Meet me at the fair

Friday I went to the fair. I was going to see my niece participate in the State Spelling Bee. And to see the butter cow. And all the food-on-a-stick. And the quilts. And the people. It is, after all, one of the 1,000 Things to See Before You Die. I’m not kidding. It’s in there. Right along with the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu.

So I took off early Friday afternoon and went to the fair. It was a beautiful day, a mild 81 degrees and relatively low humidity. I found a parking spot (shaded!) on the street a mere three blocks from the main gate.

Free parking is good. You see, starting about 5-6 blocks from the fair, you start to see signs like this one, usually accompanied by a homeowner and/or child and/or family friend beckoning people via their parking wand/stick/prod into their makeshift parking lot, i.e. “Their Lawn”.

Here we are at the front gate to the Iowa State Fair. I know, it looks locked. Don’t be alarmed, these days they use the turnstile entrance to the side of the front gate.

Our fairgrounds are impressive as far as the buildings, the relative cleanliness of the grounds, and the park like setting. I never went as a kid, but I’ve enjoyed going as an adult and always see something new. Here is the grandstand…I think it is a very impressive structure.

And the Administration Building…festively draped in bunting.

The Agriculture Building…

probably the most crowded building at any given time, and home to the infamous “butter cow”.

Here is the butter lady working on one of the butter sculptures:

This year we had the life-size butter Ayrshire (pretty sure that’s a breed of cow) which you can see the hindquarters of in that pic above. As well as butter portraits of four famous Iowans who contributed to innovation in agriculture…that’s George Washington Carver in frame #2

and of course, our very own butter Shawn Johnson. That’s right folks, she’s a home town girl in these parts. This is “Butter Shawn” holding her bouquet of roses on the medals stand. we can only presume the medal around her neck is gold. What other metal would it be?

This butter lady recently took over for the now retired original butter lady. She works in a refridgrated display case sculpting in butter for weeks leading up to and including the fair.

The Ag Building is also the place to see the judged crops:

Honestly, I looked closely at these ears of corn. For the life of me I could not figure out what made that one with the big blue ribbon any more special than the rest of them. But, I’m a city girl, what do I know?

Prized cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes…. the list is endless.

That purple ribbon is a Best in Show. Again, I have no idea why. Maybe next year I will have to try and find out how these things are judged.

The Ag Building is also the place to see Iowa produced products such as emu meat, ostrich eggs, the Pork Producers booth, the Egg Council, and my favorite, the Iowa Honey Association. This is where I buy my annual glass of honey lemonade…Mmmmmm….

Outside the Ag Building are the garden displays…absolutely beautiful, and pleasant to stroll through in our unusually mild August weather this week.

I typically don’t make a special trip to see the livestock. A cow is a cow to me, just like an ear of corn is an ear of corn. But on my way to the Cattle Barn where the Spelling Bee would take place (makes sense, right?!) I had to pause for a cattle crossing. These future farmers and their prize cattle were being led by none other than the 2008 Iowa Ayrshire Queen. That’s her in the red pumps. It doesn’t get any better than this.

They are leaving the Livestock Pavilion, where they “show” their animals to return to the Cattle Barn where the animals live for the entire fair. That’s about all I know of it.

So we finally got to what I came for. Here is a very nervous Sparkles (lucky #7 there) before the start of the 5th-6th grade State Spelling Bee.

She told me I couldn’t take a picture, but she indulged me and smiled just the same… Here she is at the microphone spelling a no doubt challenging word. She did well, she made it through to round #6 before she misspelled the word “attorney”.

Sitting through an hour or so of spelling made me hungry, so I stopped by one of my favorite trailers for a peppermint bar… I should have taken a picture of that…more ice cream than you need in a week!

One final shot (I’ll posts photos later of the quilts and creative stuff I saw…):

This is the floating globe outside the Agricultural Building, installed to commemorate the 150th year of the State Fair in 2004. The granite globe rotates/floats on water…very impressive…



One thought on “Meet me at the fair

  1. great pics! We call ours “shows” instead of “fairs” …. and the Royal Adelaide Show is held a bit later in the year….where the jams and pickles and cows and sheep along with quilts and hand crafts of all kinds are exhibited….but no butter cow…how amazing…butter sculptures!! really enjoyed visiting your State fair!!

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