State Fair Staples

It’s that time of year again, my friends. The time of year when shirts and shoes are considered optional attire. The time of year when butter is more than just a table condiment. The time of year when the entire east side of Des Moines smells like a giant deep-fryer.

That’s right, I’m talking about the Iowa State Fair.

Family Fair Goers

It’s no secret that I love me some state fair (example a; example b), and as the dog days of summer fade from July into August, I begin to count down days ’til the fair like a child would count down to Christmas morning. The state fairs of the Midwest are more than just an event…they are a right of passage. Some natives love to hate them, and others hate to love them (probably for all the same reasons), but Missy and I just can’t get enough.

This year (as a part of Staycation, Act 2) the entire Florer/Hardinge/Florer-Bixler entourage (including Sienna, Rowan, Jovie, and Tennyson) spent a day taking in all that there was to see at Iowa’s late-summer celebration.

Now, for the uninitiated, there are a few “musts” that every person should indulge upon once arriving at the fairgrounds:

Deep Fried Goodness

Fried Foods Cheese curds, deep-fried candy bars, JR Donuts, and Tater Ribbon Fries, and even fried butter (total letdown…tasted like a buttery cinnamon roll, and not a very good one at that)! There are other delicacies that we can’t pass up: corn dogs on a stick, hot beef sundae’s, Iowa pork chops, Greek Gyros, and more. Yeah, it helps to pace yourself. Or go more than once. Or…just…not eat for the entire week prior to your visit.

The Butter Cow




Viewing The Butter Cow (via). It’s a cow…{wait for it}…made out of butter. Even though the name says it all, it’s an absolute must-see at the Iowa State Fair.


Horse show




Animals. Every farm animal you’d want to see, well…we’ve got it. 1,500 lb. bull? Yup. Big boar? Got that too. For 11 days, there is no greater concentration of chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, and horses in here than anywhere else in the Midwest. The girls were particularly fond baby-animal building.






Live Music. We usually don’t splurge for the Grandstand shows, but there is always plenty of free entertainment to take in (Matt Nathanson, Dick Prall, The Band Perry…), plus you know we always make it a point to see The Nadas!

Palin promoting...herself...


Stumping Politico’s. Ok, so while technically not a “must see,” during election and pre-election years, one will most likely run into a handful of senators, governors, and presidential hopefuls. (You know I just had to photobomb Palin’s posse after they mobbed and passed us by mere inches!)



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This year {for obvious reasons} the routine that Missy and I have created over the past seven (or so) years of fair-going together had to be modified now that we are plus three in the ranks. However, that didn’t stop us from having a blast, and the girls could not have had a better time!

Our first few hours were spent pushing them around in their strollers and letting them run wild in the kid zone, but as I mentioned, the fun really began once we reached the baby-animal barn!

Rowan checking out the baby ducks.

Close encounters of the animal kind!

What does one call a baby turkey? Gobble gobble...

Mommy & Rowan

We soon made our way outside…the splash fountains were calling our name (as was the red-velvet funnel cake…brrp).

Splash Pad!

Fountain fun.

Splash pad...Rowan was fearless!

Jovie and Daddy

But alas, the long day began to take its toll

Sienna - Passed. Out.

The girls managed to catch short naps in their strollers at some point during the morning (even if it took 30 minutes of rocking with Grandma Cindy before finally giving it up), but by 1:30 everyone was pretty much spent.  So while Shannon, Steve, and Cindy stayed behind to take in some kid-free sights, the rest of the gang headed for home.

Another first...public transportation!

The babies on the bus go...

We arrived home for afternoon naps (all around) and were able to  regain some semblance of a routine by supper time. The remainder of our clan soon returned home to take over baby duty while the four of us returned to the fair to get our fill of fried foods and enjoy some child-free time of our own.

The midway is a great spot for food...and people watching!

We hung around until long after dark…at which point the fair gets a little rowdy (especially on the first Friday), and not to mention PACKED…

So many people!

So we quickly bid adieu to the Iowa State Fair for another year and made a bee-line for the car.

Overall, I’d call the day a smashing success…wouldn’t you??

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Our prayers go out to those affected by the Indiana State Fair tragedy. Familiar images of grandstands and stages that bring joy to so many now bring a painful reminder of just how powerful mother nature can be. Our heart goes out to the Hoosiers caught helplessly in the tempest and fury of the storm and resulting stage collapse. God bless those willing to risk their lives to help others in need, as I’m sure more would have been lost if not for their courageous efforts.

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About Tom Hardinge

Loving husband to my wife Missy, loving father to my four daughters Sienna, Rowan, Jovie, and Lola. I'm a chronic over-packer who loves good coffee, good music, running, waffle tee's, fleece pants, and Jesus Christ!

7 thoughts on “State Fair Staples

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