It's the Iowa State Fair, where a million people descend on Des Moines showgrounds and are joined by anyone and everyone who wants to be the next U.S. president.
Here's what baffled me during two days at the Iowa State Fair:
1. If you don't go to this particular state fair, you're going to struggle to get elected.
The mechanics are simple: Iowa has somehow managed to ensure it always hosts the first caucuses in the country, where voters whittle down potential nominees for president. This means a state with about 1% of the country's population will play a key role in determining who gets to be selected as the presidential nominee for both parties – the equivalent of giving an English county such as Norfolk the defining voice in selecting who gets to run the country.
No one really stops to question this process.
Still, this means that a visit to the Iowa State Fair is a must if you want to endear yourself to potential candidates. It's great to see that the best way to find a candidate to run the country is to subject them to a large dose of carbohydrates and fire testy questions from an irate crowd who only really turned up to look at some prize cows.
2. There really is a cow made of butter.
3. Almost every food ever is available at the Iowa State Fair. As long as it's deep fried and on a stick.
4. Iowans like to put hidden meat in everything. Including "corndogs".
I had been warned that a defining characteristic of the Iowa State Fair was the tendency to fry everything that has ever lived in batter and then put it on a stick.
So it was with some trepidation that I decided to buy a "corndog", which is apparently a sort of deep-fried corn on the cob. On a stick.
Initially things looked good:
But then it went very wrong. There was a hidden sausage inside the multiple layers of deep-fried goodness.
There really ought to be a training guide for British people who mistakenly thought a corndog was vegetarian.
5. You can deep-fry everything at the Iowa State Fair. Even Oreos.
6. Almost any food can be dipped in chocolate. No reason. Just dip it.
7. Every politician has to be seen with food, even if they don't want it.
8. No really, they must keep eating.
9. Even if they don't look like they're enjoying it.
10. Bernie Sanders attracts the most distinctive supporters.
11. Iowans really do have the biggest sheep you've ever seen.
12. Everything is available in foot-long versions, because bigger is always better.
13. Getting abused at the Iowa soapbox is a venerable and pleasing tradition, even if the big candidates try to avoid it.
15. And did we mention the food? You can buy snacks that involve meat wrapped in cheese wrapped in bacon, all dipped in sauce and put on a stick.
16. Donald Trump can draw bigger crowds than anyone else.
17. Iowans trust him to take kids up in his branded helicopter, because it's all part of the fun of the fair.
18. Politicians winning comedy inflatable baseball bats is definitely a thing.
21. But ultimately, despite all the candidates, people at the Iowa State Fair are probably more interested in giant pumpkins than politics.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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