Several Merced County residents journeyed to the nation’s capital Friday to see President Donald Trump formally take office, including the Merced County Sheriff’s Posse, headed by Sheriff Vern Warnke.
The posse took part in the inaugural parade that carried the 45th president to the White House. The posse included about 15 riders and horses, and about 25 family members.
The horses were decked out in silver saddles, while their riders wore white felt cowboy hats. Warnke said the day was filled with “high spirits” despite protests.
“A lot of patriotism,” he said. “There are a lot of folks that are truly optimistic.”
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At one point, the parade was stopped for about two hours while protestors threw bricks, Warnke said, but the posse avoided any danger.
The posse rode past the new president, each rider carrying an American flag. “He made eye contact, it seemed, with everybody in the posse,” Warnke said. “He gave us a thumbs up.”
In total, about $60,000 was raised for the posse’s trip to Washington, D.C., according to its riders. At least $25,000 was needed to transport the horses 2,400 miles in temperature-controlled trucks.
Warnke said it was “almost awe-inspiring” to be “part of history” at the parade. “We’re just proud of our county,” he said. “I hope the citizens of the county felt the same kind of pride.”
A fundraiser held earlier this month to help pay for the trip drew protesters who said the posse should not participate in the inauguration of Trump, noting a majority of county voters supported his opponent. Friday also saw more anti-Trump protests in Merced.
It was the third time the posse has taken part in a presidential inauguration. The first time was in 1971 for President Richard M. Nixon, and the second was in 2005 when George W. Bush took office. The posse also participated in the nation’s 1976 Bicentennial Celebration.
Atwater Councilman Brian Raymond said he was part of about a half-dozen spectators who made the trip to the capital. They caught public transportation at 5:30 a.m. Friday to try to get good seats.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “A great experience. I’m optimistic about the future.”
The single-term councilman was a vocal supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries, and said he hasn’t made up his mind on Trump.
“I’ll see how he performs. If he performs well, I’ll support him,” he said. “If not, I’ll hold him accountable.”
He said a successful president, no matter who it is, is good for American citizens.
Online contest winners from Ballico Elementary School were also at the presidential inauguration.