Our State Fair is a great state fair


It’s the time of year that we Iowans do our annual celebrating at local community celebrations, festivals, block parties and county fairs. And we’re now about in the middle of the queen of them all: the Iowa state fair.

It is quite the phenomenon, this traditional celebration of our state. Since we live this close to the state fairgrounds, I suppose almost everyone in our area has attended the state fair at least once. For many of us, going to the state fair is an annual ritual.

Although I did go to the fair for a day last year, before that it had been five or six years since I was there. I’m not planning on going for the 2019 version. Watching the fair highlights every evening on TV works for me. But still, it’s not the same.

Much of the state fair is the same every summer, but in a comforting, welcome-home kind of way that makes one think, ” I remember that!” or “We have to go see that again!” For some it is all about the state fair food.

I remember my grandma talking about going to the state fair when she was a young mother. They took their fried chicken and potato salad for their noon meal after it had been in the hot car all morning. She didn’t tell me that anyone ever got sick.

When I was growing up, my family went to the fair most summers. I recall that when we went we took our lunch in a picnic basket that sat in the very warm car in the parking lot all morning before we returned to the car to eat on a blanket spread in the grass beside the car. I suppose my mom was careful about what food she packed in that basket. There was never any problem eating that picnic lunch.

By the time I took my children to spend a day at the state fair, I broke tradition by buying our noon meal from one of the multitudes of food stands there, enough that we could all have something different to eat if we wanted. And we rested not next to our vehicle but under the shade trees by the big stage as we watched the talent search contestants perform.

I wonder if we Iowans aren’t spoiled by our lovely fairgrounds with plenty of shade trees and grass (even though it gets beaten down). When I lived in Ohio, I attended their state fair in Columbus once. I was pretty disappointed in it, because the whole fair–as I recall–was on a big flat slab of asphalt. And there wasn’t nearly as much to see there as at the Iowa state fair. Going to the Ohio state fair once was enough.

That little excursion helped me realize that our state fair truly is, as the song says, a great state fair.


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