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Iowa State Fair

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by Lana Van Cleave (subscribe)
I am a freelance travel writer living in Oklahoma. I am a retired CPA now pursuing my passion for travel of all kinds. Visit my website at
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Is the Iowa State Fair the best state fair?
Iowa State Fair
Iowa State Fair Entrance, 2021

The Iowa State Fair - "Our State Fair is a Great State Fair."

These words, written by Oscar and Hammerstein, are from the theme song of the movie State Fair. And they could easily be said by Iowans. Who doesn't love the excitement of a state fair? Neon lights, children laughing, gamers calling out, and music playing are all in full force. The sights and sounds are unmistakable. Undoubtedly, the Iowa State Fair held in Des Moines is one of the top state fairs in the United States.

How did the state fair tradition begin? The first was held in Syracuse, New York, in 1841. It allowed communities to get together, have a bit of friendly competition, and share information about agriculture. It was wildly popular, and it did not take long for other states to catch the state fair fever.

Over the years, the themes have become more elaborate, and the size has grown exponentially. More agricultural events have been added, 4-H and Future Farmers of America now participate, and new technologies are showcased. In addition, to the delight of fair goers, the number of amusement rides has increased, and live concerts are generally held each evening.

Iowa's first state fair was held in October of 1854. It has been held yearly, except during war years. In 1932, the novel, State Fair by Phil Strong, was written about the Iowa State Fair. Later, there were movies made based on the story. However, only the first movie, produced in 1933, took place in Iowa. The last two were placed at the Texas State Fair.

On average, the Iowa State Fair draws over 1 million people during the 11 days. It is scheduled to take place August 11-21, 2022. Tickets for ages over 12 are a modest $14. Rides and concerts may cost additional.

Ferris Wheel
Ferris Wheel and Climbing Wall, 2021

Kiddie Rides
Plenty of Kiddie Rides, 2021

Amusement rides vary from kid-friendly to heart-stopping, scream-inducing thrill rides. Something for all ages.

Vegetable Judging
Let the Judging Begin, 2021

Participants compete to earn one of the 40,000 ribbons awarded in the 900 agriculture and livestock classes. In addition, entrants vie for bragging rights at the pie-eating contest and the wood-chopping event.

Hungry? Who knew that you could put 70 different types of food on a stick? Vendors serve them all, from deep-fried candy bars to veggie dogs and chocolate-covered cheesecakes. In addition, try the new offerings served each year, such as the Bacon Mac Dog or the Tennessee Twinkies introduced in 2021. No guilt here!

Butter Cow
Butter Cow, 2021

Butter Carved Slide
Carved Butter Giant Slide, 2021

One of the favorite displays is the Butter Cow. It is a full-sized cow sculpted from 600 pounds of Iowa creamy butter. The first one was carved in 1911 and has been a favorite display since. Usually, there is a companion piece. Last year it was a Giant Slide with two sculpted children racing down. Over the years, the companion carvings have included Elvis, Garth, and a Harley-Davidson. Wonder what 2022 will feature.

New farm equipment displayed
New Farm Equipment Displayed, 2021

The fair provides a way to exhibit the newest in agricultural methods. Tractor, implement, and technology displays draw large crowds to view the latest and greatest in the industry.

Concert entertainment always includes some of the top names in the industry. This year showcases Brooks & Dunn, Kane Brown, Keith Urban, and Carrie Underwood, to name a few. The tractor pull, ATV races, and the car show are anticipated by others.

The Iowa State Fair is truly one of the great state fairs. Don't miss it!
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Why? One of the top state fairs in the United States
When: 8:00 am to midnight
Phone: 1-515-262-3111
Where: 3000 East Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50317
Cost: $14.00
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