For Iowa Democrats still coming down from the exciting high of the Hall of Fame Dinner in Cedar Rapids this Friday, good news: you’ve got two more fun events to go to in August. Coming up on August 14th will be the Wing Ding Dinner in Clear Lake. Then two weeks later, Progress Iowa hosts the inaugural Corn Feed event in Des Moines.
For those sad to not have their beloved Harkin Steakfry to attend any more, they can see the former Senator in late August headline and speak at Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed (think he’ll talk about putting the car in “D”?). Progress Iowa, the state’s well-known progressive issue organization, hopes their event can serve as the annual successor to the Steakfry, raising funds to further their messaging efforts that support progressive policies and hold Republicans accountable for conservative ones.
Perhaps taking its cue from the many downtown Des Moines festivals, the Corn Feed will be hosted at the outdoor Simon Estes Theater, right on the river in downtown.
Along with Harkin, the Corn Feed landed Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream), Lincoln Chafee, and most of the major Iowa electeds, including Dave Loebsack, Mike Gronstal and Mark Smith.
Two weeks before the Corn Feed Democrats can head north for the Wing Ding Dinner. On Tuesday the organizers of the Wing Ding announced that four of the five Democratic presidential candidates will attend their event. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee have all signed on. Organizers also offered a tantalizing extra highlight: an announcement of a candidate to challenge Steve King in the 4th District.
“We want to be the next premiere event for Iowa Democrats,” said Randy Black, the chair of the event. “We looked to the Harkin Steakfry as a role model.”
The Wing Ding Dinner is hosted by a collection of county parties in northern Iowa and is unique in its grass-roots approach to raising money. 23 counties have come together to jointly organize for it – a portion of the money from the tickets they purchase go back to their county party. So the profits from the fundraiser go to fill the coffers of many small, rural Democratic parties that can use the funds to help local candidates and build their organization. Black notes that the more that get involved, the easier it is to get top-name speakers to attend.
The event has grown substantially over the years, starting in 2003 with just Cerro Gordo, Winnebago and Hancock counties on board. John Edwards was an early headliner. They’ve expanded the number of counties and no longer call themselves the North Iowa Democratic Wing Ding Dinner, as they aim to be a statewide event. The event is held each year at the historic Surf Ballroom, the final concert location for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper.”
This year looks to be the biggest yet. Black says they’ve already sold over 1,100 tickets, to the point where they’ve temporarily shut down ticket selling on their website. Their total capacity is 2,100. One of their largest turnouts was in 2007 when Barack Obama attended – 600 came out for that event, though they only had four counties participating in sponsoring it then.
Starting Line suggests you avoid the problems some encountered with the Hall of Fame Dinner, where many weren’t able to attend due to all the tickets getting snatched up so fast. Go get your ticket now for both the Wing Ding and the Corn Feed:
Progress Iowa Corn Feed: http://progressiowa.org/cornfeed
Wing Ding Dinner: http://iowawingding.com/purchase-tickets/
(They have sold out of their online tickets (though they say they may sell them there again once they have their count figured out), but tickets still remain available through local county parties. You may want to contact them through one of these to find out which counties can help you with that.)
by Pat Rynard