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State Fair Upgrades & New Law Boost Attendance

John Pemble / IPR
Iowa State Fair manager Gary Slater speaks from the renovated Oman Family Youth Inn at the opening ceremony for the 2016 fair

The 2016 Iowa State Fair got underway this morning with an opening ceremony at the newly-renovated Oman Family Youth Inn building.  It’s one of many fair facilities that’s been upgraded in recent years with funding from the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  Fair manager Gary Slater says since the foundation was formed 23 years ago, it has raised $125 million.

"We have completed many renovation projects, many new construction projects, that obviously would not have been possible without this public-private partnership that we have," says Slater.

The nearly $5 million spent on the Youth Inn now makes it accessible to people with disabilities, and the dormitories are air-conditioned.  There is also an upgraded auditorium, which will show coverage of the Olympics on a large video screen for fairgoers wanting to get out of the heat.

Slater also expects strong attendance this year because of Iowa’s legally-mandated school start date. Slater says last year was the first fair affected by a 2015 state law saying Iowa schools can’t begin until August 23rd.

"The result was the largest attended fair in the history of the Iowa State Fair 1,117,398," says Slater.

The Iowa State Fair runs through August 20th.