COLUMBIA – The Burford Shelter at Cosmo Park smelled like sweet baked beans, ice cream and strawberries Friday evening, and the air was filled with the talk of politics.
The annual Strawberry Festival brought more than 150 people out to the park for free pork burgers, ice cream, strawberries and a chance to meet many of this year's candidates in the August primary and November general elections.
Candidates, eligible voters and children sat side-by-side at six long picnic tables under Burford Shelter's brown, wood-paneled roof.
The candidates walked from table to table introducing themselves and explaining their qualifications.
"Getting out and meeting face-to-face in groups like this with people is absolutely a great opportunity to get your name and face out there," said Brian McCollum, Democratic candidate for Boone County collector of revenue. "Especially being a first-time candidate."
"I love (events like this)," said Nora Dietzel, a Democrat running for Boone County recorder of deeds. "It's a lot of fun meeting everybody, getting to know what their issues are, what they're worried about and what's important to them."
Lois Miller, a Democrat who will face Dietzel in the August primary, said she also enjoys these events because they give her an opportunity to spread the word about public office.
"A lot of people don't know what the Recorder's Office does," she said. "This is one of the few times that, when somebody has a question, we can answer it."
James Pounds, the only Republican on the ballot for Boone County presiding commissioner, talked to a few candidates and interested residents at the event about the upcoming primary election.
"In August, it should turn out to be a pretty good election, which will be really good for a lot of people," Pounds said.
The proposed "right-to-farm" amendment to the Missouri Constitution was among the leading topics discussed by candidates at the event, which was hosted by the Boone County Farm Bureau.
Pounds admitted that he was no farmer, but the event provided him with an opportunity to talk to people who would be affected and who had strong opinions about the amendment.
"I like to talk to these guys because they are the ones who will have to deal with that kind of regulation day to day," he said.
Candidates were given one minute to address the crowd at the end of the festival. The candidates announced their positions, goals and promises to the community should they win.
The Farm Bureau is sponsoring another event Aug. 2, a safety expo at the Central Missouri Events Center.
Supervising editor is Samuel Hardiman.