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Q: What do you look forward to every year at the Iowa State Fair?


A: Like many Iowans, I look forward to the Iowa State Fair every year. For 11 days, the fair showcases the best of Iowa’s heritage, history and industry, featuring one of the world’s largest livestock shows and the iconic butter cow, a must-see attraction in the Agriculture Building. This year the famous butter cow will share her refrigerated space with three other butter sculptures honoring three iconic Iowa athletes, Jack Trice, Kurt Warner and Caitlin Clark, to celebrate their achievements and inspiration to fans and athletes around the country. The State Fair brings generations of families together from one year to the next, reflecting its importance as a civic, cultural and social touchstone for Iowans and guests from all over the world. From the first step onto the Grand Concourse, the sights, sounds and smells summon memories that fair-goers look forward to remaking every year. From the hundreds of exhibits, concessions and entertainment options, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and learn about at the Iowa State Fair. 


In 1886, the State Fair made Des Moines its permanent home a couple miles from the Iowa State Capitol. In 1987, the Iowa State Fairgrounds was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the remarkable attributes fairgoers should take notice of is the historic architectural gems that pay tribute to Iowa agriculture, including the cattle, horse, pig and sheep barns. Don’t miss the Avenue of the Breeds located near the 4-H exhibits building that features more than 70 different breeds of animals raised in Iowa. I always look forward to checking out the Super Bull, Big Boar and Giant Ram in the livestock barns. As a lifelong family farmer who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I work hard to ensure the lives and livelihoods of rural Americans are heard loud and clear at the policymaking tables. I often remind urban lawmakers that food doesn’t grow on the grocery store shelf. Even in Iowa, fewer people grow up on farms and many are a couple generations removed from life on a farm. The Iowa State Fair provides an opportunity to celebrate our agrarian heritage and educate people about how their food gets from farm to fork. I encourage families with young children to visit the Little Hands on the Farm and see baby animals at the Animal Learning Center. As a U.S. Senator, it’s inspiring to hear from young people involved in 4-H and FFA about their interest in farming. Fair-goers can stop by and listen to their experiences tending livestock and showing their animals at the “Have you herd” presentations near the sheep barn.


Q: What is on your to-do and must-see list at the fair?


A: Besides walking through the livestock barns and checking out the butter cow, I enjoy the good food. Some people eat their way through the fair with mouth-watering savory, salty and sweet food offerings, dozens of them served on a stick, including a hard-boiled egg. This year’s fair boasts 64 new foods to try. Iowa’s farm fresh commodities are featured across-the-board from cheese curds to corn dogs and hot beef sundaes. My all-time favorite is the second-to-none Iowa Pork Chop on a stick that’s grilled to perfection at the Iowa Pork Producers tent. I also don’t miss the opportunity to support Iowa Dairy with a serving of ice cream. Of course, one of my favorite things to do at the State Fair is visiting with Iowans and witnessing how this cherished Iowa institution continues to inspire, educate and entertain. Whether it’s the livestock shows, live music, coronation of the Fair Queen, quirky contests, rides, talent search or impressive exhibits, from quilting to photography, produce and flowers, nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair. More than 40,000 ribbons and banners are awarded to exhibitors every year at the State Fair for their handcrafted, homemade and homegrown entries. If you’ve been going to the fair for years like I have, challenge yourself to do something new. Whether that’s memorializing your visit with a photo-op at the Iowa State Fair murals, attending the Veterans parade, stepping back into history with a visit to the Heritage Village at Pioneer Hall or finding all 99 county flags on display, make your visit to the Iowa State Fair the best one yet.

Author: Charles Grassley

Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.


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