Top Ten Iowa State Fair Tips

Top Ten Iowa State Fair Tips

Top ten Iowa State Fair survival tips for hot and humid summer days.Our son, his friend, the Man of Steel and I spent an afternoon at the Iowa State Fair. While there, I compiled these top ten tips for fair goers silly enough to schedule their visits when the temperature hovers around 90° and the humidity is nearly 100%.

10.  A ride on the tram lifts passengers high enough to enjoy whatever slight breeze is blowing. However, passengers who are afraid of heights will get hot and bothered enough to cancel out the benefits of a cooling breeze.

9.  Stroll through the Varied Industries Building for two reasons: First, the air conditioning is heavenly. Secondly, you can visit the De Vries Woodcrafting booth and admire their beautiful furniture while testing their chairs and surreptitiously rest your tired feet.

8.  Women are well-advised to wear shorts, a skirt, or sundress when the temperature is near 90° and humidity is high. Capris will be too hot.

7.  You know the people that use big sticks to direct cars to the $5 parking spots on their lawns? I think they do that to keep the air moving. So put a collapsible yard stick in your fanny pack so you can cool down whenever you want. And bonk annoying people if need be. It’s a win-win!

6.  It is perfectly acceptable to join the children cooling off at the spray fountain. Just don’t knock them out of the way or strip down to your underwear. Even if your bra and panties are more generously than the uniforms worn by the women’s beach volleyball teams at the Olympics, you could get arrested for indecent exposure.

5.  If you watch the breeding swine auction in the Hall of Champions, stand directly under the giant ceiling fan. If possible stand next to someone with swine breeding expertise so you have some idea of what’s going on.

4.  If you go to the meat goat judging, repeat #5. But stand next to someone with meat goat expertise because pigs and goats are totally different breeds of cats.

3.  While walking by the butter cow, imagine standing beside Bessie in her 40° cooler just in case the power of suggestion actually works.

2.  Stop by the horse expo arena between shows when you are hot and tired. It’s free, it’s air conditioned, the seats are comfy, and you can watch a tractor go round and round and round watering and preparing the dirt. It’s mesmerizing.

1. When you’re drenched with sweat, a raspberry-cider slushy from the Agriculture Building tastes divine. It also turns your tongue bright red. So you can put in your Dracula teeth and look highly authentic.

Bonus Tip: No matter how hot it is, you must stand in the heat and take pictures for your young grandchildren obsessed with large machinery. Because that’s what’s grandparents do.


10 More Top 10 Reasons to Visit the Iowa State Fair

10 More Top 10 Reasons to Visit the Iowa State Fair

Uh-huh, the Iowa State Fair is over for another year. And yes, last week’s top 10 list was all about the fair. But we had so much fun the day we attended, I’m back with 10 more top 10 reasons to attend the 2013 fair.

10.  Plenty of rides for those who like them. Plenty of head-shaking material for those who don’t.

9.   Where else in Iowa do pedestrians totally rule?

8.  The Iowa State Fair may be the only place on earth with a memorial honoring a butter cow sculptor.

7.   It may also be the only place to see the Seven Dwarves in butter. Do you think Sneezy changed his name to Greasy for the duration of the fair?

6.  In the same vein, where else will you see an icy version of the Big Chief Tablet Indian?

5.  Where else is there a chance to snuggle up to Clifford the Big Red Dog?

4.  And discover that Tupperware is eye candy?

3.  At the Iowa State Fair, you can see the Barbie Doll Case you lusted after as a child.

2. Not to mention a Trixie Belden paper doll book like the one you bought with your allowance way back when.

1.  For those of us who had disabled fathers, where but at the State Fair does the opportunity exist to see a replica of the metal urinals our dads used, which in hindsight must have felt mighty cold on crisp fall mornings before our penny-pinching parents turned on the heat.

There you have them. 10 more top 10 reasons to mark your calendars for the 2013 Iowa State Fair, August 8 – 18. For those of you who made it to this year’s gala event, what would you add to the list?


Top Ten Reasons to Visit the Iowa State Fair

Top Ten Reasons to Visit the Iowa State Fair

Hiram and I went to the Iowa State Fair Sunday. The weather was cool and the rain held off – a perfect day to celebrate our state’s agricultural history, people watch, and eat food we don’t touch the other 364 days of the year. If you haven’t been there yet, here are my top ten reasons the fair is worth visiting:

10.  Eating something relatively healthy, like say a gyro and an apple slush, instead of totally decadent foods like deep fried mac and cheese or deep fried candy bars makes the average person feel like a health nut.

9.  Visiting the livestock barns will conjure up good memories of parents or grandparents who lived on a farm. For me, it’s visiting the cattle barn and remembering Dad.

8.  Fairgoers get to see Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin in the flesh.

7.  For those of us who didn’t make it to the Olympics and see Queen Elizabeth, the fair’s another chance to glimpse royalty.

6.  Those of us who have lived West River in South Dakota can pretend we’re back in cowboy and cowgirl country.

5.  Non-mechanically inclined spouses can listen to their mechanically inclined spouses explain how contraptions like this one work…and come away still clueless.

4.  You can watch a family member or friend’s face light up when totally engrossed in something he or she loves – say old-timey music or figuring out how some contraption works or watching a carpenter make furniture by hand – until you get bored.

3.  Nothing says “happy” like watching kids dance to the music of a one man band. Get a load of his socks!

2.  The State Fair’s the perfect place to analyze the latest in wool fashions.

1.  Where else will you see the butter cow and the seven dwarves and Snow White and the Evil Stepmother and the Magic Mirror all in one dairy case?

Now it’s your turn. What are your top reasons for attending your State Fair?



Only in Iowa

Only in Iowa

Only in Iowa is the passing of the State Fair butter cow sculptress a front page story in major newspapers. And the topic of state newspaper columnists. And a lead story on TV and radio broadcasts.

Only in my Iowa childhood was the famed butter cow sculptress’s name worthy of dropping at family and social gatherings. “Norma ‘Duffy’ Lyons?” my mother remarked whenever the opportunity arose. “The State Fair butter cow sculptress? She and Harlan went to Iowa State University together.” The pride in Mom’s voice was unmistakable.

Dad grinned and nodded right along with Mom from 1960, when Norma assumed the mantle of butter cow creator, until his death in 1997. He couldn’t remember his kids’ names for the last 10 years of his life, but when Mom mentioned Norma and her creamy creations, his face lit up with a look that could have melted butter.

Norma wielded her butter knife until 2005 when a stroke ended her long career, and the apprentice she had trained for several years took over. Dad’s former classmate died on June 26, 2011 of another stroke. When I called Mom and told her, she answered excitedly, “Norma ‘Duffy’ Lyon? The butter cow sculptress? She and Harlan went to Iowa State University together, you know.”

“I remember hearing that,” I replied.

“Her maiden name was Stong,” Mom went on. “So Norma and Harlan were seated alphabetically in class. Stong, then Stratton.”

This was new information, and a new and elevated level of name dropping, to boot. What’s more, Mom’s facts were confirmed in a newspaper story in the Des Moines Sunday Register which says Phil Stong, the author of the novel State Fair, was Norma’s uncle. I marveled at Mom’s ability to recall facts, especially in light of our shopping trip last week when she had to ask three times about who would receive the anniversary cards she’d picked out. (The answer is me & my sweetie and Anne & her sweetie if you’re wondering.)

Only in Iowa would the name of a butter cow sculptress revive memories in minds ravaged by multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. Which reinforces a belief that grows dearer the longer I live in this small, rural, unpretentious, sweet-as-butter state.

Only in Iowa is where I want to live.

A Perfect August Evening

A Perfect August Evening

Hiram and I spent part of Sunday at the Iowa State Fair. We ate artery-clogging junk food on a stick and looked at the butter cow, which was pretty cool and the butter Shawn Johnson, which was pretty strange. Her pony tail was good, but how do you sculpt a form-fitting leotard out of butter, and even if you do, what kind of cholesterol/exercise mixed message does it send to our country’s young people?

We wandered to the cattle barn, which during my dad’s State Fair glory days was where he slept for the duration of the festivities each year. But Sunday was the fair’s last day and we got to the barn after all the cattle had been sent home, along with their owners. All that remained was an odor which Dad called the smell of money. We dutifully inhaled. But a slightly green cast to our skin was as close as we came to finding any money. So we went next door to the Livestock Pavilion and watched the dog agility training. After that we took in the cloggers at Pioneer Hall and looked at the antiques.

But to be honest, we were just killing time, waiting for eight o’clock and the grandstand show – Garrison Keillor’s Rhubarb Tour. Hiram got the tickets in June and gave them to me in July for my birthday. And we’d been looking forward to the show ever since.

The night was everything wonderful. The weather cooperated – no wind, pleasant temperatures, even a full moon rising in the east. Our seats in the ninth row were the best in the grandstand. Garrison came out right on time and did all the right stuff, singing and joking, telling stories. The Powdermilk Biscuit Band had Hiram drooling and Fred Newman’s sound effects were hilarious. Suzy Bogguss sang and strummed her guitar beautifully. And a little boy named Andrew, the winner of this year’s Bill Riley Talent Search, wowed the crowd with his phenomenal piano performance.

All evening, I experienced a profound sense of joy and gratitude. At  moments, it seemed almost too much blessing – to see such performers on such a perfect evening, to be healthy enough to enjoy them with a husband who has loved me for thirty-one years. Why should I receive such blessings when so many people around the world are suffering?

That’s a question I can’t answer, one I plan to ask God someday when we meet face to face. I’m not sure what He’ll look like, but I’ve already got a pretty good picture of heaven in my mind.

It’ll be a lot like Iowa on a perfect August evening. I can hardly wait.