The helicopter circled the fair, a loud, flashy billboard for the candidate, before sliding down over the trees next to the dusty parking lot where it would land, kicking dirt into the media's face in an almost too-perfect metaphor. He stepped out of the helicopter following two beefy men in suits, and approached a microphone set up at the edge of the parking lot.
12:15 p.m.: The press conference
Reporters -- and a few supporters -- called out questions.
Donald Trump loves Iowa. He loves children. He'll spend as much as it takes, up to a billion dollars. He'll bend Congress to his will as he bent the New York City Zoning Commission. Jeb Bush is a puppet of lobbyists and Scott Walker ran Wisconsin poorly.
Trump fielded -- and was pressed on -- question after question. But the kids to whom he'd promised helicopter rides were getting antsy, and Trump was, too. They'd been identified by the campaign, and two, William Bowman and Shay Doyle, had spoken at previous Trump events in Iowa. (Shay, who was 10, is on Twitter: @MrKidTrump.)
Trump turned away from the cameras, and a clot of people trailed him to the helicopter. The beefy men and about a dozen staff in baby blue shirts tried to contain the chaos, without luck.
Valerie Blackford snuck past the beefy men to get a selfie, and to have Trump sign her mother's copy of "The Art of the Deal." "It's the second-best book ever," Trump told her, "after the Bible."
12:39 p.m.: The helicopter rides
Trump and some kids got in the helicopter and off they went ... and back they came, in no time flat.
He hopped out of the helicopter, letting one of the waiting kids take his seat, and got into a golf cart for the hot, dusty drive to the fairgrounds.
12:50 p.m.: The electric motorcade
With a golf cart containing a few state police in front, shouting people out of the way, Trump headed toward Gate 7. People stopped to watch him pass, yelling his name and cheering him on.
Except one young mother, who declined to give her name. "You're crazy!" she yelled. "I'd take him over the president we have now," she explained when asked. "I think there are better options -- but he's entertaining."
12:55 p.m.: The entrance
Trump's entourage drove in behind the swine barn, where the candidate stepped out to walk the rest of the way. People squealed; pigs squealed. As he emerged onto the main avenue up the center of the Fair, a crowd collected and grew. Walking ahead of the candidate was like being on the front edge of a wave as people heard someone was coming, heard who it was, watched him pass, and marveled with their friends.
Comments that were overheard as Trump walked:
"Look for the hair!" (Bad advice; he was wearing a hat.)
"Oh, hell yeah!"
"Trump, I want to ride in your plane!"
One woman to another: "Despite how you feel about him, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
A guy, on the crowd: "It's like they've never seen a billionaire."
A kid to her dad: "I touched him, too!"
Cory Royster, there with his kids, was skeptical, but still rubber-necking. "He's turned politics into the 'Housewives,'" he said, referring to the reality show. "You watch to see what he'll say next."
1:15 p.m.: Skipping the cow
Hundreds or thousands of people waited in the Agriculture Building, where Trump's campaign said he'd be making a stop to see the butter cow. Austin Gibson, 19, waited with a sign he'd made. He was looking forward to voting for Trump and, if he had a chance, would ask Trump for specifics on how he planned to deal with ISIS.
That chance didn't come. The Trump clot moved through the main street traffic and past the butter cow. Scott Tilley, who'd waited 45 minutes to see Trump, wasn't even mad. "It's like a rock star almost," he said, "and I hate to say that about a politician."
1:32p.m.: The porkchop-on-a-stick
It wasn't clear what Trump's plan was, in keeping with a long-running theme. He stopped at a porkchop-on-a-stick booth -- "If you're buying a porkchop, this side," one of the police wranglers yelled -- and apparently ate a porkchop. It was hard to get close by this point; the crowd had closed in on Trump on both ends, likely causing some sort of detectable gravitational ripple.
Two sisters watched from a nearby knoll. Diana Barker is a Democrat who was disappointed Trump wouldn't speak at the Soap Box, a venue many other candidates availed themselves of. (Trump blamed the Soap Box host, the Des Moines Register, which he said wasn't "relevant," perhaps in part because their editorial board called for him to quit the race.) Her sister, Peg Wills, is a Republican from New Jersey. Both seemed receptive to Trump's message, and appreciated that he was willing to speak his mind. That had limits, though. "Trump going overseas to say what he thinks," Wills said, "might not be the wisest choice."
Whither Trump? Rumor was that he would head back to the cow. No one was sure. Where was Trump headed? What would he do next? Pundits appeared at the rim of the crowd, offering their speculation.
1:45 p.m.: The departure
The answer was that he was leaving. His electric motor motorcade appeared and Trump got in, shaking himself free of the crowd with a wave. He headed out a side entrance of the Fairgrounds, leaving scattered people standing, quiet, in his trail.
A little girl sitting on her tired father's shoulders looked after Trump's golf cart. "Why is he here?," she asked. With a sigh, his father replied.
"He's campaigning. He wants to be the next president."