Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed will bring 12 presidential candidates (and corn) to Cedar Rapids

Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed

NewBo City Market — Sunday, July 14 at noon

Top row (l to r): John Delaney, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan, Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper. Bottow row (l to r): Seth Moulton, Marianne Williamson, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bill de Blasio, Pete Buttigieg and Jay Inslee — illustration by Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

It sometimes seems as if it’s easier to find a Democrat running for president in Iowa than it is to find fresh sweet corn in the state, but both will be plentiful at Progress Iowa’s fifth annual Corn Feed on Sunday.

Progress Iowa is a Des Moines-based nonprofit working to promote progressive political causes throughout the state, and the Corn Feed is its signature annual fundraiser. It always features speakers, attracting politicians and activists from around the country, and in previous years it’s always been held in the Des Moines area.

“This year we wanted to change this up a little bit, and reach out beyond central Iowa,” Matt Sinovic, Progressive Iowa’s executive director, told Little Village.

This year’s Corn Feed will be at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids. The free, four-hour event starts at noon.

“There will be a band playing between noon and 1 p.m.,” Sinovic said. “There will be games and family-friendly activities out on the lawn area. Everything from bags to a giant Jenga game to a sandbox for kids.”

There will also be presidential candidates. In 2016, the Corn Feed attracted only one Democrat running for president: Martin O’Malley. This year, there will be a dozen: Sen. Michael Bennet, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Mayor Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson.

For one of the candidates, this is a second appearance at the event. Pete Buttigieg spoke at the 2017 Corn Feed. Ironically, it was one of the other speakers that year, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who was widely considered to be a likely 2020 candidate.

To the extent that the South Bend mayor was known outside of Indiana in 2017, it was because he unsuccessfully ran for chair of the Democratic National Committee that year. His campaign may not have brought him national name recognition (or even created much awareness of how to pronounce his name), but it did attract the attention of Progress Iowa.

“We thought he’d run a compelling race for DNC chair and felt he’d be a good fit for the Corn Feed,” Sinovic recalled. “I think we may have been the first group to have Mayor Pete in Iowa for a political event.”

The speeches will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday, with Rep. Abby Finkenauer and State Auditor Rob Sand speaking before the 12 presidential candidates. Each candidate will have ten minutes on stage.

“Rob Sand will also be auditing the speeches of the candidates, acting as our official timekeeper,” Sinovic said. “Otherwise, some of them may possibly go on forever.”

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“It’s a long program, but it’s going to be a good one,” he added.

The 12 candidates may be the event’s headliners, but the activist fair is at its heart.

“The activist fair is a big part of the event,” Sinovic explained. “We’ll have just over 40 organizations and campaigns. People will be about to visit with them at their booth, and learn more about them.”

“We want to provide not just a platform for people to meet candidates, but also ways for people to get involved in local activism,” he said.

The Corn Feed is free and open to the public, but Progress Iowa is asking people to register online for admission tickets. Because it is a fundraiser, there are also options to donate to support Progress Iowa.

Just like in previous years, there will be corn at the Corn Feed. Seven of the vendors at NewBo City Market will be selling special corn-themed lunch items, including offerings for vegans (The Full Bowl’s vegan cornbread muffins and La Reyna’s vegan veggie tamale with corn masa), carnivores (City Melt’s grilled corn and green chile relish grilled cheese sandwich with Chihuahua cheese and roasted pork) and those wanting something sweet (Lori Ann’s Candies’ Iowa corn bourbon chocolate truffles).