Our State Fair is a GREAT State Fair!

August 15, 2014

Our State Fair is a GREAT State Fair!

 sc00055c30.jpgPosing at the Iowa State Fair, August 2009
Dale (my hubby) who wins the blue ribbon, Martese (our daughter), and Me (Annette)
Photo courtesy of Jodie Stokke


Our State Fair is a great State Fair,

Don’t miss it, don’t even be late.

It’s dollars to doughnuts that our State Fair,

Is the best State Fair in our state!

Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers

Click on this link to enjoy this tune:

 It always happens at this time of year, no matter where I happen to be in the world. ( I am currently overseas.) It usually begins with me absent-mindedly humming the tune Our State Fair. Then, I begin feeling a distinct tug from the general direction of the Iowa State Fair. To paraphrase an old saying, “ You can take the girl out of Iowa, but you can’t take the Iowa out of the girl.” :o)

100_0167.JPG.JPGIOWA spelled out in corncob fashion

 As summer’s end begins inching toward autumn and the start of yet another school year rapidly approaches, the Iowa State Fair celebrates all that is good about Iowa, in the way of exhibits, food, and fun. As a young child, I remember going to the fair a couple of times. One year, going with my grandparents, I fondly remember riding on the live pony ride. That reminds me of a sweet story about my grandparents that relates to the Iowa State Fair. I think that my grandparents were probably in their early 60’s at the time, and they attended the fair. My grandmother, while visiting the antiques exhibit, spotted an antique moose cup for sale. After arriving home that evening, after a full day at the fair, my Grandma Westphal mentioned to my grandpa that she had once had a moose cup, just like that one, when she was growing up. Waking up the next day, my grandfather announced that they would travel the 60+ miles again to Des Moines, to the fair, to buy that cup. Today, I am the proud owner of this unique piece of family history, a testament to a sweet gesture of love made by my grandfather towards my grandmother.


My Grandma Westphal’s beloved moose mug, purchased at the Iowa State Fair

The Exhibits

 2009 was the year that I became reacquainted with the Iowa State Fair. It had been a 33-year absence for me, having moved from Iowa in 1978. On a road trip from our home in Maryland, we were moving our daughter to Iowa to begin her college career at Iowa State University in Ames. With the fair just up the road in Des Moines, it was the perfect time for me to introduce my husband and daughter to the delights of the Iowa State Fair. To see some of the sights that we enjoyed on that day, browse through the photos below. :o)

DSCF1248.JPG.JPGThat’s me, with the butter cow sculpture at the Iowa State Fair, 2009
A fair staple since 1911, the cow sculpture uses about 600 pounds of butter, taking 16 hours to create!
After the fair, the butter is frozen, to be reused again in the next year’s cow sculpture.
(The butter is replaced every 3-4 years.)

Martese and I check out the Iowa State Fair exhibits, 2009

Posing with a bovine buddy on a hot day at the Iowa State Fair, 2009

DSCF1250.JPGMartese, complete with a silly smile, meets a new friend at the Iowa State Fair, 2009
Martese would soon begin her freshman year at Iowa State, just a few days after this photo was taken. :o)

 The Midway Attractions

 As a teenager attending the Iowa State Fair, there were always a few Midway attractions that were must dos; climbing to the top of the Giant Slide and feeling the breeze play with one’s hair on the quick descent, the eerie darkness inside Ye Old Mill/Tunnel of Love boat ride, and the birds eye view, at night, of the fair from high atop the double Ferris Wheel. It was the last of these, the double Ferris Wheel, where one ride was more than enough for yours truly. It was my high school best friend, Jodie’s, idea. She assured me that I would love the views from the mammoth ride that towers above the fair. I didn’t. I must interject here that I am VERY afraid of heights. As memory serves me, I vaguely remember the beauty of the twinkling  lights of The Midway as we made our way to the extreme top of the double Ferris Wheel. Unfortunately, that beauty was overshadowed by the fact that the Ferris Wheel seats are not stationary, but sway back and forth as you climb to dizzying heights. Yikes! Just thinking about it now makes my heart race!

 Click on this fun video link that a dad, on the double Ferris Wheel at the Iowa State Fair, recorded for his kids who couldn’t be there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sCKXTygL3k

DSCF1256.jpgView of The Iowa State Fair Midway, taken from the Grandstand, 2009

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 4.01.14 PM.pngThe Giant Slide at the Iowa State Fair, 2014
Photo courtesy of Brad Westphal

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 3.47.12 PM.png

The Iowa State Fair Double Ferris Wheel, 2009
Photo courtesy of David Whiting, read David’s blog about his trip to the fair, by clicking below.


Anyone who has ever been to the Iowa State Fair knows that food is part of the fair experience! As a teenager, there were two items that were mandatory fair fare (Hee hee, fair fare, get it?): corndogs and made-on-the-spot fresh lemonade. These two foods will always represent the essence of Iowa State Fair food to me! In today’s Fair World, the fairgoer has an amazing variety of food from which to choose, often meaning culinary delights served on a stick. I chuckle as I read about the 69 varieties of cuisine that is served at this year’s fair, all from a stick. My friend, Barb, said while attending this year, she even enjoyed a hard- boiled egg on a stick (free in the agriculture building) and sprinkled with a taco-like spice! :o)


Martese enjoys corn on the cob, on a stick
( Not at the State Fair, but at a 4th of July celebration in Plymouth, Minnesota, 2014)
Photo courtesy of Martese Ehm

Iowa State Fair: Food On-a-Stick

The Iowa State Fair, 2014, offers 69 food options on-a-stick :

  1. Caprese Salad On-a-Stick
  2. Chocolate Covered Chunky Bacon Maple Nougat On-a-stick
  3. Chocolate Covered Cookies N Cream On-a-stick
  4. Funnel Cake Sticks
  5. Jumbo Toasted Marshmallow On-a-stick
  6. Mexican Grilled Corn On-the-cob
  7. Tater Dog On-a-stick
  8. Fair Square (Original, Peanut Butter and Fair-berry flavors)
  9. Bacon Wrapped Riblet 
  10. Bacon-Wrapped Smokies
  11. Cajun Chicken
  12. Cake Pops
  13. Caramel Apple
  14. Carmellows
  15. Cheese
  16. Chicken
  17. Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake
  18. Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 
  19. Chocolate-Covered Deep Fried Cheesecake
  20. Chocolate-Covered Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich
  21. Chocolate-Covered Key Lime Dream Bar
  22. Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Bar
  23. Coconut Mountain 
  24. Corn on the Cob
  25. Cornbrat (bratwurst dipped in corndog batter)
  26. Corndog
  27. Cotton Candy
  28. Crazy Tater
  29. Deep Fried Brownie 
  30. Deep Fried Sweet Corn Corndog
  31. Deep-Fried Milky Way
  32. Deep-Fried Snickers
  33. Deep-Fried Twinkie
  34. Double Bacon Corn Dog
  35. Dutch Letter
  36. Fruit (with yogurt dipping sauce)
  37. German Sausage
  38. Griddle Stick (turkey sausage wrapped in a pancake)
  39. Hard-Boiled Egg
  40. Honey
  41. Hot Bologna
  42. Hot Dog
  43. Hot Lips (breaded chicken breast smothered with hot sauce, served with blue cheese dressing)
  44. Ice Cream Wonder Bar
  45. Jalapeno Corndog
  46. Kabob Combo
  47. Lamb Sausage (brat)
  48. Monkey Tail (chocolate-covered banana)
  49. Nutty Bar
  50. Peanut Butter & Jelly
  51. Pickle
  52. Pineapple (fresh pineapple dipped in funnel cake batter and deep fried)
  53. Pork Chop
  54. Push-ups
  55. Rainbow Popsicle
  56. Rib Shack Cowboy
  57. Rock Candy
  58. Salad
  59. Sesame Chicken
  60. Shrimp Corndog
  61. Smoothie 
  62. Soft Salted Chocolate Dipped Almond Pretzel 
  63. Spicy Shrimp
  64. Teriyaki Beef
  65. Turkey Drumstick
  66. Turkey Tenderloin
  67. Twinkie Log (frozen Twinkie dipped in white chocolate and rolled in cashews)
  68. Unicorn Lollipops
  69. Veggie Corndog

 The source for this list, as well as for much of my Iowa State Fair research for this post, is this link.
Click on it for more fair information.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 4.19.09 PM.png


Corndogs are an Iowa State Fair staple.
Above two photos courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, read her always fun blog below
http://iowagirleats.com/2011/08/14/statefair-favorites/comment-page-2/ – comment-3315815


One of the main attractions each year at the Iowa State Fair are the concerts, providing fairgoers with a variety of acts to choose from. As a teenager, my friends and I piled into the car to hit the fair and attend a couple of concerts over the years. We were treated to The Beach Boys in 1975 and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in 1976. That 1975 Beach Boys concert still holds the record for the largest attendance in Iowa State Fair history at 25,400 for one show. In addition to enjoying a great day at the fair that August, and a fantastic concert that evening, I have another memory of a more chilling nature. The tickets for this concert were general admission, which basically meant that 25,000+ people were all vying for a good seat. With this in mind, my group of friends and I arrived early to stake out a spot in line, ensuring us good seats for the upcoming show. We were all feeling good about our chances of “sitting pretty”, when the concert gates were thrown open. What happened next was terrifying. My friends and I suddenly felt the force of several thousand patrons from behind us. We were being pushed and shoved, uncontrollably, toward the Grandstand. I remember a more muscular fellow trying to keep those around him from being harmed in the melee. It was pandemonium. My fellow concertgoers around me were all screaming and shouting while trying to remain upright. My little group of friends had become separated in the commotion. We were all  doing our best, just not to be trampled. My one friend, Kim, suddenly found herself being crushed, wedged at a stationary metal barrier near a turnstile.  Miraculously,  a couple of my other friends somehow managed to pull Kim free, pushing her through the turnstile to safety. To this day, I am convinced that it was only through divine intervention that we all managed to escape the crush of the masses behind us. It was a horrifying ordeal that could have easily ended in tragedy. In fact, a few years later, several concertgoers attending a general admission Who concert in Cincinnati, lost their lives in a similar situation.


On August 18, 1975, the good vibrations of the Beach Boys drew 25,400 in one show.
This attendance still holds the record for the biggest audience for one show at the Iowa State Fair.


Another fun concert,  I remember thinking at the time, how does Frankie Valli sing so high?


Ticket stub from Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, August 20, 1976
Photo courtesy of Jodie Stokke

DSCF1255Contemporary Christian artist, Jeremy Camp, rocking on stage at the Iowa State Fair
(Steven Curtis Chapman was also on the bill that night), August 13th, 2009


It was a VERY hot night at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand, while watching the talented Jeremy Camp in concert!
August 13, 2009
Photo courtesy of Martese Ehm

IMG00011_2.jpgEnjoying a free concert by Firefall at the Iowa State Fair, August 13, 2009
Dale’s first gift to me was a record album by this group in 1977! :o)

The Iowa State Fair in the Movies

Screenshot from 2013-08-16 13_48_33

Abel Frake (Charles Winninger) grooms Blue Boy in 1945’s State Fair

 Iowa native, Phil Stong, penned the novel State Fair in 1932 about a family and their adventures at the Iowa State Fair. It wasn’t long before Hollywood took notice of the book’s popularity, adapting it into a movie by the same name, starring “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Will Rogers. Movie film crews attended the 1932 Iowa State Fair “to film background material, including the racing scenes and the midway. After the fair, they purchased three hogs, including the grand champion, Dike of Rosedale, who was cast as Blue Boy.” (Quoting imdb.com.) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024610/

Fun Facts for ya:

  1. On the set of State Fair, there was concern about Will Rogers’s safety, working with the “temperamental” hog, Blue Boy. Rogers was warned about the feisty animal, but Rogers’s reaction was “I’ve always been on friendly terms with hogs. Me and him’ll get along all right.” On the first day of filming with Blue Boy, Will Rogers was nowhere to be found. He was eventually located; sound asleep, in Blue Boy’s pen, with Rogers using Blue Boy’s ample side for a pillow.

    2.  Author Phil Stong was the uncle of Iowa State Fair’s fourth butter sculptor (from 1960-2005),
and the first woman to do so, Duffy Lyon.

State Fair, 1933
To watch this film, click on this link.

 In 1945, the second State Fair film was offered up to the public, this time in the form of a musical. This adaptation of the 1933 movie has music by the duo Rodgers and Hammerstein. State Fair is the only musical that the pair ever wrote directly for a film. This is my favorite of the State Fair films, filled with colorful Iowa fun and song.


Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1945 State Fair.
To watch this film, click on this link.

Blog Art - State Fair2
I love this scene! Margy (Jeanne Crain) sings (actually dubbed by Louanne Hogan), and day dreams about
Ronald Coleman, Charles Boyer and Bing Crosby, whose voices become audible to the audience.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 7.17.11 AM
Melissa (Fay Bainter) and Margy Frake (Jeanne Crain) leave victoriously from the pickle and mincemeat competition in State Fair (1945).
For you fashionistas out there, check out Jeanne Crain’s wardrobe in this film.
(Personally, I would lose the cherries on this dress!

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 2.17.47 PM
Another of my favorite scenes from the 1945 film State Fair: the fair judges sampling the spiked mincemeat entry.

The spiked mincemeat scene in the 1933 version of State Fair

 If you wish to give an Iowa State Fair award-winning mincemeat recipe a try, I found this one on the Internet. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out, by leaving a comment (at the bottom of this page), or emailing me (on my ABOUT page).

 Blanche Park’s Mincemeat Pie Filling

My Grandma Beulah gave this recipe to me.
It was an Iowa State Fair prizewinner.

Recipe submitted by Mary Ajzenman.

Recipe Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups pork

2 cups beef

5 1/2 cups apples, cored, peeled and chopped

2 1/4 cups seedless raisins

1 1/2 whole lemons, ground fine

5 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon vinegar

1 3/4 cups apple cider or juice, or apricot nectar

1 1/2 cups ground suet

1/2 cup sorghum

1 (16-ounce) can whole cranberry sauce

2 cups sour cherries, well drained

5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 3/4 teaspoon salt

Cooking Directions:

  1. Salt meat a little, cook until tender, cool, mince. Do not grind. Combine
meat, apples, raisins, sugar, lemons, sorghum, suet, vinegar, and juice.
Cook until apples are done, stirring occasionally. May be done a day ahead to this point.
  2. Add cherries and cranberries, and cook until blended. Lower heat, add spices and salt. Simmer until blended.
  3. A pint is sufficient for a small pie. For making a 9-inch pie, plan on using a quart. Any not to be used within a week may be sealed in sterilized jars while hot.
  4. For a 2-crust pie or lattice top, bake in 425°F (220°C) oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 400°F (205°C) until done. Makes about 4 quarts.


 I found this recipe and additional State Fair trivia here; please click on the link below.

 Another remake of the movie State Fair followed in 1962. This version, however, strayed from the heart and roots of the original story, taking place at (GULP) …the Texas State Fair. Such impertinence!
An adapted State Fair Broadway stage musical premiered in 1996, once again, and rightfully so, taking place at the IOWA State Fair.

                                                         After all, our State Fair is a great State Fair!

 Thanks for reading!  :o)


I attempt to post my blog bi-monthly. I will talk to you again around September 1.
A big thank you (on a stick) to all of my blog followers!!!

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An Iowa State Fair souvenir pincushion from 1938, purchased from Ebay several years ago

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.28.55 PM
A scene from the 1945 film State Fair

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5 Responses to Our State Fair is a GREAT State Fair!

  1. bwbuttons@q.com says:

    That about covers everything about the Iowa Fair… great post!



  2. Pingback: A Brief Visit to Iowa | I'm Annette!

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  4. Pingback: It’s Dollars Disney Dip to Doughnuts that the Saga of My Broken-Leg Adventure comes to an end! | I'm Annette!

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