Emily Cyr, Summer College Associate- Special Report
Now that it’s August, most Americans are packing up for their summer vacations; some are heading to the beach, others to lakes and mountains, but presidential candidates are jetting somewhere else this weekend- and that would be the Iowa State Fair.
Iowa is a state most identified with the word corn and rightfully so, considering it produces about 2.4 billion bushels of corn annually, which is more than another other state. The Hawkeye State is extremely proud of its agricultural expertise, which is why it hosts the Iowa State Fair each year.
This year, from August 13th until August 23rd, the Iowa State Fair will host around a million visitors during its 11 days, with attendance anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 on a given day. It is the largest event held in Iowa, and one of the oldest expositions of industry and agriculture in the country. Some of the events at the fair will include the following: the Duck Calling Contest, the Mr. Legs Contest (where both the tannest and the palest legs will be awarded), the Women’s Rubber Chicken Throwing Contest ( it is exactly what it sounds like) and of course what state fair would be complete without a hot dog eating contest. But speaking of hot dogs, what are the candidates up to at the fair?
As much as the candidates may hope to try Apple Pie On-a-Stick or sample the Ultimate Bacon Brisket Bomb, they are there as presidential candidates and must be careful to not drop the ball- or in Mitt Romney’s case, not drop the pork chop- on their campaigns.
In years past, candidates have both greatly enhanced and hindered their campaigns through simple fair activities. The pork chop reference is from 2007 when Mitt Romney was grilling and accidentally dropped one pork chop to the ground, and then when he enacted the five second rule, the crowded booed him. On the other hand, Rick Perry did not get such a flattering photo at the 2011 fair and instead is remembered for the photos of him eating a corn dog- an item that has been highly recommended for candidates to avoid in public. However, President Obama, then a just a candidate, showed his fun and fatherly side in a photo of him driving a bumper car with his daughter Sasha at the 2007 fair.
Food and games aside, part of the appeal in attending the fair is the opportunity to speak at the Soapbox, a small outdoor stage sponsored by the Des Moines Register. As of now, 17 candidates are schedule to speak there, and, amidst bales of hay, try to win the hearts of Americans in 20 minutes.
Mike Huckabee, Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley were the first candidates to speak on Thursday, after the opening remarks were delivered by none other than President George Washington. As the candidates hope to gain support from voters who will participate in the Iowa caucuses in a few short months, Washington (portrayed by Ron Carnegie) declined to endorse a candidate because “Influence is not good government”.
So we will have to wait and see what happens to candidates at the fair but once it is over, who will be leading the polls? Will it still be Donald Trump or will the favored Iowa State Fair Butter Cow take the lead?
Photos by Katy Ricalde