Debra Prinzing

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What I did on my summer vacation . . .

October 8th, 2010

Welcome to the Iowa State Fair!


This post was somehow lost between computers. I actually started writing it at the end of August. So . . . a little delayed, but no less informative (says I). The trip to Des Moines and Chicago was filled with “firsts” and I thought I’d share some of them, in a series of posts. 

Part One: On August 15th, I flew into Des Moines, Iowa, in the early afternoon. Susan Appleget Hurst met me and whisked me off to the famous Iowa State Fair for an extravagant and authentic Midwestern County experience. 

I’ve heard so much about this quintessential state fair so it was a thrill to take in the experience for an afternoon. Susan tells me that there’s an entire movement of fair fans who arrive with campers and RVs and pay to park their wheeled homes on-site in order to hang out at the fair for the full 10-day experience. 

I only saw the highlights, but they were unforgettable. If you only have four hours to take in this fair, here’s what NOT to miss! 


The sign says it all.

First things first: Eat lunch. 

Susan recommended a Pork Chop on a Stick. This is a savory chop cooked on open grills. The rib is butterfly-cut to form the “Handle” for easy, fork-and-knife-free dining. A napkin will do, but be sure to add some barbecue sauce. 

I asked the crew behind the counter about the pork chop’s popularity. “We sell 6,000 to 8,000 a day during the fair,” boasted one guy. Wow. This is a big Iowa Tradition and I sure enjoyed my chop. Given all the deep-fried offerings on the fairway, I think the chop was one of the healthiest sources of protein! 

What a charming way to illustrate the Dairy industry!

We left the Iowa Pork Farmers and strolled through several of the Agricultural Buildings. Susan wanted to make sure I checked out the “butter cow,” a popular annual feature. This life-sized bovine is – yes – carved from pure butter. No wonder you have to photograph Bessie through a glass window. She is temperature-controlled due to the humid and hot Iowa summers. 

Look but don't touch!

We also checked out the produce displays and took a gander at a 1,323-lb prizewinning pumpkin. 

Other Plus-Sized highlights at the Fair included a gentle-looking steer and lots of livestock raised for everything from wool to milk to dressage. Horses large and miniature, goats wearing sweaters, baby calves, and the fair’s largest hog….what a fun tour of Iowa’s farming heritage. 

We stopped for dessert and got ourselves a cup of the famous Iowa ice-cream from an old-fashioned pharmacy. Susan recommended the homemade fresh peach ice cream, but since I couldn’t decide, I also ordered a scoop of homemade strawberry ice cream to split. 

The garden gals in the wine tent, Deb and Susan

We thought we might leave by then, but Susan’s husband Jerry and his friend were in the Iowa Winery tent. So we obliged and joined them to taste some of the really excellent offerings from local wineries. 

All in all, this was a very special visit. I loved the fair and would love to return next year. What a treat!

2 Responses to “What I did on my summer vacation . . .”

  1. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening Says:

    The NY State Fair is equally popular, with its own contingent of RVs. We have baked potatoes for a dollar and chocolate milk for 25c, and our dairy scuplture changes every year.

  2. Susan Appleget Hurst Says:

    Glad you could join me at the Fair, Debra! It’s so fun to show it off to people who have never been. I think I’ll resolve to take an SFV (State Fair Virgin) to the fair every year. Especially if their going with me guarantees that we have the perfect weather day that you happened to bring along.

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