It doesn’t get much more American than the Iowa State Fair – a place where butter is king, hog calling is sport and politicians are tested.

The fair, home to culinary gems like corn in a cup and fierce face-offs in the beard-growing competition kicks off Thursday in Des Moines and has become a perennial stop for presidential candidates looking to test drive their message and electability.

This year, 19 presidential hopefuls from both parties are gearing up to make the annual August pilgrimage, where they’ll be up-close and personal with voters.