Political Event Venues
What do the Jamie Hurd Amphitheater, Smokey Row Coffee, Jethro's BBQ, and Bridge View Center all have in common? While they are all in Iowa, that isn't the answer I am looking for. Rather, all these places housed political events for presidential hopefuls. As an out-of-state observer, these don't seem like obvious locations for political events. I imagine a stage in some event hall or outdoors where a mass of people gathers, not a coffee house or a BBQ restaurant. From my personal experience, each of these venues had its own ups and downs.
One of the unexpected places I attended a political event was Jethro's Bacon and BBQ for Nikki Haley. The room was like two hallways meeting at a corner and was fairly narrow. At the junction was the small stage where Nikki Haley would be standing. When I arrived at the event only minutes after the doors opened, it was packed. I could barely find a seat in the main room. A few minutes after I sat down, they had to start putting people in an overflow room next door. In addition, there was breakfast service during the event, so the waitstaff had to navigate through a packed room to serve different patrons. One positive aspect was that I got to sit very close to the podium and see Nikki Haley up close.
On the outside, the Bridge View Center looked like a massive place that could accommodate hundreds upon hundreds of people, but inside the building, the staff only used half of a large room. This led to a long line to get into the room, and many people were turned away. This event followed the more stereotypical image of a rally with a large stage for Trump to stand on, chairs, and bleachers wherever they could fit, and many people standing in the back and on the sides of the stage. As a whole, it was expected, but I thought the room was a little small for someone with a following like Trump.
For DeSantis' event, his team chose Smokey Row Coffee in Ankeny, which is a coffee shop chain in Iowa. I knew from some of my friends that it's a good place to work on school work; however, they frequent the shop closer to campus. When I got there, there was a short line outside the coffee house, and it was already pretty packed. As the start time for the event drew closer, the room became more packed with people, and the line outside grew longer. Eventually, they couldn't let any more people in, or else it would be past capacity. Inside, there wasn't a lot of sitting space, and most of us were standing and packed like sardines. I couldn't even see the stage or DeSantis for most of the event. I personally thought it was really small for a venue and was expecting either fewer people allowed in or a larger space. At this point, I started to notice a trend of events having more people registered than there was space in the initial venue.
However, Vivek Ramaswamy's venue was much different compared to the previous three. Vivek's event took place outside with a stage off to the side. The main portion of the event consisted of food trucks, lawn games, and live music. This was a refreshing change compared to the packed rooms of the previous events, and since it was outside, there could be a large crowd without it feeling suffocating. In addition, since it was outside, there was plenty of space to sit down without feeling like you were sitting in someone else's lap. I really enjoyed this venue as a whole since it was spacious and allowed for fresh air.
One trend I noticed was that events held inside usually had more people than there was space for. At Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis' events, there was a long line outside the event to get in. Granted, it took longer to get into Trump's event than DeSantis'. Eventually, people were not allowed to enter and were left to stand outside. In Nikki Haley's case, another room was opened for the viewers, and similarly, DeSantis had people outside move to a place where they could see him.
While I have only been to four different candidate events, they have all been extremely different. I am honestly looking forward to the next few locations I will visit in order to see a candidate. Maybe I'll end up at a Pizza Ranch next...