About 200 native sons and daughters of Iowa got together in Alexandria yesterday for a taste of Iowa's corn-fed beef and a chance to watch a congressman shell a bushel of Iowa corn flown in for the occasion.
The banquet of beef, corn and beer followed by bingo and a corn-shelling contest with only one entrant - Democratic Rep. Michael T. Blouin, of Dubuque - was organized by the Iowans of the Washington area as part of the first annual Corn Day here.
Most of those at the Cameron Station gathering had left small farming communities to take positions in government or the military. Many have lived in the metropolitan Washington area for years, but still call Iowa "home."
But four folksy hours at a cookout was enough down-home for most of the participants.
Gene Leonard, a seven-year resident of Alexandria, said he had a "lot of respect" for his home state and its people, that the people are better adjusted there."
But is he considering going back?
"It's a little too rural," he said.
His wife, Carol, said she "would like to go back for a homecoming, but that's about all."
The same goes for Margaret Rogers.
"Home is Bloomfield," she said of the Iowa town of 3,000 she and her husband left years ago to take up residence in Virginia. "It's home all right, unfortunately."
Rogers said she and her husband were returning to Bloomfield now that her husband, a former Interior Department employee, has retired. Her husband was tired of fighting the traffic, and the cost of living was lower in Iowa, she said.
"But, oh, I wanted to be a Virginian so bad."
Janet Johnson, an assistant vice president of the Marriott Corp. here, said she felt a "certain amount of pride" for Iowa, but said she "could never go back to live there. I've seen too much."
She said she came to the gathering out of a need for "roots."
Joan Lipsky, a member of the Iowa State legislature, said the people at the gathering felt the "warm strong pull of Iowa roots" but that for many the jobs they had come to enjoy in the Washington area were not available in Iowa.
Ed Peters, who manned the barbecue, put it more succinctly.
"Iowa is a good place to be from," he said.
The IOWA association is one of many state associations in the Washington area through which area residents maintain ties with their home state. The most active such organizations are those of Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Iowa, according to IOWA President Margret Engebretson.
Shirley Carrell, 67, a retired printer who came to the affair with Iowa friends, has lived in Arlington for 27 years, but still considers his native North Carolina "home." A member of that state's association for area residents. Carrell said, "I am still a North Carolinian. This has always been just a place to hang my hat."