Even if you only spend five hours at the Iowa State Fair, as we did a couple of weeks ago, there is so much to see, hear, experience and taste that you can’t possibly write about it in one post. This is my second blog post about our visit, and today’s focus is about a slice of the outdoor life at the fair. Everywhere you go, when you look up you see the Sky Gliders.


The fairgrounds are filled with all kinds of ground sculptures, including botanical ones. The flower cow below is called “Gert,” in memory of businessman Earl May’s wife, Gertude. His business, Early May Seed & Nursery, celebrates its 95th anniversary this year. The cow’s frame is wire, filled with sphagnum moss and 700 plugs, or plants. The plants are polka dot plant and silver falls. The plants at the base of the cow are Bolivean (also known as wandering jew). The belly of the cow is hollow.


Food is one of the major reasons that many people come to the fair. On the first day of the fair, a seven-year-old girl won a bacon-eating contest at the Knapp Learning Center, claiming the secret to her success was “shoving it all in.” She announced that this was only the first of several eating contests she planned to enter, with the pie-eating contest being next. Food-on-a-stick is also a huge attraction, with 69 varieties available this year, among them such strange foods as Hot Lips (breaded chicken breast smothered with hot sauce, served with blue cheese dressing), Griddle Stick (turkey sausage wrapped in a pancake), and Pineapple on a Stick (fresh pineapple dipped in funnel cake batter and deep fried). Many of the fair foods are fried, as a walk down Grand Avenue will prove. Make sure you click on the photo below to see a close-up of the food combinations—truly a guaranteed recipe for WeightWatchers’ membership.

Fair Food Collage

John and I didn’t eat any of the fried treats, but I confess we did eat a nut roll not too long after the Barksdale’s cookies we inhaled at the Varied Industries Building. I suspect we ingested more sugar that Friday than in an entire month!

Too Much Sugar and Salt

Unless you choose to take in a show at the Grandstand, all musical entertainment at the Iowa State Fair is included with the price of admission. And there is a lot of it, too: eleven free shows at the Fairview Stage, five at the Anne & Bill Riley Stage, nine at the Bud Light Stage, and eleven more at the Susan Knapp Ampitheater. At the Grandstand this year, where you pay for individual events, there were eight different musical events including—among others—the Newsboys, the Jake Owen & Eli Young Band, Lady Antebellum, and Foreigner and Styx. The stars of A&E’s Duck Dynasty shared insights into their family life and the filming of the show. And finally, for vehicle enthusiasts, there was a tractor and truck pull, a demolition derby and figure eight event, and hot laps for winged sprint cars, late models, sports models, stock cars and dirt trucks. Honestly, we weren’t at the fair long enough to take in any of this entertainment, but while we enjoyed our nut rolls, we sat on a bench in front of the Anne & Bill Riley Stage, where the Jeff Arrandale Band was tuning its instruments. The video quality of the clip below is terrible, but it’s the sound I was trying to capture.

When our son was younger, we always took in a few rides at the Iowa State Fair, but these days walking past these entertainments suffices. You see the flashing lights, hear the screams of the roller coaster enthusiasts, can almost feel the air being churned as you pass swiftly rotating swings and wheels, and can watch the carnival sellers pulling in risk-takers to toss rings, balls and coins to win large stuffed animals in neon colors.


As the sun sets, especially on a Friday night, more fairgoers pass through the fair gates, making their way to the grandstand with its flags waving overhead, or to the beer tents on Grand Avenue.

After the Sun Sets

When the evening crowds arrive, we discover we have eaten and seen just about everything we planned, so it’s time to head home. Return tomorrow for a post about honey, eggs and butter sculptures at the Iowa State Fair!

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “Sights, sounds and tastes at the Iowa State Fair”

  1. That’s really neat about the Earl May display…it was founded just 15 miles from where I live!
    And yes, everything comes on a stick 🙂
    We got to see a free show by Lady Antebellum one year at the fair. It was the summer right before they hit it big!

  2. Paige @Little Nostalgia

    Everyone has been writing about state fairs lately, and it makes me wish we went to ours! I’m impressed with the musical lineup you guys had. My sister and I saw Clay Aiken at a state fair once, haha.

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