Fair fun

So I made my first trek to the Iowa State Fair yesterday. I went with my university relations cohorts, and we called it a professional development day. We worked our university information booth for part of the day and explored the fairgrounds for the rest of it.

Overall, I was impressed and I now understand why the Iowa State Fair has a reputation as one of the best. The Wisconsin State Fairwhich Kates and I also attended for several years – does, too, but I’m giving the edge to Iowa.

The grounds are clean, well-maintained and spacious. But I thought the real charm was in the history of the buildings – including the coliseum-like grandstand – and the variety of food and attractions.

Oh, the food. One of the more popular items at the fair is pork chops on a stick. So my buddy Brandon and I headed to that stand for our lunch, handed over $7 apiece, and it did not disappoint. In return for our money we each received a hand-sized slice of meat that was juicy and cooked to perfection. It was worth every dollar.

For an afternoon snack, I had a basket of deep-fried Oreo cookies, and Brandon and Kim bought a pair of jumbo rice crispy bars – known as Fair Squares. We tried the peanut butter and strawberry flavored cakes. … Vendors also were selling deep-fried Snickers bars, deep-fried Twinkies, multiple flavors of funnel cakes, and – another popular Iowa fair item – buckets of cookies. According to the Iowa State Fair, it features nearly 200 food stands and about 70 items on a stick. There’s even salad on a stick.

On Brandon’s recommendation, each of us also made sure to get a free hard-boiled egg on a stick. A producer hands them out to anyone who visits his stand, and for a bonus there’s a bowl of spices to dip it in.

Beyond the food stands, we took in the incredible and fascinating display of photo submissions in the cultural hall, which also featured some amazing doll houses …

We walked through the Iowa State Fair museum – which featured some neat displays of fair memorabilia, including fair pins through the years and photos of all the fair queens dating back to the early 60s. Oh, the hair and the dresses through the years.

We wandered through a car exhibit …

A tractor exhibit …

And the craft barn …

Finally, we walked through the birthing barn to admire the baby adorableness of calves, ostrich, pigs and ducklings. We also watched chicks hatching and the cutest goats you’ve ever seen.

It was worth the trip, and I hope to do it again some day.

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