So….the Iowa State Fair trip. Sorry it has taken so long for me to get these posted, but I was so exhausted every night when I got home from the fair, I didn’t get much done, and after I got home I had to head out on another work trip. Plus, I think you will find these are fairly EXHAUSTIVE, so enjoy!
I thought to myself as I arrived at the airport and headed for security, “It has been so long since I flew for fun rather than work, I am not sure I remember how.” It was a little odd not traveling with at least one board member. I barely remembered to get my boarding pass out to go through the security line. I had been extra organized and checked in and printed it out prior to coming to the airport for once, which was probably a good idea since the lines at the United check-in looked long. Since I was only going to be gone for three nights, I only took a carry-on bag. (And hoped I wouldn’t find too much to purchase at the State Fair to take home.)
I was flying out of concourse B, but I trekked out to concourse C to Villa Pizza, as I was in the mood for marinara sauce. They don’t have a lot of options left for stromboli flavors at that time of night apparently, and the mozzerella/pepperoni stromboli was disappointing – I ended up tearing it apart and mostly eating the interior bits and cheese, dipped in the accompanying sauce. You also get a side dish, and I chose the garlic rolls, because those tend to be good, and they were, especially dipped in the sauce. Plus, they will give you a free refill on your drink.
I was on a United flight, and it was full, but I had no problem finding a place for my bag in the bins. I did get whacked by a bottle of water someone put in the overhead which dropped out, I am discovering that is the hazard of sitting in the aisle seat. I have been hit by dropped things and have seen numerous people hit by things that have shifted during the flight. If you are sitting in the aisle seat, beware the danger from above.
Landed in Des Moines at 11:45 and my brother was right there to pick me up in front of the airport. When we got to their house, my oldest niece, S. (age 13), was still awake and helped me get arranged for bed. She also opened the door to the part of the basement where Roscoe the dog sleeps in his crate and informed him that I was there, which caused him to growl and bark at me. I hit the hay, and as usual on the first night away from home, had a hard time getting to sleep (maybe partially due to the Diet Pepsi at dinner…) and didn’t sleep particularly well.
I woke up about 7:00 their time, and got up and grabbed a Diet Coke and puttered around downstairs for a bit until I heard my brother upstairs. It originally looked like only he and I would be heading to the fair early (grounds open at 8, buildings open at 9) but then he checked with the girls (S. & T. (11)) and they both quickly got ready, leaving nephew D. (7) at home with his mom to sleep in and join us later. I think we left about 8:00 and got to the fair about 8:45, there was a bit of a wait to get turned into the parking lot, that is kind of a traffic bottleneck.
Our first stop was the booth for mini cinnamon rolls. These were OK, especially with the frosting for dipping, but I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic. My brother likes these pretty well.
I was more interested in getting to the mini-donut booth. The fair website said this particular booth had a small bag of mini-donuts for $2, well, that was not the case, they were $3, but the machine got jammed while he was working on my bag, so I got about twice as many as I was supposed to, which was OK.
We all participated in eating those, as we walked across the fairgrounds. We headed to the Elwell Family Food Center, I was interested in watching the judging of a contest that involved dishes made with Azteca tortillas. These tortillas contain 50% whole wheat, and some of that wheat is grown in Colorado, so I was familiar with them as a product since we had handed some of them out at some farmer meetings, and I had a chance to sample them, they were excellent. So I got in on the tail end of that judging. I thought they had the recipes online but they only name the winners. The fair does publish a cookbook every two years with the winning recipes, I guess I have to wait for a few years to get those.
I would love to go stay in Iowa for the entire length of the fair and enter a bunch of cooking contests. I have entered recipe contests before and going to the fair has me in the mood to do it again. Whenever I do that, my co-workers and Ken’s co-workers are the benficiaries of a lot of tasting samples. The Iowa state fair has a WIDE variety of different contests.
The kids wanted to check out the Chuck E. Cheese “Ugly Cake” contest – things were being held up by the fact that Chuck E. Cheese himself, who was supposed to be a judge, was late. But he did get there by the time we left. I thought to myself, “What poor, hungover teenager is in that costume, looking at gross cakes?” At least they didn’t have to taste them.
We did wander around that building and look at the exhibits and decorated cakes, and the giant “Chocolate Moose” made of hundreds of pounds of real chocolate. The Iowa State Fair has the largest number of food competitions/entries of any State Fair!
Then we headed to the 4-H building. One of S.’s entries from her county fair qualified for the State Fair (a short story she wrote) and so she found that, she got a red ribbon. We looked at many of the exhibits in the 4-H building, with S. and T. sometimes taking pictures of projects for ideas for their own 4-H competitions.
At this point I started getting messages from Sis-in-law Kristyn that they were here at the fair, and we were trying to figure out how to meet up.
At some point, brother Wade found a refillable soda mug that you could buy for $10, and refill for free at several different branches of the same vendor throughout the fair, so we both took advantage of that opportunity.
I knew I wanted some lamb sausage on a stick, and since the 4-H building was pretty close to the sheep barns (and that is where the lamb booth is, of course) we headed over there. I think Wade and T. went to find T. a slushy stand, and S. was looking at the sheep, and I went to the Lamb Producers booth and got a sausage on a stick. It was tasty.
Then, as we all tried to meet up, we discovered that S. had worked her way to the front of the crowd watching the sheep shearing competition, and she was watching that. She found that very entertaining. “They picked them up, and then they threw them down, and them they sheared them!” I would have found it entertaining too, but it was very crowded and you couldn’t see anything from a distance. They are serious about their sheep shearing there, and the crowd was abundant and appreciative.
I appreciate the sheep barn because of my interest in knitting. I see sweaters on the hoof.
We were in the 4-H building for quite a while, and the wandering around the sheep barns took awhile, and it was getting to be about time for lunch (despite the fact that I had just had a sausage on a stick, but that was small….). One of the things on my list to try was the Hot Beef Sundae from the Cattlemen’s booth. This looks like an ice cream sundae, but is actually mashed potatoes, gravy with beef, shredded cheese sprinkled over the top, and a cherry tomato acting as the cherry. S. and Wade also each had one. We gave these a big thumbs-up. Maybe the best thing I ate at the fair. Brother-in-law John also approved of these.
All of this time we were enjoying the great weather. Before we left the house, my brother had vetoed the outfit my oldest niece was wearing with orange short shorts and an orange tank top, telling her it was only 57 degrees outside (he may have vetoed the orange short shorts anyway). She changed and was glad, because it was only about 80 for a high all day, which was extremely pleasant.
We took our sundaes and went to the Anne and Bill Riley stage to sit down and eat. Of course, the daily talent show was going on. The preliminaries to the Riley talent competition http://www.iowastatefair.org/competition/bill-riley-talent-search/ take place earlier in the year, all around the state, and the young people who make it out of the local competitions come to compete at the state fair. This competition is a really big deal here, dating back to 1959. Very neat to see something with such a history and it is obviously a big traditional part of the Fair. There are two divisions, sprouts (ages 2-12) and Seniors (ages 3-21). We got to watch a little of the sprouts level competition – lots of dancers in singles and groups. There was a young piano player named Andrew Lee who was amazing. We are talking future-concert-pianist amazing. His playing ability is way above his age. I could go every day and watch all of these talent competitions. I already checked their Facebook page to see who were the semifinalists out of the show we watched, and will be checking back to see who won.
Quote of the day, from a guy sitting behind us at the talent show: “Do I smell like barn? Be honest.”
We did hook up with Kristyn and John and family at the talent stage. It was my niece L’s 7th birthday, so it was extra special to see her on that day. Our current youngest niece, A., is 13 months old and is walking (running) very well. She has absolutely no fear and will take off without a backward glance to see if her parents or anybody is paying attention to where she is going. The oldest niece in that family, E (9) was showing her good taste by eating a footlong corn dog for lunch.
We were also sending texts to Deanne, Ken’s cousin from Omaha, who was also going to be at the Fair. Of course, my phone was roaming, and doesn’t have the best battery life to begin with, so it had passed away, and I gave Deanne Wade’s phone number, and then also got Kristyn to message Deanne, so we all finally manage to hook up at the Knapp Animal Learning Center.
This is a really neat building where they have baby chicks hatching all week long, in addition to cows, sheep, goats, pigs, etc. which also give birth periodically. The kids were all over the place in there, while the adults were trying to get some visiting done. My brother-in-law John had wandered off to get a chocolate dipped canolli (I believe) – he has some of the same interests in the fair food as I do.
Look, I am a turkey farmer.
My sister-in-law Laurie, Wade’s wife, and nephew D. arrived around this time. We spent a little more time in the Animal Learning Center before heading to the Ag Building to see the butter cow. I think about this time someone had to leave to take T. to a birthday party sleep over, so my brother took off with her, leaving Laurie and the kids. We wandered around the Ag Building a bit, S. acting as ringleader for the stair-step assortment of kids. Sis-in-law Kristyn said she would like to hire S. to come with them to the fair the next year.
In the ag building, I looked at some of the crops and vegetable exhibits, and had an egg on a stick (free!) and an apple slush (excellent and refreshing).
At some point, John went and stood in a long long to get a double-bacon corn dog. This is a hot dog that is wrapped in bacon and deep fried until the bacon is crisp, and then dipped in corn dog batter with bacon bits in it and deep fried again. I think he liked it but said it got a bit greasy toward the end. And not worth waiting in line for 25 minutes.
Kristyn shared their Honey Sticks with me. Mmmmm.
Giant tomato contest. The winner was over 2 pounds.
The kids looked at the butter cow and everything they wanted to cover in the Ag building, and then we headed out to the playground behind the Ag Building for the kids to run around. Shortly after we got there, a performance of a speed artist took place on the stage near there, and the kids watched that. I decided I was ready to try some more fried food (working my way through my list) and headed down the hill to the “Triangle’ where quite a few of the food booths were located, and headed for the “Pickle Dawg” booth. This is a pickle spear, rolled in cream cheese, with some jalapenos (optional) wrapped in in ham or pastrami, and then battered and fried. I, of course, chose the spicy option with jalapenos, and I chose the pastrami.
This was excellent, I wished it was a little more fresh, I think it had been under the heat lamp for a few minutes. It was still quite tasty, a good combination of tastes. There were just a few jalapenos, so it wasn’t too spicy. After eating this, though, I decided I didn’t need to eat anything fried for a little while. It was at this point that I realized my quest to try as many foods as possible could be somewhat self-limiting, especially in the fried department.
We re-grouped on the hill and headed out together to go see the big bull (data) and the big boar. They were both quite impressive. The boar broke the previous weight record. We got stuck in the barn with the big bull because there was a class of show steers coming through that we had to wait for.
Reggie the boar weighed 1335 pounds. You don’t get to weigh that much by exercising, as he is demonstrating. He probably would like some corn dogs too.
Then there was a BMX bike show that we knew D. would enjoy, so the adults sat on the perimeter and the kids pushed their way up into the crowd to watch closer. A. stayed with us and ran around as much as her parents would allow. I was just tickled to sit down, my feet were starting to talk to me about how much I had been walking/standing, especially on cement or asphalt surfaces.
We headed back to the food area because D. hadn’t really had lunch yet, and he wanted pizza (not a real adventurous eater yet). So we got him some pizza and managed to get separated from Kristyn and her family, but that was Ok, we each had some different things we wanted to do. My brother got back to the fair at some point and he and I each tried a different Italian grinder – I tried the Jennie and he tried the Gizmo. I think we both liked them fine, it was just a lot of ground sausage. I would have gone for some veggies on them under the cheese.
This is the Jennie Grinder.
S. wanted to show you how happy I was to have it.
This is my brother’s Gizmo Grinder.
At some point, Wade got the German Chocolate funnel cakes – unfortunately it had also been sitting under the heat lamp for a while, and would have benefited from being more freshly fried. The funnel cakes themselves are chocolate, with coconut flavored cream cheese (?) icing and sprinkled with nuts.
There was a concert that night that Laurie wanted to attend, Will Hoge,for free! Plus, there were lovely benches to sit on, so I w as for that. But then I got a text from Kristyn (well, Wade did) saying E. wanted to ride the Sky Glider if someone would ride with her. Well, of course I had never been on it, so I headed over there. Of course, I didn’t realize there were two of them, but they figured out which one I would go to (since I didn’t have a phone that worked anymore, of course) and we went on the tram over the fair. John and L. came along in the car behind us. This tramway is pretty cool, gives you a good view of the fairgrounds.
Brother-in-law John taking a picture, cute niece L. Did I manage to get pics of the other nieces? No…..
Grand concourse at the fair.
Or Promenade. I don’t recall the official name.
I got back for most of the Will Hoge concert – he is quite a good artist, I really enjoyed his songwriting. If you are looking for a new country singer to listen to, I recommend checking him out. If you have a daughter, you should listen to: Baby Girl If you are married, you should listen to: When I get my wings. If you are an aging musician (even the loosest definition), you should listen to: Too Old to Die Young.
We finished up watching the concert and headed home, getting home after 10, and being grateful for our beds and rest. I did take the time to post some pictures to Facebook, Instagram having thwarted me, and then my phone having given out. I should have written up this trip report, but that wasn’t going to happen, as tired as I was……The Iowa State Fairgrounds are really laid out well and are quite compact, but you can still spend a lot of time and cover a lot of distance walking.