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A modest turnout for 3rd Annual Patriot Fest in Collier County

pride fest.jpg
Riley Hazel
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Patriot Fest attendees listen to a speaker on Saturday, March 19, 2022.

Southwest Florida residents lined up to listen to speakers like conservative commentator Rogan O'Handley at Naples’ third Patriot Fest Saturday afternoon.

Speakers engaged the crowd with anti-COVID-19 remarks and comments on the surge in gas prices. Cheers and applause were heard across Sugden Regional Park where the event was held as O’Handley, known as DC Draino on social media, took the stage.

“We're only getting louder,” O’Handley said. “We're only getting more aggressive. We're going to more school board meetings. We are going to take positions as election supervisors. We are filling out new social media ads. You will not silence us. We are going to get our voices out there and tell the truth about the corruption in this country."

U.S Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was not in attendance despite being advertised as a headliner for the event. A pre-recorded speech was played in place of her appearance.

“Well I think we’ve all had enough with covid, and we’ve had enough with vaccines,” Greene said in her video. “We don’t want any more future covid, future spending and future forced vaccines.”

Her COVID-19 opposition comes after the White House asked for more relief aid last week.

Attendees mingled in the sun as the day went on. Several vendors, food trucks, and political campaigns were present. Laura Shuback, 67 and a resident of Collier County, came to ask for signatures for congressional candidate Drew Montez Clark.

“It's great to see so many people that are on the same page as us, that still love this country and still want to fight for it,” Shuback, a Californian native, said.

Brendon Leslie, founder and editor-in-chief of the far-right news outlet Florida’s Conservative Voice, hosted the event. Alongside other speakers, Leslie invited local school board officials to make an appearance Saturday.

“Listen, we have to talk about the politics here in Collier County,” Leslie said. “They suck. Our representatives in Collier County suck. But I can tell you up in Lee County, we got some good folks up there.”

Lee County School Board candidate Jada Langford-Fleming, Collier County Commissioner candidate Chris Hall, Collier County School Board candidate Kelly Lichter, Lee County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Martin, and Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno were in attendance.

“We need to get rid of [Critical Race Theory] in the classroom because those kids are our future, and the future of those kids tells us what our future is going to be,” Langford-Fleming said.

Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, praised his former boss, President Donald Trump, during his speech.

“There was a guy I worked for it, you guys might like him,” Giuliani said. “His name is Donald Trump, you guys. That's always the easiest applause line.”

Giuliani was a White House aide to former President Trump in 2017. He later called for a continued investigation into Hunter Biden’s laptop in his speech.

“The truth will come out,” Andrew Giuliani said. “But it takes patriots like everybody here to make sure that we are fighting against this because we are swimming upstream on all this.”

The event remained peaceful as the day went on. Dan and Joanne DaCunha, residents of Lee County, both sat in the shade waiting to hear Greene.

“I think we need to get people excited about what our country's about,” Joanne said. “Some kids don't even know what the Constitution says. And as long as no one knows, you're not gonna be able to keep it.”

Dan and Joanne, 75 and 73, are citizens of Pennsylvania.

“The only thing that I would say is I hope that Florida schools takes the initiative to bring their education in line with what the kids say the future need."

Dan added, “And vote, vote, vote. Whatever side, vote, vote, vote. Too many people do not vote.”