Clock strikes noon at Harkin steak fry

A band called "Both Sides of the Mississippi" is warming up on a small stage in the middle of a green, grassy field.  A pasture, really.  It’s the site of the 2007 Harkin Steak Fry.

When we parked our car, Obama’s voice was wafting over the field — a recording of one of his speeches.  Obama’s camp has a set-up across the road where Obama will speak to supporters, then walk down the dustry country road to the Steak Fry field.

A bunch of young Hillary Clinton supporters are lined up at the entrance to the field, banging drums, ringing bells, blowing whistles, and chanting.  "H-I, H-I-L, H-I-L-L, A-R-Y, Hill-a-ry.  Our nom-i-nee."  It’s not iambic pentameter, so typing it out doesn’t do justice to the cadence.

The doors didn’t open ’til noon, but a few folks got in beforehand to claim property on the field in front of the stage.  Two 79-year-old men from Witchita, Kansas, were sitting side by side, having taken a five-hour road trip up last night to get to Indianola in time.  Donald E. Hopkins has a picture of him and Hillary Clinton that was taken at the Witchita airport in 1992  "I’ve been a fan of the Clinton’s ever since," he said.  Hopkins taught school in Burlington for several years, but needed better health insurance for his wife and went back to Boeing "which had a good union and good insurance." 

His pal, retired Witchita Eagle political reporter Al Polczinski, is a Hillary fan, sitting in the field holding her book (hoping she’ll sign it and his friend’s picture).  "She’s one tough cookie and we need that right now," he says.  "…She’s going to need that."

Hopkins likes Hillary’s toughness, too.  "I can’t think of any candidate that will stir up the Republican Party more than Hillary — it’ll drive ’em right up the wall," Hopkins says. 

Retirees Joan and George Navin of Melrose, Iowa, are split.  Joan, a former school food service worker who retired from a telephone sales job, favoring Edwards now.  , who retired from John Deere’s Ankeny works, in the Hillary camp.  It is their first steak fry.

"I got a phone call and an invite, so I came," Joan Navin says."…I don’t know.  I just like John Edwards."

"I think she’s got a better chance of winning," George Navin says of his pick, Hillary Clinton.  "Any of the other candidates are fine, but she has a better chance."

Jennifer Birdsong’s family drove four hours from Fort Madison to make it to Indianola.  The Birdsong’s are in Hillary Clinton’s camp.  "We’ve been volunteering for her and calling people and getting out there and spreading the word because the most important thing to me is ending the war in Iraq," Birdsong says.  Birdsong’s mother and aunt are teachers, and they’re here to back Hillary, too.  "Hillary all the way!" Birdsong said into my microphone.

A goup of women drove up from St. Joseph, Missouri.  Patty Sutherland heard from a friend in St. Joseph that "all of the candidates" would be here, so they made the two-and-a-half-hour road trip

"I like several of ’em so it’s kind of hard to narrow it down," Sutherland says.

UPDATED:  Here are a few more folks.

Fifty-year-old Julie Bulver of Pleasant Hill is a teacher.  She and her family were staking out some ground, aiming for the best viewing angle to the stage.

"It’s history.  I’m hoping that one of these people will be our future president.  That’s why we brought the kids.  It’s time to celebrate," she says.

Gigi Wilwerding of Des Moines, a nurse, backs John Edwards.  She’s here to check out the other candidates, "to see what they have to say and be sure that my guy is still saying what I want him to say.  It’s a great thing.  Welcome to Iowa.  This is what it’s all about."

"I’m one of the army of undecided Iowa Democrats," 64-year-old Kathy Comito of Des Moines told me.  "…I’ve watched the debates.  I’ve been involved in Iowa politics for a long time with the Democrats and I’m just hoping today somebody will say the definitive thing that will make me want to campaign for them."

Charlotte Eby of Lee Newspapers reports the Clintonistas have added an apologetic chant.  "Sorry that we’re so darn loud.  Hillary just makes us proud."   The Edwards youth have set up camp in the line, too, chanting:  "John Edwdards.  For President.  Big change.  Real ideas."

Forty-six-year-old Dave Hammer of Urbandale walked the "gauntlet" through the cheering throng.  He’s an undecided voter and says he’ll probably leave an undecided voter.  "It’s way too early.  It’s way too early," he says.  "Hopin’ for some good steak."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Ironically this post was made back in September of 2007 and today (April 08) I still feel like the last person in the post. It is still too early for me to decide. My biggest issue is integrity. I mean, it really doesn’t matter much what they say if they don’t have intregrity to serve as a fountation for the words… They are just words and words can be changed quite easily as we see in so many victorious canadates. Yes, I am a little jaded, I admit it.