Thursday was the start of the Great Iowa State Fair! After moving to Des Moines, Iowa in 1991, our family came to love the Fair. We generally went more than one day and still couldn’t take it all in. It is one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country.
And in thirty years we have only missed going four years, the last two because of the pandemic. The fair was canceled last year. It is being held this year, but when you consider the eleven day event draws over one million people we decided to not take the risk and stay home.
There are so many things that we love about the fair. When my husband was growing up on the family farm in Ohio, he was in 4-H and raised and showed pigs. So take him to the pig barn and he’s happy. And of course, we all go to see the ‘big’ boar. This year’s winner is ‘Irish Cowboy’ weighing in at a whopping 1288 pounds. We also have to see the big bull. This year’s winner is ‘Conrad’ weighing in at 3040 pounds. Check out photos of all the big animals here!
You can watch the 4-H kids compete with their livestock at the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion. The horse shows and competitions are at the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center.
There are numerous outdoor entertainment stages located around the beautiful 445 acres grounds. All offering free entertainment, including big name stars. And of course, the Grand Stand is where you pay to see even bigger name stars, like Blake Shelton on Saturday night. When my kids were growing up they would perform with their dance studio on one of the many outdoor stages.
No fair day would be complete without climbing over the huge display of new agricultural equipment. Remember when Roy wrote in the blog a few weeks ago about how many acres of field corn there are in Iowa? Well, a planter to plant that corn costs approximately $300,000. And a combine to harvest it costs upwards of $500,000.
Matthew and Roy love checking out the old agricultural equipment around Pioneer Hall, an original building built in 1886 for the first Iowa State Fair. Pioneer Hall is also full of antique exhibits. It has a stage where there are all kinds of competitions such as chicken calling, battle of the beards, yodeling, a mandolin contest and more. Plus lots of free entertainment.
Bethany and I always love walking through the Cultural Building. It is full of the winners of various competitions: fine art, paintings, photography, quilts, doll houses, wood carvings and more. And there is always a giant sand sculpture that is in progress over the course of the fair.
If we are honest though, the best thing about the fair is the food. And with 200 food vendors, there is plenty to eat and drink. So for the 11 days of the 2021 State Fair we will recreate some of our favorite foods.
Thursday (Doughday) Fair Food Day #1: Corndogs, cheese curds, eggs on a stick, fresh squeezed lemonade and funnel cakes…
(Prices from the State Fair App: Corn dog $5, cheese curds $7, egg-free, lemonade $5, funnel cake $6 = $23 / person)
Friday Fair Food Day #2: We always enjoy seeing the homegrown fruits & vegetables in the Agricultural Building, the dairy goats in the show barns and Iowa Vintners at Grandfather’s Barn. So…Friday (Fruit) Pieday: A nod to Iowa grown with a Plumcot, Goat Cheese & Zucchini Pizza…my pan crust topped with a goat cheese-sour cream-lemon juice sauce, Parmesan, plumcots, zucchini spirals, pancetta, walnuts, mozzarella, rosemary and some Iowa Wine. For dessert, ‘Applishus’ Nachos with caramel, pecans & mini chocolate chips.
(Prices from the State Fair App: 2 slices pizza $8, Applishus $6, wine $8 = $22 / person)
Saturday Fair Food Day #3: When my kids were young, they and their friends would buy the one day unlimited rides wrist band for the Midway. Since Jalapeño Pete’s is right in front, I would hangout with a book and they would check in every half hour. And of course we would have lunch. So tonight’s dinner is inspired by Jalapeño Pete’s…blue cheese & bacon stuffed Jalapeños, nachos and of course, margaritas.
(Prices from the State Fair App: Jalapeño poppers $7, nachos grande $9, margarita $7 = $23 / person)
Sunday Fair Food Day #4: There are several food stands that sell pizza on the fairgrounds. Parlo’s Pizza by Grandfather’s barn, though, is a favorite for Margherita Pizza and inspired today’s creation…my pan crust with tomato sauce, Parmesan, tomatoes, fresh basil, Amazza Suocera fresh mozzarella balls and garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil chiffonade. For dessert a copycat recipe of Barksdale Iowa State Fair Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and lemonade.
(Prices from the State Fair App: Pizza $11, cookie cup $5, lemonade $5 = $21 / person)
Next week I will share much more of the Great Iowa State Fair. And, of course, the 2021 fair food journey will continue.