It’s state fair time! We’ve got deep fried oreos on a stick, a turkey leg, livestock, music, and unbearable heat! I must show my Iowan pride here, the Iowa State Fair is one of if not the best state fair in the country, but I’m slightly bias because I am from here and have never been to another one so take that opinion as you will.
Attending the Iowa State Fair was a goal this summer for me because I haven’t been there since I was in high school and I wanted to go before I left on my travels. And luckily, everything worked out for me this past weekend when I went. The weather was perfect and I went with one of my best friends. Below are some of my favorite reasons why I love the Iowa State Fair.
Time of Year
The Iowa State Fair takes place starting in usually the second week of August and runs for eleven days. This year it started on Thursday (which it always does), August 10 and will end on Sunday, August 20. The state fair always brings about a sense of finality and beginning that I have always enjoyed. It’s a sort of ending and celebration of summer and the start of the school year and fall.
The fair is usually hot as balls, but luckily this year and the past couple of years have been tolerable. This is especially nice when you are jammed packed in the fair with what feels like half of the state. Note to future visitors, try to either go on a Sunday, during the week, or at night, the crowds tend to be smaller. Also if you get here before the fair starts, many of the local grocery stores sell advance tickets that were $4 less than at the gate.
I may have grown up in Iowa and lived in the country but that doesn’t mean I lived on a farm and raised livestock, which is not to say though that I don’t appreciate them. The fair has barns for each of the main livestock: horse, cow, pig, and sheep with chickens thrown in some places too. All of these barns are right next to each other and some are even connected, so if you keep walking through one you will more than likely walk into another. This year I got to walk through the horse, cow, and sheep barns. (I missed the swine one, but I wasn’t in the mood for bacon J).
The Budweiser Clydesdales were here this year, hurrah for me! If you’ve never seen a Clydesdale, you should. It will remind you of how diminutive you are. The pictures unfortunately do not do them justice.
The sheep barn was a little bit of a letdown because most of the sheep were not there but they were having a shearing competition, and for all those that are up in arms about that calm down, no animals were hurt. But we did get to see the big rams of the fair.
The cow barn was fun this year because I had forgotten that they keep the special cows towards the front for viewing and there is a tight little walking space for people to pass through. The cows that they show are some of the cutest and fluffiest of the fair. They range from Angus, Hereford (the cute little brown ones with white faces), Jersey, and so much more. Along with these fuzzy ones, who mind you were enjoying just sleeping there with fans keeping them cool (wish I had that), there was the biggest bull of the fair.
I love to people watch and airports and fairs are some of the best places to do that. It’s not to make fun of people but to see the different types of people that all interact in one location. As an anthropologist I am trained to observe people and their interactions with each other and when you have that many people at a fair filled with deep fried food and alcohol, there are bound to be some interesting situations.
Also the conversations you hear are always fun. We were walking by the cow barns and we heard two young women behind us talking about the science of everything. Or when we were looking at photography and art its fun to hear what everybody’s opinion is on the art.
I have saved the best for last! The main reason for many people to go to the fair (including myself) is for the food. As someone who tries to eat healthy and for digestive reasons tries to stay away from fried food, this is spluge-heaven! The Iowa State Fair has your typical fair food of deep fried things on a stick, lemonade, funnel cakes, and more. But each year there is always a buzz around the new fair foods. This year some were the apple taco (VERY good), cheesy fried enchilada funnel cake, Iowa’s big pork leg, and bruschetta sundae Mt. Vesuvius (3 Italian specialties in one). You can find the full list here.
My must when I go to the fair is a corndog and lemonade. It may not be sexy, but it’s an absolute must for me. It was the first thing we did when we got into the fair (besides use the restroom, it’s a must and the fair has plenty of buildings in case you feel nature calling). And that corndog was nirvana on a stick. Our second food adventure was the apple taco. It was cooked apples in a cinnamon crunch shell with a healthy dose of caramel and whip cream on top. Delicious but surprisingly not overly stuffing. We unfortunately didn’t try anything else because both of us were getting sleepy from being out in the sun and walking around so there were foodorganisms that were missed out on.
But don’t just take my word for it, come on over to Iowa in the middle of August because the fair only comes around once a year.