DES MOINES, Iowa — Polk County Democrats are busy gearing up for their annual Steak Fry in Water Works Park on Saturday.
This year, organizers have nicknamed it the “Caucus Coachella.”
“Steak Fry is an Iowa political tradition, but this year’s is going to be a little bit different with 17 candidates and over 12,000 people,” Polk County Democrats Executive Director Judy Downs said.
Downs said the only candidate who is unable to make it is John Delaney, who will be attending his daughter’s wedding.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is no longer speaking after dropping out of the race hours before the event. The 17 candidates in attendance get ten minutes on stage to address the crowd.
“We are really, really early in the race. At this time in 2007, Obama wasn’t polling very well. At this time in 2015, I think Trump was at one percent, so we really don’t know who the nominee is going to be. By giving everyone the same amount of time, we’re allowing an equal opportunity for all of our candidates to shine,” Downs said.
Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack spoke at an event on Friday with candidate and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
Vilsack said he knows all too well what it was like to be lower in the polls in a presidential race, highlighting the importance of giving everyone the chance to speak.
“I was a one percenter at one point in time in 2007, so I think it’s really important for the party and for democracy to give everybody an opportunity to be heard and have their ideas vetted by Iowans,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack said he is not endorsing any one candidate yet.
Bennet said getting a chance to speak like they are at the Steak Fry is no longer happening on the national stage due to strict qualifying criteria for debates put in place by the Democratic National Convention.
“This was a really bad idea on the part of the DNC. Obviously it’s of self interest for me to say that I confess that, but I don’t think it’s good for the democracy. People in Iowa are just barely beginning to. That’s in Iowa, much less anywhere else in the country people are barely beginning to decide who it is they want to support. I still think we are six weeks away from people making decisions or even more than that,” Bennet said.
Ticket sales for the Steak Fry closed at noon on Friday.
Doors to the event open at 9 a.m. and the event ends at 5 p.m.