Ernst set to Roast and Ride while Iowa Democrats plan Picnic for the People Saturday

Vice President Mike Pence to speak at GOP event in Boone

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, arrives at a Des Moines motorcycle dealership parking lot aboard her Harley Davidson motorcycle for the start of her inaugural Roast & Ride fundraising event in 2015. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, arrives at a Des Moines motorcycle dealership parking lot aboard her Harley Davidson motorcycle for the start of her inaugural Roast & Ride fundraising event in 2015. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

Getting Vice President Mike Pence to speak at her barbecue fundraiser Saturday “was a big score,” Sen. Joni Ernst said.

Whether the vice president will join her for the motorcycle ride half of her third annual Roast and Ride is “up to the Secret Service,” the Iowa Republican said.

“I think he would very much love to be riding a motorcycle,” Ernst said. “That’s why we really targeted him this year and encouraged him to come out, just because it does involve motorcycles and he is an enthusiast.”

In addition to Pence, Ernst has invited her colleagues, Sen. Chuck Grassley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Gov. Kim Reynolds and 4th District Rep. Steve King to speak at Roast and Ride.

She expects Pence to bring an inspirational message, “not just to those that are at the event ... but to all Iowans and hopefully all Americans as well.”

“We have a new administration with new ideas. It’s a fresh look at where America needs to go,” said Ernst, who has attracted high-profile guests each year — GOP presidential hopefuls in 2015 and then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump last year. She also has provided speaking time to top Iowa Republicans.

She expects Pence to talk about initiatives President Trump is pursuing “to make life better for all Americans.”

“I think he exudes a level of optimism that people need to hear during these stressful times,” Ernst said. “I don’t care what level of government you work at, I think we need to reassure our constituents that we’re working hard for them, and I think he’ll do that.”

Ernst’s event starts at 11 a.m. at Big Barn Harley-Davidson in Des Moines. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the “family friendly pork roast.” In addition to the ride and political speeches, the Iowa-based rock/folk band, The Nadas, will entertain.

Tickets are $20 per person for adults and are available at

Picnic for the people

Democrats planning a picnic to counter Roast and Ride don’t have those logistical considerations. Boone County Democrats are hosting Picnic for the People from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the Shelter House at J.B. McHose Park, 1215 Francis Mason Dr. in Boone. The event features several 2018 gubernatorial hopefuls and party leaders. Organizers say they want to connect activists with campaigns and progressive advocacy groups.

The list of Democrats planning to participate in the Picnic for the People includes gubernatorial hopefuls Sen. Nate Boulton of Des Moines, Polk County Conservation Director Rich Leopold, Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City, former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire, former Des Moines school board member Jon Neiderbach, Davenport Alderman Mike Matson, Coralville nurse and union president Cathy Glasson and Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell.

Also, legislative leaders plan to attend, including Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, and House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown. Kim Weaver, who plans to challenge King in the 4th District also is expected.

The suggested donation for the picnic is $10 or more per person. The menu includes sandwich, chips, drink, salad and dessert. To make reservations, send an email to

Des Moines bureau reporters Rod Boshart and Erin Murphy contributed to this report.

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