Coon Rapids Welcomes Khrushchev

Associated Press. Soviet Leader Tired But Smiling in Heart of Iowa’s Tall Corn Country. 23 September 1959


Khrushchev’s visit to the heart of Iowa corn country caused great sensation among his American hosts. His friendly if unyielding encounter with American culture, and the bemused good will he left his hosts with, would pay dividends during later, more difficult times.

Original Source: Carroll Daily Times Herald, September 23, 1959

A Scene of Enormous Confusion, Activity
Garst Farm Swarms With Security Men; Children Along Highway Cheer Beaming Soviet Chief


COON RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Nikita Khrushchev, tired but smiling, arrived in the heart of Iowa’s tall corn country today and announced: “This is going to be a jovial day.”

The Khrushchev motorcade drove into the midst of a scene of enormous confusion and activity.
Swarms of Army, Air Force police and other security people stood guard all over the farm of Roswell (Bob) Garst while feverish preparations proceeded for a bountiful luncheon under a huge brown tent in the farm yard.

Children Wave, Cheer

Thousands of persons, including school children, had lined highway 141 from Des Moines toward Coon Rapids. Tha children waved and cheered for the beaming Communist boss.

En route the Khrushchev party stopped at one of the several Garst farms along the highway, where workers were busily harvesting a crop of grain sorghum.
Khrushchev showed keen interest in the proceedings. He tramped through the field with his host, asking Garst all sorts of questions about the crop and the machinery used to harvest it.

Khrushchev’s look of fatigue began to drop away and was replaced by one of eagerness as he questioned Garst about the methods he used to feed hogs and chickens.

Tight Security

The security near the Garst home was at least as tight as it was in Washington or any other point on.Khrushchev’s American tour. Helmeted soldiers of the 5th Army were in evidence everywhere, on hilltops, behind fences, in barns, at crossroads. They kept in touch with one another through portable radio transmitters.

Mr. and Mrs. Garst, Khrushchev’s hosts, are old acquaintances. They met him in the Soviet Union several years ago, when Khrushchev was beginning to express a keen interest in American corn-growing, techniques.

Although he had displayed signs of fatigue last night at a civic dinner in his honor in Des Moines, the Communist leader still looked forward eagerly to his farm tour.

Happy Over Reception

He was happy over his Des Moines reception, apparently. And as he left his city hotel for Wednesday’s trip, a crowd of several hundred lined the circular ramp of a parking building across the street, and other crowds stood behind police barricades. There was a spattering of applause from the crowd as he appeared.

The sun was shining brightly, though the weather had turned cool.

A few miles east of Bayard at the intersection of Highways 141 and 25 the Khrushchev party turned off to look at a big field of a fairly new Iowa crop, hybrid grain sorghum. The farm is operated by Raymond Hoy and owned by Wesley Thomas of Coon Rapids.

A crew with tractors was cutting the heads off the sorghum and loading it for hauling to a Garst drying plant a few miles to the west.

Peers at Machines

Khrushchev strode into the field and peered closely at the machines. He watched the proceedings for a quarter of an hour. The party also stopped at a square mile section of hybrid corn which Garst was especially eager for the Soviet boss to see. Garst calls it a “mile of maize,” a cornfield so finely cultivated it has the look of a garden. The only fences are the boundaries.

Before proceeding to the Garst home, the motorcade carrying Khrushchev and his party made a wide circle of the area’s farms to give the Soviet Union’s top agriculture enthusiast a good, close look.

At each stop, the scene became one of confusion in the wild press of photographers and reporters to record the proceedings. At one point farmer Garst angrily told the newsmen, “If you don’t cooperate with me, I won’t cooperate with you.” Once, Garst picked up some chopped cornstalks and threw them at the photographers.

Puts On Performance

Khrushchev was putting on a performance once again. He strode purposefully into the fields. Me grabbed cornstalks with an authoritative air and inspected them closely. He told farmer Garst: “Too much stalk, not enough corn.”

Garst disagreed. Khrushchev unhesitatingly waded into a trench silo, a long, open pit 10 feet deep in ensilage. Swarms of flies buzzed around his bald dome. He brushed his head vigorously and then put his hat back on. His light tan suit was so spotted with flies it looked like a polka-dot creation.

A huge farmer hove into sight— 240-pound Donald Watkins.

“Ha!” shouted Khrushchev, reaching out and patting the farmer’s ample paunch.

“That’s what America is like.” The boss of world Communism threw back his head and roared with laughter at his own joke.

Light Applause

The Khrushchev motorcade left for Coon Rapids, about an hour’s drive away, in cool sunny weather. Several hundred persons gathered behind barricades applauded lightly as Khrushchev and his party left their hotel.

The Soviet Premier had fortified himself with a substantial breakfast of fruit juice, poached trout, blintzes—a sort of pancake —with melba sauce, roast loin of veal, vegetables, sliced cucumbers, whole petite tomatoes, and bread.

The route to the farm took the Soviet Premier over rolling, green Iowa countryside, rich with fields of tall, waving corn and dotted with trim, prosperous-looking farm buildings. In some of the fields, the corn still was too green for harvesting.

Route Heavily Guarded

The route was heavily guarded by state troopers, Iowa national guardsmen and air national guardsmen, most carrying rifles. The men were stationed at short intervals along both sides of the highway. State police sat in parked cars at almost every country road crossing.

Some corn is ready for harvesting in the Coon Rapids area, and farmers there intended to put on a harvesting show for the Soviet leader.

On Khrushchev’s schedule was a stop at a prize field called by farmer Garst the “mile of maize.” The grain there has been so carefully cultivated that the field has the look of a garden.

There was a spattering of applause from the crowd as the Premier, accompanied by Garst and Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, stepped from the hotel. Khrushchev smiled and waved his hat. The party quickly entered cars. The motorcade moved out with a motorcycle police escort.

Sun Shining

The sun was shining brightly as the party left Des Moines.

The weather turned cool for Khrushchev’s day on the farm. Scattered showers were indicated, but the weatherman said they probably would not hit the area of Coon Rapids.

In small towns along the way, many homes were decked with American flags. The town of Perry, population 6,200, the first Khrushchev was to see outside Des Moines, erected a banner across the main highway bearing the word “welcome” in Russian, and adding the information, “a typical American town.” It is a little farm town of neat homes.

Jungle of Equipment

Near the modest, white clapboard Garst home outside Coon Rapids, swarms of news, radio and television people gathered with their jungle of equipment. Barns were converted into temporary headquarters for newsmen. Television, telephone and cable lines were everywhere, e v en around the tall silo.

Helmeted soldiers of the U.S. Fifth Army, armed with M-1 rifles, swarmed all over the area of the farmhouse and on surrounding hilltops, at crossroads, behind barns and behind pasture fences. Even the fire department men – in red bow ties – were there.

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