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On Sunday, September 16th the 30th Harkin Steak Fry will take place at the balloon field in Indianola, Iowa. Democratic Presidential candidates Senator Joe Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Chris Dodd, Senator John Edwards, Senator Barack Obama, and Governor Bill Richardson will be in attendance (and speak to the crowd).

I plan on attending this year.

On September 12th in 2003 I received a phone call from a friend the day before the Harkin Steak Fry. He asked me, “Do you want to go?” It’d been ages since I’d taken a road trip – I agreed to go. So, we drove the 4 1/2 hours to stand in a muddy balloon field and listen to Democratic presidential candidates. We had the time of our lives.

At the time my friend and I were avid Howard Dean supporters. As we drove into Indianola we stopped to get gas. We were conspicuous in our Howard Dean t-shirts, as were the occupants of a car from Minnesota doing the same.

The Dean campaign arranged for a meeting and staging place at a park shelter near the grounds of the event – publicizing such on their blog and forum. We arrived early and helped some twenty-something campaign types move picnic benches and set up the speaker stacks for the sound system.

It started drizzling.

The campaign twenty-somethings unloaded a pile of boxes and started handing out orange t-shirts emblazoned with the legend “Hey Harkin, these steaks are Dean-licious!” So, we helped. And we kept handing them out. I watched in amazement as the parking lot filled up and all those people (some flying in from great distances) showed up. I estimate the crowd in orange t-shirts under and around the shelter to number 400 to 600. Somone passed the word that Dean supporters from at least a dozen different states were in attendance.

We passed the time conversing with each other and new found friends. In some cases, exchanging e-mail addresses so we could continue the conversation.

Along with a few friends I had raised the money to print 1500 “‘No W’ – Next regime change, November 2, 2004” bumper stickers. I distributed a large number of them to the crowd.

Howard Dean arrived (with Joe Trippi) and stood up on a picnic table to address the crowd. After he finished speaking he and his entourage started walking to a small bus which would take them to the steak fry. I maneuvered through the crowd and called out, “Mr. Trippi. Mr. Trippi.” He turned to look at me as, with a self satisfied grin on my face, I handed him a bumper sticker. He read the bumper sticker, said with a strained look on his face, “Oh, great”, turned and walked away. I thought, “Oh, well.”

The orange clad host walked the relatively short distance to the grounds of the steak fry. We saw John Kerry go by in a van past our line of orange  walking along the highway.

We had opportunites to interact with some candidates on the grounds – and we heard them all speak. Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, John Kerry, John Edwards, Bob Graham, Carol Mosley-Braun, and the Big Dog (Dick Gephardt had been there earlier in the day – Joe Lieberman didn’t attend).

There was that sea of orange.

We had a gas. I recommend the experience.

I still have that orange t-shirt.