“Fun” at the fair


I try to enjoy the Iowa State Fair. I really do. It’s such an Iowa thing.

But I struggle to understand why people love the fair and come back every year. I spent the better part of two days at the fair this year, working in the Iowa State booth where we had literally thousands of alumni (and other visitors) looking up their names on a wall (below). I love that it was popular, but I have to admit that I really don’t understand the appeal.


The first day I worked, I got there just in time for my shift and left when the Varied Industries Building closed. So I didn’t have much time to check out the rest of the fair. During my 15-minute dinner break I grabbed a caprese salad (cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and basil) on a stick and an overpriced lemonade. The best part of my dinner break was sitting down.

I did want to see a few things at the fair – and eat food that’s deliciously bad for me – so after I finished my shift at 3 o’clock on Day 2 I had a list of things to do. I first wanted to see the other university booths in Varied Industries – check out the competition – so I made my way through the aisles of hot tubs and waterless cookware to find the University of Iowa, UNI, and my alma mater, Northwest Missouri State. (Ours was better.)

I was with my husband, Dave, and he was hungry, so we visited the food vendors next. He’s not a big fan of fair food, but he did find a satisfactory pork chop on a stick, and we both ate an ear of Mexican grilled corn on a stick, which was buttery and delicious. We spent some time at the Iowa Craft Beer tent – an excellent addition to the fair – and drank some Iowa microbrews.


Happier now, we strolled through a few animal barns – horse, sheep, cattle – and walked through the Agriculture Building. Dave had never seen the butter cow, if you can believe it, so we stood in the line that ran halfway down the length of the building, patiently waiting to view not only the world-famous cow but also a butter sculpture of Kevin Costner and some corn stalks in the Field of Dreams display. Dave says he’s now a true Iowan.



Here’s what I like about the fair: I like the vegetable-growing contests. I enjoy reading about the cooking competitions (but think some of the contestants are freakishly out of control). I like the cultural building with its art and photography exhibits. This year I really loved seeing (for the fourth time) Seward Johnson’s gigantic “God Bless America” sculpture (above) modeled after Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” – looking like it truly belonged on the Iowa State Fair grounds. I like the poultry barn, which also houses rabbits, and I like some of the frozen desserts that you can get only at the fair. I’ve never tried a deep-fried frozen Twinkie or Snickers candy bar on a stick because that stuff doesn’t really appeal to me, but I do like the chocolate- and nut-covered ice cream goodies. For the second time in my life I ate a Bauder’s peppermint bar, a wonderful concoction of peppermint ice cream sandwiched between smashed-up Oreo cookies and fudgie topping. Whoa. (That’s me below with my peppermint bar and Dave’s strawberry milkshake.)



2 comments so far

  1. Emily Counts on

    I love the Iowa State Fair because it’s just this crazy culmination of people, talents and accomplishments all mixed together with a bit of quirkiness on top. There’s just something magical about it that you don’t get to experiencee many other places. And you must try to fried snickers!! I had Meexican corn for the first time the other day and really enjoyed it.

    I wrote a post with my top 10 things to do at the fair – maybe you’ll find someething you haven’t done at the fair yet. http://smallstuffcounts.com/iowa-state-fair-must-sees/

  2. Megan Bannister on

    Great post! The Bauder’s peppermint bar is one of my all-time Iowa State Fair favorites too! As another transplant Iowan, I’ve always been mildly fascinated by the phenomenon that is the Iowa State Fair.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    Megan from Olio in Iowa (http://olioiniowa.com/)

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