DENISON, Iowa - A self-proclaimed connoisseur of shave ice and snow cones, President Obama today stuck his spoon into a mound of "rainbow tropical snow" from the Summer Magic Tropical Sno stand to render a verdict before voters in this Iowa small town.
"This is outstanding right here," Obama said emphatically upon taking a bite of the cherry, lime, watermelon-flavored blend.
"Really good," he said, taking a second taste before the cameras. "Many of you know, I grew up in Hawaii and I know shaved ice."
The presidential motorcade's surprise stop here - part of his three-day bus tour through the state - came on an afternoon drive through cornfields and small towns along U.S. Route 30, an area Obama is aggressively courting in his campaign for a second term.
He mingled with kids and families huddled around picnic tables with red-yellow striped umbrellas on a tan pebble yard meant to resemble a beach. He weaved between the fake palm trees to shake hands and snap photos, as Hawaiian music played over loudspeakers from the stand.
After several minutes of conversation, the president approached the counter to place an order and offered to treat staff and neighbors standing nearby.
"Who else wants one? Come on Carney," he said, motioning to his press secretary Jay Carney, who came forward. "This is my champion eater right here."
The president ordered a medium "rainbow" ice for himself and three medium "rock-and-rolls" - a grape, blueberry and raspberry-flavored treat - for Carney, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki and body-man Marvin Nicholson. (A sign to the left of the order window read: "Making mouths weird colors since 1984."
A young boy then sheepishly came forward to take Obama up on his offer to pay and ordered a rainbow ice for himself. Soon after, two more young girls came forward looking for a presidential treat, too. Obama paid the $14.98 bill with cash.
The visit was well-received by locals who spoke with members of the traveling press corps. Farmer Brian Evers, 47, a self-described independent who chatted briefly with Obama, said he thanked the president "for being a supporter of agriculture."
"I'm glad to see him come through," he said, noting that Obama understands that crop yields of corn and soybean are down 50 percent from normal.
Evers said he'll be voting for Obama, adding, "I don't think Mitt Romney is going to be a supporter of the Midwest or agriculture."