THE Great State Fair

Poster for the 1945 remake of the movie "State Fair." The first version was filmed in 1933 and starred Will Rogers. A 1962 version starred Pat Boone. A Broadway revival won a Tony Award in 1996. All are based on Phil Stong's novel about an Iowa family attending the Iowa State Fair.

Poster for the 1945 remake of the movie “State Fair.” The first version was filmed in 1933 and starred Will Rogers. A 1962 version starred Pat Boone. A Broadway revival won a Tony Award in 1996. All are based on Phil Stong’s novel about an Iowa family attending the Iowa State Fair.

In our wanderings across the country, there are only a handful of places we can only visit at a certain time. One of those is the Iowa State Fair, which runs for 10 days in the middle of August.

When we lived in Des Moines, we sometimes went to the fair every day. Some of that was due to our jobs, reporting and editing stories and web features for the Des Moines Register. But a lot of our attendance was due to our passion for the fair.

The Iowa State Fair is quintessential Iowa. It is very much a celebration of the state’s agriculture. The fair honors the state’s history, preserves its traditions and promotes its modern economy.

All across the fairgrounds, there’s something to see. On the west side, at the Food Sciences building, you can watch judges award ribbons for apple pies and fried chicken. On the east side, at Pioneer Hall, you can watch contestants throw cow pies and rubber chickens.

Then there are the Big Animals. There’s the Super Bull — Desperado, an Angus bull weighing in at 2,972 pounds; the Big Boar — Fred, a crossbred boar, pigging out at 1,155 pounds; and the Big Ram — a Rambouillet ram (apparently with no name) who was a baa-aad ass 438 pounds. The Largest Rabbit was Suzie, at 17 pounds 6 ounces.

Of course, there’s every conceivable type of food on a stick, from your basic corndogs (and Gage’s favorite veggie dogs) to deep-fried brownies, Snickers and Twinkies. There’s even chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick and peanut butter & jelly on a stick.

But if you want to go whole hog, you must have a pork chop on a stick. This is no thin piece of shoe leather on a popsicle stick (like I’ve had at a certain other state fair *cough*Minnesota*cough*. This is an inch-thick, juicy slab of meat still attached to the bone — which is the “stick.”

As I said on Facebook: “The Iowa State Fair! Where thousands gather each day to sweat, eat too much fried food on a stick and stand in line to see cows sculpted in butter, big boars with huge testicles, and big bulls that are hung like … bulls — and love every minute of it!”

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