BEDMINSTER, N.J. — The horses are getting used to the rumble of military helicopters over their paddocks. The local delis have come to expect a cadre of Secret Service agents rolling in for bagels. The motorcade of protesters who drive by the entrance to Trump National Golf Club, honking furiously, their cars bedecked in signs, has become a Saturday morning tradition.
But sightings of the sprawling property's owner — Bedminster's second-largest property-tax payer — were few and far between, even before his unlikely run for the presidency. President Trump, an infamous homebody, tends to stick to the links. (Unless, of course, you happen to be getting married there, in which case the president is almost guaranteed to crash your wedding in a MAGA cap, and your Instagram page is guaranteed to be deluged by journalists.)
Trump's 17-day vacation ("working vacation," as he has reminded his Twitter followers several times) is his longest stay in Bedminster since his election, but he'd already visited four times since November. These days, local officials are slowly learning the new rhythms of a summer White House: the road closures, the no-fly zones, the extra security.
"There is no shortage of high-profile people and big names that come and go out of Bedminster. The celebrity portion — most people in town just shrug it off," said Mayor Steven Parker. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and Steve Forbes, of the finance magazine, both have properties in town. "Donald Trump has had property in Bedminster for a long, long time, but when he becomes the president it's a little different."
It costs Bedminster police about $15,000 per weekend in overtime every time Trump visits; the current vacation will run them about $30,000 to $35,000, said Town Clerk Judy Sullivan, who's been collecting a stack of business cards from reporters in town covering the president. The town expects to be reimbursed, she said.
The president's frequent visits have thrilled his supporters in the area. "I'm so happy he's back home," said Gene Eggemann, who owns a hot dog joint called Genie's Weenies on Route 28. She was advertising a special Trump burger on Saturday afternoon: Russian dressing, double meat.
"It's exciting; he's a terrific neighbor," said Joanne Kennedy, whose hay farm abuts the Trump property. "I'm delighted he has such fine taste in vacation spots." She and her husband, Bill Dunn, both Trump supporters, have lived next to the course for 20 years.
Dunn said he was hoping to run into Ivanka Trump so he could offer her the property — seriously. "It's the dream plan — there's a house for them and one for the Secret Service, and a cart path to the course."
"They can have it all, and we'll leave with just a suitcase," he said. "For $10 million. Let's not be paltry."
Not all of Trump's neighbors are as thrilled. Down the road, the military helicopters have been frightening Anne Choi and Michael Slattery's sheep. "He should spend more time in the White House — he used to tweet that presidents shouldn't take vacations," Slattery said. "It's hypocritical."
And the first time Marine One flew over Ruth Beesch's summer home next door, the New Yorker screamed an unprintable phrase at the sky. "I can't get away from him," she said, laughing — she had spent a December weekend in Palm Beach while the president happened to be at Mar-a-Lago. Besides the Secret Service agents she sometimes sees on horseback rides, though, the president's stay here has been uneventful, she said.
And every Saturday, the "People's Motorcade" trails past the Trump course — "the honkers," Dunn calls them. The motorcade was spearheaded by Jim Girvan, a retired local government employee who has spiked dozens of protest signs in his front yard in nearby Branchburg ("Trump from Russia with Love"; "Resist the Madness"), and Analilia Mejia, the executive director of the advocacy group New Jersey Working Families Alliance.
Protesters know that it's unlikely anyone in the club, set back from the road, can hear them; it's more about the principle of the thing. "Our aim hasn't been to disrupt him — it's to get the message out to people," Mejia said. Protest signs run the gamut, from pleas to curb climate change, to support for special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the election. "It's Mueller time," one sign read.
"It's about reminding everyone that what's going on is not normal," said Jim Tobias, a retired tech worker from Matawan.
For all that, "it seems not to have been a huge event," Parker said. "Trump doesn't really leave the premises much. He's got everything he needs on the golf course. He's not spending evenings down at the local pizzeria."
Others who support the president have still rankled at the closures required for his visits. Jack McNamara, a Republican committeeman for nearby Far Hills and the head of the New Jersey Aviation Association, said the two private airports in the 10-mile no-fly zone have been losing $10,000 a weekend when Trump visits. He estimated a $40,000 to $50,000 loss during the current visit. (Parker, who owns one of the airports, declined comment.) McNamara said local businesses that store planes there and use the airports for sales trips are also affected.
"These are small, family-owned businesses — the businesses Trump campaigned for," McNamara said. "The people of the communities served by these two airports are people who all supported the president. I don't blame him — would you rather have him worried about North Korea, or about Bedminster? But the people being put out of business and denied things because of these visits have a right to feel differently."
He's also hoping the federal government will consider compensating the airports or allowing some planes to fly in.
The no-fly zone also means the 20 members of the local 4-H's model airplane club can't fly their craft in a contest at this weekend's fair. The students, who are in the fourth grade and up, found out last week. "They are a little bummed," said Lisa Rothenburger, the county 4-H agent, "but they're working on a lot of other things."