“When you have this many campaigns and they’re all trying to beat the yardstick from ’03 and then Barack Obama in 2007, you know, it just gets bigger,” Polk County Democratic Party chairman Sean Bagniewski told Radio Iowa.
Bagniewski mentioned two milestones. In 2003, the annual steak fry Senator Tom Harkin hosted featured all the Democratic presidential candidates, along with keynoter Bill Clinton and a crowd of more than 10-thousand. In 2007, Obama held a rally with his supporters BEFORE the Harkin Steak Fry. They marched, as a group, onto the Steak Fry grounds in Indianola.
“Let’s go in that Steak Fry and make a lot of noise,” then-Senator Obama said.
Ten of the 2020 candidates are holding rallies Saturday morning and eight candidates plan to march in with their supporters.
“If I were a casual observer, I would think the most important part of the steak fry was the speeches and the speeches are certainly important,” Bagniewski said, “but the real mile marker for the steak fry is going to be the rallies in the morning and then the marches into the event.”
Seventeen candidates who are planning to attend will be given time to speak on stage. Bagniewski said the candidates who are not speaking will find other ways to occupy their downtime.
“The Steak Fry has opportunities for them to grill steaks, to serve beer, to read stories to kids, to serve ice cream, to go get a picture taken with a fiberglass donkey that’s getting painted,” Bagniewski said. “There are a lot of organic experiences to meet the candidates and see how they really are in person.”
There will be 13 grills on site for the steaks, plus three food trucks and three different ice cream vendors. There’s a “kid zone” as well and, in addition to the crayons and coloring books, Bagniewski also mentioned the “wish board” for kids to write or draw about the next president.
“The whole organizing crew for the steak fry this year — we’re all under the age of 40 and most of us have kids,” Bagniewski said. “One problem with a lot of political events is they’re not very kid-friendly…so we wanted this to be an event where the whole family could come together and have a day for everybody.”
The event will be held at Des Moines’ Water Works Park. Organizers are hoping Mother Nature’s water works won’t disrupt the day.
(This story was updated at 7:17 a.m. after Bill de Blasio’s exit from the race, showing 17 rather than 18 candidates will appear at this event.)