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"Our Great State Fair" documentary traces the history of an Iowa institution

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

Our Great State Fair, a documentary on the history of the Iowa State Fair, will air on Iowa PBS August 13th.

The Iowa State Fair is an Iowa institution and the state's biggest annual event. Held every August, it draws more than 1 million visitors to see the exhibits and grandstand shows, compete in different competitions and, of course, eat the food.

A new documentary from Iowa PBS explores the history and cultural impact of the fair. Documentary director Theresa Knight joins the program to discuss the film with host Charity Nebbe. Then, Nebbe speaks with Pioneer Hall superintendent Regina Pirtle about the historic building that houses some unusual competitions.

Later, Connie Boesen discusses her life growing up on the Iowa State Fairgrounds and Don Gonyea, national political correspondent at NPR, reflects on political candidate appearances over the years and some memorable soapbox speeches.

This episode was originally produced July 26, 2023.


  • Theresa Knight, producer and director, Iowa PBS
  • Regina Pirtle, superintendent, Pioneer Hall
  • Connie Boesen, founder and owner, Applicious and Salad Bowl concession stands
  • Don Gonyea, national political correspondent, NPR
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Dani Gehr is a producer for River to River and Talk of Iowa. Dani came to Iowa from her hometown in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to attend Iowa State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism, international studies and French. Before coming to IPR, Dani covered local government in Story County for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register.
Caitlin Troutman is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio