Q&A: Iowa State Fair
Q: What draws people to the Iowa State Fair year after year?
A: With countless attractions, there’s something for everyone at the Iowa State Fair. This world famous agricultural and industrial exposition began 165 years ago and has grown into the largest family friendly celebration in the state of Iowa. The 450-acre fairgrounds and adjacent campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For generations, families from all 99 counties have made a pilgrimage to the state fair to soak in the sensory sensations and celebrate Iowa’s agricultural heritage. Fairgoers flock to the Grand Concourse to sample traditional and creative concessions featuring sweet treats and savory meats, with dozens of items served on a stick, from pork chops to corn dogs and the famous Fair Square. There’s entertainment for all ages -- from the thrills on the Midway to the young performers competing in the Bill Riley Talent Search and big-name artists in the Grandstand -- “nothing compares” to the Iowa State Fair. As a lifelong family farmer, I especially enjoy walking through the livestock barns and checking out the entries shown by 4-H and FFA members. The Iowa State Fair also boasts the largest state fair foods exhibition in America. With nearly 900 classes and hundreds of individual entries, it’s impressive and inspiring to see Iowans take such pride in their agricultural roots. Others showcase their talents with exhibits featuring photography, woodworking, quilting and more.
Even in a farm state like Iowa, there’s plenty to learn about how food gets from the farm to the table. I encourage parents to take their kids to the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. Throughout the eleven days of the fair, lambs, calves, goats, piglets and chicks are born in this building at all hours of the day. Even Goat Yoga is being offered alongside the baby animals. Little Hands on the Farm features mock livestock barns, a grain bin, tractor shed and grocery store. Fair attendance has surpassed the one million mark for several years, breaking a record in 2018 with 1,130,260 attendees. The iconic Skyglider gives people a birds-eye view of the fairgrounds as well as the 133-foot-tall wind turbine that stands on Expo Hill, east of the Agriculture Building. Erected in 2007, the wind turbine reminds fairgoers that Iowa leads the way in renewable wind energy, now generating 37 percent of the state’s electricity.
Located in the heart of America’s Heartland, Iowa is the pulse of public policy issues important to agriculture. The Iowa State Fair has the best of Iowa agriculture on display. It’s a good opportunity to discuss what’s on the minds of farmers. I’ll join Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig in the Varied Industries building to discuss trade and the importance of passing the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA) this fall.
Q: How many years have you been attending the Iowa State Fair?
A: Just like many lifelong Iowans, I look forward to the state fair every year. In fact, 2019 will be my 45th consecutive year walking the fairgrounds and greeting fellow fairgoers. It’s another opportunity to keep in touch with Iowans and strengthen representative government. For several years, my wife Barbara and I have served as honorary co-chairs of the John Stoddard Prevent Cancer Foundation booth located in the Farm Bureau tent. We encourage Iowans to stop by and take advantage of the free cancer and wellness screenings. As a 30-year breast cancer survivor, Barbara credits early detection for saving her life. We are grateful for the opportunity to help raise awareness and will continue our advocacy for this important public health issue. Every year I make sure to pay a visit to the Big Boar, the Giant Ram, the Super Bull and the Butter Cow. This year the Butter Cow will share her space with characters from Sesame Street to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Another highlight for me is volunteering at the Iowa Pork tent to serve iced tea to the hungry crowd. And I always look forward to my favorite fair food after my shift. Nothing beats an Iowa pork chop on a stick. Every other year for more than two decades, I organized a delegation of foreign ambassadors from around the world to come to Iowa. The visit to the Iowa State Fair was the crown jewel of our weeklong tour across the state. From politics to pickles and pork chops, there’s something for everyone. The Iowa State Fair celebrates the prized achievements of our people and educates generations of fairgoers about our productive agricultural heritage that continues to feed and fuel the world.
The Iowa State Fair runs Aug. 8-18, 2019.