DES MOINES, Iowa -- Donald Trump helicoptered into the Iowa State Fair on Saturday for what promised to be -- as his supporters say -- "yuge."
The billionaire real estate mogul flew his private 757 to Des Moines after a Friday night rally in New Hampshire. After landing at the Des Moines airport, he took his personal helicopter to a field near the entrance to the fair.
The newest chopper in his fleet features 24-karat seat belts and handles and is painted with his family crest.
His campaign hoped to offer rides on the helicopter to children attending the fair.
“Helicopter rides? I don’t know,” he told reporters in New Hampshire on Friday. "I think so, I hope so, to the kids."
Such a thing would have been a first in the history of the Iowa State Fair, a sprawling, 400-plus acre family-friendly festival famous for livestock competitions, pie-baking contests, and its wide variety of fried foods sold on sticks.
It’s also known for traditional stump speeches from presidential candidates, usually delivered from the hay-bale-adorned Des Moines Register Soapbox, situated along the grand concourse across from stands selling fried Twinkies and Oreos. It’s where, for decades, White House aspirants have been grilled on policy questions; it’s where Mitt Romney infamously declared “corporations are people, my friend!”, and where on Friday Jeb Bush was confronted with questions about the Iraq War and his brother George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. Bush was trailed for four hours by a predictably sizable group of political reporters and TV cameras, easily identified from a few streets away by the handful of extended boom microphones waving over his head.
But that’s nothing compared with the spectacle Trump commanded, even for a fair whose motto is, proudly, “Nothing Compares."
The nearest comparison might be Sarah Palin, who in 2011 visited the fair amid intense speculation she would run for president against Romney, who had been photographed earlier the same week eating a pork chop on a stick. (Also that year, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry came to the fair and bit into a corn dog, a photo that went on to become almost as infamous as Romney’s “corporations are people” quip.)
When she visited, Palin could barely move through the fairgrounds for the crush of voters and reporters who surrounded her. She toured the livestock pavilion, then visited the famous butter cow. The crowd grew so big aides feared for her safety and changed her route through the fried food stalls.
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On Saturday, Trump followed plan that’s not far off. He skipped the traditional speech on the soapbox. Instead, he offered those helicopter rides, then headed to the agricultural pavilion to see this year’s version of the butter cow.
When he finished, he got on his plane and headed back to New York. After all, he has a commitment on Monday.
“Yeah, I’ll be doing jury duty,” he said Friday. “Can you believe it?"