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Trump backers scramble for second batch of tickets for Bismarck visit

Harold Holtz of Bismarck pays Sue Staiger for a ticket Thursday, May 19, 2016, to see Donald Trump's speech next week at the Bismarck Event Center. Photo by Mike Nowatzki / Forum News Service

BISMARCK – Harold Holtz initially put off buying tickets to Donald Trump’s speech next week in Bismarck, but he was among the first in line when a second batch went up for sale Thursday.

Peering through his tinted glasses, the 70-year-old retired farmer, rancher and coal miner thumbed through his brown leather wallet and forked over $30 to see the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president.

“I like him all the way. He’s a business person. He says what has to be said. He don’t pander around for votes. He says it like it is,” Holtz said.

Trump will speak at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Bismarck Event Center, capping off the three-day Williston Basin Petroleum Conference that begins Tuesday.

More than 3,780 tickets had already been sold when the North Dakota Petroleum Council made an additional 600 tickets available late Thursday morning – 200 at the Event Center box office and 400 through Ticketmaster online.

About three-dozen people snaked past the ticket windows during the first half-hour, including 56-year-old Shelley Traynor, a ministry facilitator at a Bismarck church. She bought a ticket for herself and one for her sister from Wildrose in northwestern North Dakota who plans to ride a bus with others from the Williston and Tioga areas to see Trump.

Traynor said Trump is “putting words to people’s thoughts.” And while he may not be the “ultimate answer” -- she supported Ben Carson and Marco Rubio before they dropped out of the GOP race -- she believes Trump is the country’s best option right now.

“He’s rough around the edges, but so is our country. It might be a good fit,” she said.

Holtz wanted to wait and see if the petroleum conference would sell out before buying his tickets, as registrants are guaranteed seats to see Trump. About 2,350 people had signed up as of Thursday morning, and petroleum council spokeswoman Tessa Sandstrom said she expects about 2,700 with walk-up registrations.

Holtz said he likes that Trump is “not an established politician,” and he blasted Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for his call to ban fracking during a rally in Bismarck last Friday.

“That’s what made the state great -- all the money and the jobs,” Holtz said.

Sandstrom said organizers probably won’t know until late afternoon Wednesday whether additional Trump tickets will be made available.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.