Old friends, new friends and ice cream

Country Roads

During the first 25 years of my life I attended the Iowa State Fair twice. For the past 25 years I have attended every year.

My Rotary Club meets at the fair at 7 a.m. on the first Friday of the event so I get an early start and enjoy the cool, uncrowded early hours on the fairgrounds. By 2 p.m., however, the temperature and attendance have increased to the point of discomfort and I know it’s time to leave.

This year my wife and I were accompanied by my daughter from Wisconsin and a family friend from France who was visiting the Midwest for the first time. We enjoyed introducing him to the great Iowa State Fair.

I spent part of my childhood on farms and as a teenager regularly found summer employment on farms so my first stop on the fairgrounds (after my Rotary meeting) is the livestock barns. I enjoy seeing all the animals but particularly enjoy the cattle barn. Having worked with a variety of animals in my youth (mainly shoveling their poop) I determined that cows were the easiest to work with. I like cows.

My favorite activity at the state fair, though, is seeing old friends and meeting new people. This year’s fair did not disappoint.

While touring the horse barn I encountered two young men from Creston, where I lived for 12 years. These guys were kids when we lived in their community and I was pleased that they remembered me.

Early on in the Varied Industries building we ran into a couple I had not seen for several years. It was good to catch up.

A few minutes later my wife spotted my brother and his wife. I was headed for the Barksdale Cookies stand (my favorite Varied Industries booth) where I was planning to purchase a bucket of fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate cookies so I invited them to enjoy some cookies with us. We sat and visited (and ate cookies) for nearly a half hour.

Later in the same building I saw another sister-in-law and visited with her. A short time later over by the Ag Building I ran into a cousin and a couple he was with. Embarrassingly, I did not immediately recognize my cousin (I have more than 60 first cousins) but I did remember meeting one of his companions who reminded me that he and I were born in the same (now defunct) hospital in Algona.

I took a break on a bench and sat next to a man eating a dish of Nitro Ice Cream. This is the dairy treat frozen with nitrogen to create an exceptionally smooth consistency. We chatted about the merits of the high-tech delicacy and agreed that it is the best ice cream on the fair grounds. Ice cream makes everyone friendly.

After taking time out for an early lunch, we proceeded to another part of the fairgrounds where I encouraged my wife and our guests to go ahead and tour the building while I found a bench in the shade.

A young man had just sat down to eat a chicken-on-a-stick lunch and I asked if I could share the bench with him. Before my fair companions rejoined me, I had a delightful conversation with my bench mate who, I learned, had grown up on a farm near Atlantic and now resides in Altoona. And I learned that the chicken-on-a-stick is a delicious State Fair treat. I plan to try it next year.

Before we left the fairgrounds we walked to the flea market under the grandstand where Nitro Ice Cream is sold. I took my place in a long line and struck up a conversation with a woman about the merits of the product. I had behaved myself calorically (except for the chocolate chip cookies) earlier in the day so I ordered the “Nitro” size dish of this heavenly treat ̶ four scoops. It took a while to eat it all and I admit it was too much but I don’t regret the decision. Regret will occur when I next visit my physician.

It was a great day at the State Fair. I saw old friends, made new friends and enjoyed an extra-large dish of ice cream.

I’m looking forward to August 10, 2018 when (Lord willing and the crick don’t rise) I plan to visit the next Iowa State Fair.