,” explains Neal, who says she misses how things were done in the past and wants immigrants to do their best to assimilate.
To her that means they must blend into the neighborhoods they inhabit. In this neighborhood, that means getting a golf cart. Here are some other Trump fans of The Villages:
DAVID SYLVIA, 67
“It is my American Dream,” says David Sylvia, who spent his life working in Massachusetts for United Liquors, of his golf cart. That “American dream,” with a Dunkin Donuts coffee sitting in the cup holder, is mounted with all things Trump and a Teamsters sticker.
Sylvia says he likes to stir people up. He gets lots of thumbs up but adds, “You can tell who is gay. ‘Cause all the gays give you thumbs down.”
He worked hard so that he could live here in The Villages: “I came from very poor area as a kid, very very poor. We lived with the blacks, the Puerto Ricans. You know, I came from a very tough area and worked my way and built a house.”
RON EATON, 78
“We were bad boys,” says Ron Eaton with a smirk as he recalls the Trump cart parade they had at a Village square. “We had too many people there. We were stopping traffic!”
But he wants to do it again soon. A formerwho made car parts on the floor of GM in Indiana, Easton calls Trump an innovator. “We’re in ,” he says of he and his wife. Why? “Because we are just plain people, we are not the elite we are not elected, we are the government which a lot of people forget.”
The cart, which he bought yellow seats for, also has flashing lights on it. He and his wife turn on those lights when they hit the roads for Trump -- they call the activity “waving.”
ELAINE MYSLIWIAC, 70
Elaine Mysliwiac has a soft voice -- until she starts talking about Trump. “He doesn’t have blood on his hands. She does,” explains with vigor in her voice. Mysliwiac is a former military nurse and a transplant to The Villages from upstate New York.
Her cart has a sign that says “Four Americans Died and Hillary Lied.” Even people who don’t know her know respond to the sign by saying “yes, yes!” from the other side of the golf cart path.
“I think this is our last chance to really save our country because if she gets in America as we know it is gone,” says Mysliwiac, who calls President Obama “the enemy in the White House.” The new Trump/Pence sign she affixed to her dashboard was a gift from Neal.
ROBERT LLORET, 72
Robert Lloret, originally from Staten Island, says as a lifelong Republican he is willing to take a chance with Trump. A graphic artist by training, he designed his own golf cart Trump sign. It flaunts the qualities he most admires about the GOP candidate -- that he is a non-politician, winner, and businessman who won’t back down to “P.C.”
“Have you seen many Hillary signs around? Unless it says jail, then they have a Hillary sign,” Lloret says with a chuckle. He wishes Trump would come to The Villages. If he does, Lloret’s golf cart will be there.
CATHY PRELOCK, 60
Cathy Perlock, a Michigan-native, taped the Trump sign into her golf cart over the weekend. It is her first day on the roads. “We have already gotten a lot of people saying ‘Yay Trump!’” she explains.
Prelock was a banker in Michigan before moving to The Villages and she grew up in a democratic home but she says now is the time for something new. “There is too much in her past and current,” she says of Clinton. “Trump will simply take this country in another direction.” She just finished a big breakfast after a morning round of golf, and is now headed home to take a nap. But next time she comes out in the cart, the sign will come, too.