Iowa State Fair

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Even though the Midwest is tops in field corn production and grows row after row of it, these states don't stand out when it comes to national production of sweet corn. 

 

But for many in the region, nothing says summer quite like a fresh hot ear of sweet corn — plain, buttered or salted.

Courtesy of Gloria Martinez

The Iowa State Fair opened last Thursday and hundreds of thousands of visitors have already passed through the gates to see what this year's fair has to offer. 

For this special Iowa State Fair hour of Talk of Iowa, our host Charity Nebbe visited the fairgrounds the day before it opened. She talks to the fierce competitors of the popular jams, jellies and fruit butter competitions, then introduces a mother-son baking duo who have been competing in the baking contests for the last four years.

Iowa State Fair Begins

Aug 8, 2019
John Pemble / IPR

During a rainy opening ceremony this morning, Iowa State Fair CEO Gary Slater highlighted some of the improvements to the grounds like expansions made to the grandstand.

“We’ve sold a record number of tickets already,” said Slater. “Over a 120,000 have seen sold beating last year’s by over 30,000 tickets.”

One of the groups performing at the grandstand is the Iowa heavy metal band Slipknot. The show sold out months ago, just a few days after tickets went on sale.

John Pemble

This program originally aired on 8-15-18.

 

Corn dogs, baby ducks, and a butter cow to boot!

 

The Iowa State Fair is a time-honored tradition for many Iowans, and has gained a reputation for being one of the largest fairs in the nation.

 

Do you remember your first fair? 

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

The threat of a deadly hog disease is prompting state officials to tighten security at swine events during the Iowa State Fair.

For nearly a year, U.S. pork producers have watched African swine fever decimate China’s pig herd and they fear it could arrive here. It doesn’t hurt people or contaminate food, but it could wipe out many farms and send pork prices soaring.

John Pemble/IPR

The Democrat who hopes to unseat Republican Congressman Steve King  in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District told state fairgoers Saturday that residents in the district are suffering from the Trump administration’s tariffs and they need someone fighting for them. Coming from a farming family, J.D. Scholten says he believes he can be that leader.

John Pemble/IPR

The Republican candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 2nd district spoke from the Des Moines Register Soapbox Friday, calling the incumbent “a nice guy but part of the status quo.”

Iowa city physician Christopher Peters hopes to unseat six- term Democrat Dave Loebsack. 

Peters said he would have voted differently from Loebsack on a host of issues, from health care to banking reform. 

He brings his medical expertise to the campaign.

david young
John Pemble / IPR

Republican Congressman David Young took the stage at the Des Moines Register Soapbox Thursday and told state fair-goers ongoing trade disputes and tariffs are making him nervous.

After his speech, Young (R-Van Meter) told reporters he has made it clear to the Trump Administration that he “doesn’t like” tariffs that are affecting Iowa pork and soybean producers.

“As a leverage tool, I understand what [Trump is] doing,” Young said. “But as policy, we cannot allow this to go on a whole lot longer and allow this to become pure policy and have it mired in that.”

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds took to the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the state fair Tuesday and touted her new legislation and positive state rankings as part of her campaign to remain governor of Iowa.

She told supporters and fair-goers she is proud of signing tax code changes, mental health reform, and job training bills into law.

“We have a lot of positive things happening in Iowa,” Reynolds said. “And I know the other side wants to think everything’s doom and gloom and Iowa’s going to hell in a handbasket and I’m sorry, it is not.”

Iowa Democratic Party

The annual veterans parade at the Iowa State Fair turned controversial Monday when a Democratic veterans group was barred from the event.   

The Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus was initially issued credentials from the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs through what organizers call a clerical process.   But when the organizers reviewed the applications late last week, they recinded the credentials for the IDVC.  

Daniel Gannon is part of the informal group of organizers he calls the Iowa State Fair Veterans Committee.  He says they’ve always banned political groups.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack warned state fairgoers Monday that if Republicans retain control of the U.S. House, there will be a renewed attempt at entitlement reform directed at the nation’s senior citizens.     

Loebsack was first elected in a Democratic wave in 2006 after President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize social security failed to advance. 

“It crashed and burned due to bipartisan opposition,” Loebsack said from the Des Moines Register Soapbox at the fair.  

fred hubbell
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Standing on the Des Moines Register soapbox Saturday, Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell criticized Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds for what he said is her failure to stand up to the White House during escalating trade disputes.

Hubbell said tariffs are putting rural communities “on edge.”

“It’s not acceptable to say, ‘Let’s be patient, it’s going to work its way out.’ We need someone to stand up for Iowans and put Iowans first, regardless of who’s in the White House and regardless of what the party is,” Hubbell said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”

deidre dejear
John Pemble / IPR

Secretary of State candidate Deidre DeJear told state fair-goers Friday she wants all eligible voters in Iowa to have access to the ballot box.

DeJear is a Democrat challenging Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate in the November election.

She said her grandmother in Mississippi saw the sacrifices made when people of color and women were seeking the right to vote.

John Pemble/IPR

Earlier this year Maddie Poppe won this season of American Idol. The national television show features unknown singers from around the country as they perform in front of celebrity pop music judges. Television viewers vote which artists come back and which do not.

Poppe is from Clarksville, an eastern Iowa town with a population of fewer than 2,000 people.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Seven Iowans were honored with the Governor’s Lifesaving Award at the Iowa State Fair Thursday.

Arturo Melendez from Marion saved a woman who was having a heart attack while driving on a highway near Cedar Rapids the day after Christmas.  Melendez saw a stopped car during morning rush hour traffic. When he pulled over to see what was happening, he noticed the driver’s eyes were closed.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

John Pemble/IPR

Gun rights activists are renewing their call to allow firearms at the Iowa State Fair, after a violent incident on the fairgrounds Tuesday night.   

A man was stabbed and critically injured in a fight involving four young men on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds.    

On social media, the Iowa Firearms Coalition is urging the state legislature to end the ban.

"If the Iowa State Fair can't stop violent crime during the fair they should allow lawful citizens to adequately protect themselves,"  the organization wrote on Twitter.

John Pemble / IPR

Next year a newly-designed license plate will be available for Iowans.  Earlier this year, the governor's office asked for a new look for the plates. On the first day of the Iowa State Fair at the Department of Transportation’s booth, state officials unveiled three designs.  Gov. Kim Reynolds was on hand for the unveiling, and said she likes what she sees.

“They’ve done a good job,” says Reynolds. “I really am grateful to the staff for really their expertise in being able to design this.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

The dairy show at the Iowa State Fair continues into Saturday and cows are milked throughout each day. All the milk collected this year at the fair will be dumped.

In years past, milk collected from dairy cows during the state fair was sold to a Des Moines area co-op for production into cheese. But this year, the longstanding buyer backed out and no one else stepped up.

Image courtesy of Boomsbeat

The Iowa State Fair is the state's signature annual event, attracting over one million visitors in each of the last two years, according to its website. Some of the fair's most notable events are the vegetable, fruit, and flower competitions; the winners of which receive the coveted blue ribbon. Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron, who judges the competitions, explains what he and the other judges look for when it comes to blue ribbon quality fruits and vegetables.

John Pemble / IPR

Today is the first day of Iowa State Fair. One new change this year is the fair is no longer using one contractor for all the amusement rides. This means the fair itself is now responsible for managing all of the rides.

"We're blending about 20 different companies together to make this midway," says State Fair CEO Gary Slater. "Other fairs that have done that, other events that have done that need, we needed an outside safety consultant, Wagoner and Associates, so that everybody is making sure of the same checklist every day and that we have our own Iowa State procedures."

Flickr / Phil Roeder

This year, the Iowa State Fair’s youngest thrill seekers will be able to enjoy rides and games away from the faster, taller, scarier rides that are geared towards older children or adults.

Thrill Town is designed for the families who are still pushing around strollers. The idea is to create a calm, kid-friendly atmosphere that’s away from attractions like the "Haunted Mansion" or "Spaceroller."

ISTOCKPHOTO

Media violence researchers at Iowa State University published a study this month that finds media violence affects aggressive behaviors across a variety of cultures. 

More than 2,100 participants from Australia, China, Croatia, Germany, Japan, Romania and the U.S. named three of their most frequently-watched or played TV shows, movies or video games, and then rated how often they used each title. Then researchers evaluated the violence level of the media, and contrasted that data with survey answers that looked at behaviors like physical aggression or arguing. 

John Pemble / IPR

Ten Iowans have been honored at the Iowa State Fair with governor’s Lifesaving Awards.  Two of those recipients are Craig Smith and Steve Neal from Mount Vernon.  Last March they were sitting next to their friend Adrain Ringold during a coffee club gathering. Ringold suddenly passed out and had no pulse.  Smith and Neal took him to the floor and began performing CPR.

Neal sang the classic disco hit “Stayin Alive” by the Bee Gees, while Smith began applying chest compressions.

John Pemble / IPR

A new work of art about the bond between horses and humans is at the Iowa State Fair in the century-old horse barn. Most of the 400 stalls are occupied by horses waiting for competitions, some with their human companions camping next to them, providing company and care.  At stall 406 is something different: a white fiberglass horse head hanging on a wooden mount illuminated by several work lights.

 

John Pemble / IPR

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.

John Pemble/IPR
John Pemble/IPR

There are enough state troopers roaming the Iowa State Fairgounds, so fairgoers don’t need to bring in their own weapons to protect themselves.     

That’s from Governor Branstad, commenting on the current ban on fairgoers carrying loaded guns, even  for those with concealed weapons permits.

Branstad says he supports the right to carry.

Flickr / slappytheseal

Iowa’s ban on live poultry exhibitions, swap meets, exotic sales, and other gatherings of birds is ending on New Year’s Day.

The final poultry operation that was infected with avian flu came out of quarantine this month, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says it considers gatherings of live birds to be safe now.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Immigration was a hot topic Saturday at the Iowa State Fair during Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie's time at the Political Soapbox.  Protesters often interrupted during their speeches.

As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal speaks, a group of 25 protesters chant while holding a sign saying "citizenship now."  The Republican presidential candidate says their activism is financed by big business interests.

John Pemble/IPR

At night, a woman holds a tired child while looking at the glowing lights of rides from the Iowa State Fair's Midway. 8/20/2015 Photo by John Pemble

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