Technical difficulties with my 5-year-old Dell laptop caused a delay in my blogging adventures. Looks like it is time for a new computer soon! Thank goodness it will be a business expense, since it will also house our farm books! Of course, when the computer was down, lots of fun things have happened that I wanted to write about. It may take a couple of weeks to catch up with everything, but I thought I would start with our Iowa State Fair trip, since the 2014 fair is officially on the downhill slide.
Growing up in the north land of the state, my family lived pretty far away from the fairgrounds. We were also incredibly busy each summer with activities (softball, baseball, camps, etc.), so attending the fair is just not something I had a ton of exposure to in my youth. I did religiously watch the State Fair show on state public television, so I had some idea what this state fair business was about. Farmer J’s family on the other hand, lived much closer and made frequent annual trips (fewer miles = less hassle). He has lots of fond memories of visiting as a child and knows the fairgrounds better than your average Iowan.
My first trip to the State Fair was probably when I was 17 or 18. Three of my four best friends went down for the Rascal Flatts concert (BIG DEAL!) It was not only my first trip to the fair, but my first concert wrapped up into one. It was so long ago, we didn’t even have digital cameras, so the perfectly centered “selfie” (an uninvented term at the time) of the three of us on the sky glider was a top highlight for me! Side Note: My efforts to find this picture were fruitless . . . but I did find several other ‘historic’ photographs of my youth that were shared with special friends for amusement!
Since that first trip I’ve visited relatively frequently, and have begun to feel a bit more like a regular. The past two years, James and I have volunteered at the fair with the Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Program. We host games for children and adults that center around agriculture. We engage them in conversation about farming and answer any questions they may have. Most people are looking for something fun and free (fair goers love anything they don’t pay for), but I love sharing any knowledge I can with others!
This year during our four-hour shift, I talked to over a hundred people. The fair is truly a unique place where people from all walks of life come together, and it is a great place to showcase Iowa’s farming culture. Not every conversation left a mark, but I think a few did. One woman was surprised when we told her about all the conservation practices farmers use. She told us all she hears are all the negative comments the city water works director makes about agriculture. I am glad we could have an honest discussion with her about the issues and how farmers are working to conserve the land.
When we finished our volunteer shift we did a whirlwind tour of our favorite fair spots before Farmer J had to come back for chores. Here are our top things to do:
- Pork Tent (or Beef, or Lamb, or Turkey, or Dairy) – Food and fair are like peanut butter and jelly. When the hunger pangs come, I prefer to support Iowa’s local farmers by eating at their respective food stands. I love a good pork burger (since I am eating hamburger all too often), so the Pork Tent is on the top of my list, but they are ALL delicious. The quality at each of the producer’s food stands is second to none and the proceeds support our state. Don’t forget to top it off with dessert at the Dairy Barn!
- Animal Barns – Getting a peek at the animals is a fun treat and if you are lucky you can catch a show too! For us it is fun to see animals that aren’t at our farm like goats, dairy cows, and pigs.
- Agriculture Building – This is home of THE Butter Cow, but there is so much more! It is also home to the vegetable and floriculture contests. Someday Farmer J and I may consider stepping up our game from the county fair scene to the great state fair contest. Although, I am intimidated just thinking about it.
- Pioneer Hall – This is one of the oldest buildings on the fairgrounds. Classic happenings such as the fiddle, duck calling, egg rolling, and the tall corn contests are centered here. They also have antiques for sale if you are in the mood for rummaging. The best part may be the calories you burn walking up the hill that afford you that extra treat during the day!
- The Iowa Craft Beer Tent – This is a newer attraction, but is worthy of making the list. The craft beer tent has delicious craft beers from around the state. We much prefer paying $7 for a unique local brew versus the run of the mill domestic selection offered by competitors.
- Cultural Center – My favorite stops in this building are the photography and miniatures (i.e. doll houses) exhibits. Farmer J likes the wood working. The caliber of artists in our state never ceases to amaze me!
I hope you were able to visit too if you’re in the area. If not, consider putting it on your to do list for next year. It is something else really . . . and like the Iowa State Fair’s slogan says, “Nothing Compares!”