- Travel and Places»
- Visiting North America»
- United States
Iowa State Fair Fun
The Iowa State Fair is FUN!
Ok, so maybe I'm a little biased, but I think that the Iowa State Fair is the best state fair! I grew up going every year to the Iowa State Fair. It was a tradition, habit, something we HAD to do to get away from the farm! I started going to the fair when I was younger with my family and then when I entered high school, I went with my friends. Now that I don't live in Iowa anymore (or anywhere close to it!) I have come to appreciate the fair more than I did when I was growing up.
Let me take you on a tour of my favorite state fair - the Iowa State Fair. I encourage you to create a lens of your own on your favorite state fair!
2011 Update: We did it! We made it to the 2011 Iowa State Fair! We went for two days (and we still didn't get to see everything!).We took a break in between days so we could rest (a really good idea!). Our hope is to go next year and go to the fair 3 days. If I had a camper, we would just park in the campgrounds & stay the whole week!
Photo credits: Unless otherwise noted, all photos copyrighted LakeMom
Iowa Butter Cow - Yes, A Cow Made from Butter!
The Butter Cow is a tradition at the Iowa State Fair. There has been a butter cow at the fair since the early 1900s. There have only been 4 butter artists to create the butter cow. The current artist is Sarah Pratt. She has been sculpting the butter cow since 2006 after apprenticing with the previous sculptor for 15 years.
In addition to the cow, every year there is another butter "creation". In the past, there has been sculptures of a Harley Davidson motorcycle, Harry Potter, Superman and last year she created a sculpture of Shawn Johnson, who is a native Iowan.
The Midway at the Iowa State Fair
As with any fair, the Iowa State Fair has a midway. It is a good size, with lots of options for every member of the family. There are your typical games of chance in addition to the variety of rides available. Belle City Amusements offers 3 ways to enjoy the midway at the Iowa State Fair. Check out the official State Fair website for more details!
Permanent Rides at the Iowa State Fair
Ye Old Mill & the Sky Glider
Two of my favorite rides at the Iowa State Fair are permanent fixtures to the fairgrounds. They are the Ye Old Mill and the Sky Glider.
Ye Old Mill is my favorite ride. It is kind of an old-fashioned Lover's Tunnel. You climb into a boat and "float" along. While you are floating you pass different dioramas in the tunnel. Riding on the Old Mill is a nice break out of the heat of the fairgrounds.
The Sky Glider was built in 1975. It provides a fun way to get from the center of the fairgrounds to Pioneer Village (which is at the top of a big hill!). It also provides a wonderful view of the fair from above.
There are now 2 Sky Gliders: One takes you from The Old Mill to Pioneer Village. The other Sky Glider takes you from the middle of the fairgrounds to the 4-H Building area - great if you are tired at the end of the day and you parked your car on that side of the fairgrounds!
Old Mill & Sky Glider PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Animals at the Iowa State Fair
The main focus of any fair are the animals. The Iowa State Fair does not skimp in this area! Just about any animal that can be found on a fair is on the fairgrounds. They are judged by their looks, how they walk and even how much they weigh! There are horses, cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens. It is fun to watch some of the judging of these wonderful animals.
Iowa State Fair Videos
Free Entertainment at the Iowa State Fair - Bill Riley Stage & More!
Once you get onto the fairgrounds, there is a TON of free things to do and see. There are all kinds of demonstrations of just about anything you could imagine!
One of the most popular long-running entertainment is the Bill Riley Talent Search. The talent search began at the state fair in 1959. There are 2 levels - Sprouts (2-12) and the Seniors (13 - 21). The performances take place on the Ann and Bill Riley stage and are hosted by Bill Riley's son - Bill Riley Jr. These are a lot of fun to watch - a homegrown version of "Idol".
According to previous year's website - there have been over $500,000 worth of free entertainment available to the fairgoers. Now a lot of times when you tell someone there will be free entertainment - you might nod and say - "That's nice - now where are the rides!" You might also think - locals who aren't going anywhere but the local fair! But their selection of free entertainment has something for everyone - kids (magician and roping), pop, rock, blues, rap, Oldies, and Country.
Last year's list of free entertainment (2010) - included Davy Jones of the Monkees and Vanilla Ice.
Here is a short list of some of the free entertainment available for this year's (2011) Iowa State Fair (see the Iowa State Fair website for full details!): Oak Ridge Boys, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Confederate Railroad,The Lovin' Spoonful, The Band Perry, and more!
There really is something for everyone regarding free entertainment at the fair!
Bill Riley Stage PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Grandstand Entertainment at the Iowa State Fair
In addition to the free entertainment, there is the Grandstand entertainment that has an additional cost. In the past, the Grandstand has been host to Sonny & Cher, the Osmonds (I was there!), the Beach Boys, Jackson 5, Olivia Newton-John (I was there!), and Michael Bolton (I was even at that one!).
The Pioneer Village at the Iowa State Fair
Pioneer Village is located at the top of a hill and contains the history of farming and other antiques. This area appeals to the older crowd. Don't worry, the fair board doesn't make the older fairgoers struggle up the hill - there is the Sky Glider for the ambitious or there is a shuttle service (free) that will take people up and down the hill. There is also food and entertainment available at the village. It's a nice place to visit to slow down your visit to the fair. It is also close to the campgrounds.
Photo: Virtual Farm Boy
Pioneer Hall PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fair
The Varied Industries Building is a great place to get out of the direct heat of the day on the fairgrounds. It is where the commercial businesses set up booths and show off their newest products. Even if you're not interested in buying anything - it's fun to walk through and see what is out there. One of my favorite booths is the Culligan water booth. I was always fascinated by the water coming from the faucet from "nowhere".
There also used to be a booth that had an enormous scale - I think it was the Agricultural booth - and you could get on the scale and weigh yourself. That was fun when I was in high school - I'm thinking I wouldn't think it was so much fun these days!
Around the outside of the building there used to be vendors that would "evaluate" your handwriting. I loved doing this when I was in high school. I'm not sure how accurate it was, but it was a lot of fun!
Varied Industries Building PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Get to the Iowa State Fair!
The Ag Building at the Iowa State Fair
Another fun building to go into when the Iowa August heat begins to melt your brain is the Horticultural Building. This is the building that houses the flower, vegetable, and honey competition. It is also where the Butter Cow lives. On one video that I saw from a previous year, they said the line to see the Butter Cow could take 2 hours. It really is worth it to see a cow (and the other creation) made of butter. It is really art!
Ag Building PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Iowa State Fair Book
Camping at the Iowa State Fair
For those families that enjoy living in a tight space with their entire family - camping at the fairgrounds would be a perfect choice for them. In fact, it is a tradition for some families to camp at the fairgrounds every year. For families that live a distance from Des Moines, this is a great option. If you choose to camp at the fair, you must bring your campers onto the campgrounds before the fair begins. Your equipment is then on the campgrounds for the entire run of the fair. You can choose to stay the entire time or come and go as you please. The rate for the works for 2011 is $375 (includes electricity & sewer). This sounds like a great deal to me for 15 days. You don't have to pay for a hotel room and you can cook in your camper. This is for the serious fairgoer!