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Presidential Candidates Make An Entrance At Polk County Steak Fry


It's called the Steak Fry, an annual tradition in Iowa. And this year, more than 12,000 people showed up. That's a lot of sizzle. Here's Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters on what's technically known as the Polk County Democrats' Steak Fry held yesterday.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: First off, the meat was grilled, not fried, some of it by people who want to be president, like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

ELIZABETH WARREN: All right. I'm counting on the expert here. Here we go.

MASTERS: New Jersey senator and vegan Cory Booker flipped vegan burgers.

CORY BOOKER: You still got to flip it when it's ready. You're going to drop it like it's hot. And then you got to splatter it with ketchup and other condiments.

MASTERS: But the Steak Fry isn't just about the food. It's also about making an entrance.


MASTERS: California Senator Kamala Harris marched in with drummers and a dance line. Harris held a pep rally of sorts with her supporters before the program.

KAMALA HARRIS: So you guys might have heard. I'm moving to Iowa, right (laughter)?


MASTERS: Steak Fry was started by now-retired Democratic Senator Tom Harkin in 1972. It's a must-attend this year ahead of the caucuses. When former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage, he reminisced about his past runs.

JOE BIDEN: I know this is now the Polk County Steak Fry. But I started off here when it was the Tom Harkin Steak Fry.


BIDEN: And it wasn't ever this big.

MASTERS: Many of the Iowans attending, like Mark Gruber, did not have a hard time deciding what to eat.

MARK GRUBER: Steak (laughter).

MASTERS: However, when it comes to whom he plans to caucus for...

GRUBER: I'm not ready to put on a shirt or wave a banner just yet.

MASTERS: Christy Meyer can't pick a favorite either. She says whoever gets the nominee needs to beat President Trump. And it's going to take someone who can energize every generation. As for the rest of the Democratic field...

CHRISTY MEYER: The rest of them should be in the cabinet because they're all so - there's so many good ideas.

MASTERS: After the event, a new respected poll published in The Des Moines Register showed Elizabeth Warren in the lead for the first time here. The Iowa caucuses are now just a little more than four months out. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.