There seems to be nothing more Americana than that of a good ol’ fair. The smell of popcorn, the Ferris wheel lights at night, the sighting of the high school girl who has just been crowned queen, and the taste of freshly fried funnel cakes… On a stick. According to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, there are approximately 3,200 fairs in North America each year. None of those fairs measure up to that of the Iowa State Fair.

There are many reasons to love the Iowa State Fair, but here are some that top the list.



Each year, over a million fair goers enter the gates of ISF. In addition to meeting friends and colleagues, it is a great place to meet family. Time together as a family allows for relaxation, building on memories of years’ past, and of course introducing the new generation to all of the fun of the fair.


iowa-state-fair-13The shows. Oh, the shows! From rock to country, pie eating to acrobats, alligator taming to husband calling (Yep, that’s a thing.), 4-wheel races to sand sculptures. Across the fairgrounds, there are countless stages where families can take in the sites – and sounds – and experience talent from around the world. There is talent amongst us all and it’s always enjoyable to watch others perform!

Entertained by Shows


Whether watching on a large stage with lights and pyrotechnics or viewing a cement slab filled with square dancers, there is something to watch! From local dance teams excited to share their talent to Grammy Award Winning country musicians, there is something to witness and enjoy. Some county fairs rely on shows to pull in their crowds and will invest their budget accordingly. At the Iowa State Fair, The Grandstand is the place to go! The newly remodeled Kum & Go Stage is home to American Idol winners, blasts from the pasts, and modern day award winners each year. 

Entertained by Rides


If rides are something you enjoy, then you’ll want to make The Midway part of your ISF experience. There is something for all ages, whether you’re a toddler wanting to ride kiddie rides or grown-ups looking for adventure. Many fairs now offer bracelets and ride discounts to entice riders and to make the rides more family friendly (a.k.a. affordable) and the ISF is no exception. The Iowa State Fair introduced the the Thrill Pass in 2018, which is a scannable bracelet. The Ferris Wheel continues to be a timeless ride, whether you head to the top as a family, on a date, or enjoy the ride with friends.

Entertained by Queens


Did you know that every small town county fair crowns a queen? After being announced as their local fair queen, young women make their way to Des Moines during the month of August. Throughout a series of competitions, including interviews, talent sharing, and answering many questions, the judges decide on a winner. One lucky young lady who resides in the state of Iowa will take on the title, crown, and sash, and represent Iowa for a term of one year. Throughout the Iowa State Fair, queen candidates assist with fair activities, volunteer their time across the grounds, and meet with their adoring fans. 



Fried Twinkies on a Stick. Red Velvet Funnel Cake. Mini Donuts. Do I need to continue to make your mouth water for more? Checking out new fair food is a highlight for many people. Not only are the concoctions unique in their character, but are often created with intensity in the off-season. Much time, energy, and planning go into account when planning for what goes on a stick, which flavors to savor, and what ingredients may make up the most deliciously winning combination. There are budget friendly food choices as well as healthy options to taste!

Each year, state fairs across the country announce their new fair foods to tantalize taste buds and evoke excitement for what’s to come. There were many highlights included in ISF 2018, but a few to mention are Brown Sugar Pork Belly on a Stick, Duck Bacon Wontons, and even an Apple Egg Roll, which took home the blue ribbon for Best New Food. 



The Iowa State Fair is synonymous with agriculture and 4H. If you’re a city kid who isn’t used to growing up near barnyards and gravel roads, then the sight of a baby goat might just be the best thing you’ve ever seen. The city folk come to get away and see new sights. Farm kids who wake up every day to the sights and sounds of livestock welcome a visit to the fair to see their own and meet the competition.


kids-activities Hands-on excitement for kids of all ages is what ISF is all about. From learning to milk a cow to participating in big wheel races, testing your pottery skills on a kiln for the first time or driving a tractor, cheering on the pig races to painting in an open courtyard, there is something new for everyone to try. The fair is a time to try new things, learn new ideas, and broaden your horizons beyond your typical days. There is no shortage of fun activities, with the only obstacle being trying to cram all of fun into your stay during the fair.



Just as the sun rises in the East and the snow falls during a Midwestern winter, attending the Iowa State Fair can be more than just a family fun day. For many families, attending the fair each year becomes a tradition. This tradition is something that is ingrained in children at an early age and passed down from generation to generation. Some families travel from across the country for one day of sharing fair food and laughs. Others take it to the next level and turn their fair into a second home by adding a camping component to their fair visit. Whatever families decide, making ISF an annual event can bring about a wonderful tradition to be cherished and adored for years to come.



ISF brings out the best in people. Additionally, it bring out the good people. State fairs typically include a slower moving crowd and those that enjoy a leisurely pace. This isn’t a reference to quantitative speed and pace, but rather a mindset of less is more and stop and smell the roses. Whether this describes your inner personality or is far from who you are, try living in the moment when visiting the fairgrounds. Stop and see the baby animals, talk to the food vendors and find out how long they’ve been creating their signature dishes, watch the shows, and say hello to the people you pass.


Photo Credit: April Walker

Sources: International Association of Fairs and Expositions, 40 Crazy Fair Facts