Iowa State Fair open thread

The Iowa State Fair opened today and runs through Sunday, August 23. Senator Tom Harkin stopped by the Iowa Democratic Party’s booth in the Varied Industries Building (photos here).

Post any memories, comments or advice about the fair in this thread.

I like to park along Grand Avenue. You usually can find a spot within a few blocks of the entrance to the fairgrounds, and you don't have to walk through the midway like you do if you drive in from E. University. Also, the traffic can be very bad between the freeway and the fairgrounds all along E. University. Better to get off I-235 at E. 14th St, head south and then east on Grand.

Walking in through the Grand Avenue entrance, you're close to the DNR's building with lots of fish tanks on your left (kids love this). The Varied Industries Building is not far away on your right.

My kids like going through the animal barns, but I strongly recommend carrying young children (3 and under) in a comfortable backpack or soft carrier to keep them from stepping in manure.

If it's a hot day, kids like to cool off in the fountain area just south of the Ag Building. I buy lemonade from the honey producers in the ag building (tastes great, and they offer the best price at the fairgrounds). I never miss the Bauder's ice cream truck either.

Check the schedule ahead of time to see when there are shows you'd like to see. There's a huge variety of free entertainment at the fair. It could be a horse show or a frisbee-catching dog show or a musical act or a magician.

Tune out the corporate ag propaganda and enjoy looking at the animal babies in the Animal Learning Center, a little north of the ag building. Right next to that is a "little hands on the farm" outdoor activity that is so fun. Kids pretend to plant crops, then harvest them (riding on toy tractors) and sell them. When they leave the exhibit they get to exchange their pretend money for a real treat in the general store.

What do you love or hate about the fair?

  • Love, love, love the fair!!!

    We’ll be going three times this year, twice as a family and once as an anniversary treat for just my husband and I.  We love so many things about the fair that it’s hard to narrow it down.  We spend lots of time in the animal barns and try to catch at least one 4-H livestock judging event every year.  Last year we sat in lovely shaded bleachers with a cold lemonade and watched them judge spring heifers.  It was interesting to us, a diversion for the kids, and a nice break from the heat and walking.

    Little Hands on the Farm is one of our favorites, too.  I have to convince my boys, though, that they don’t need yet another Pioneer hat this year (I think they each own at least three).  

    Our kids have just reached the age where they really, really want to visit the midway and go on rides.  Last year we got away with promising them one each.  It is so much easier to do their “riding” at small carnivals like Johnston Green Days or Urbandale’s July 4th.  We are, however, planning to do the Ye Olde Mill ride this year.  In all our years of fair-going, we’ve never done it, surprisingly.  I don’t expect to be wowed, but it seems like we’re missing a piece of fair history if we don’t try it at least once.

    My husband and I are going to try to hit two free concerts when we’re there Monday evening.  The Castle Ridge Band is playing in Pioneer Hall and then we’re going to catch Pure Prairie League on the Budweiser stage at 9:30 (“Aaaaa-mmmiiieeeee…whachya gonna do?!?”).  Bluegrass followed by college memory music – what more could I ask in a single night at the fair?

    Thanks for the tip about coming in on Grand.  I think we’ll try that this year.

  • Saw the Parade Last Night...

    Sitting along Grand Ave. downtown.  Weird, it used to go through the East Side right up to the fairgrounds.

    Some angry “birther” type kept running up and down the sidewalk shouting crazy crap.  

    Probably just a disgruntled East Sider.

    We’re going Monday. Havah has an adolescent friend who is going to keep her company in the Midway, so I might actually get a chance to see something of the fair this  year.

    • the only time I was ever in that parade

      was around 2004 or 2005, and the route already went along Grand downtown. Do they still prohibit throwing candy?

      I remember it was the strangest assortment of groups/businesses/organizations I’d ever seen in a parade. I love the old farm equipment, though, and there were several people riding those old-fashioned bicycles with the huge front wheels.

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