Tour the Iowa State Fair, Quintessential American Fun

Fair Tour 2015 begins today!

The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines officially runs Aug. 13-23, but honestly, there is a lot taking place on the fairground during the next 24 hours. Sara Pratt is putting the finishing touches on this year’s butter sculpture, celebrating the 80th year of Monopoly, and I know several 4-H members from Franklin County will check in their horses this morning.

Thinking about how much fun 4-H’ers will have this week reminds me of all the life lessons they will learn. Now that she’s a 4-H mom, Shannon Latham of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds says she’s gaining a whole new set of life skills. Her daughter’s experience showing meat goats at the 2014 Iowa State reminded her that more than ribbons are won in the show ring. She says her daughter’s 4-H livestock projects have helped her overcome her shyness and develop self-confidence.

Last month during the Franklin County Fair, Shannon’s daughter entered a new class with her horse and met her goal of trying to lope in the show ring. She may not earn a blue ribbon loping this week, but she’s going to have met her goal of doing her best at the Iowa State Fair.

“It’s not about winning or losing. It’s not about trophies, purple ribbons and whether or not the judge was right on show day. It’s about so much more,” wrote Amanda Radtke on July 22, 2015, in BEEF Daily. She goes on to explain the important advocacy role 4-H and FFA members can play.

Radkte says she recently ran across a video interview with the Peterson brothers, the Kansas farm boys who became famous for their YouTube videos that parody popular songs while telling their agricultural story. Peterson brothers shared how they have become advocates and encouraged the 4-H youth to follow their lead.

The 4-H organization value volunteers who lead by example, and one can certainly find great example of agriculture advocacy while touring the Iowa State Fair. Walk through the livestock barns and see how our young farmers are taking care of their animals. Stop and ask them questions because this is an opportunity to learn where your food comes from and how it’s raised.

Want to learn some interesting ag FUN facts? My friend Rhonda Swanson performs her “Thank a Farmer” magic show that teaches young folks about farming and ag products. Did you know lipstick is made with by-products of pigs? Stop by the Paul Knapp Animal Learning Center and Christensen Farms Hall to see newborn animals, plus you’ll learn more fun facts at each livestock exhibit.

One of my favorite things to do – besides eating a pork chop on a stick – is to take a look at the machinery displays. Some of today’s new farming equipment are massive. If you get the chance, step up into the cab. Find out how these machines are used. Also ask their price tag. You might be surprised to learn that one tractor or combine costs more than your house!

Be sure to check out the Iowa Food & Family Project’s (IFFP) exhibit in the southeast atrium of the Varied Industries Building where you can see how “What Farmers Grow, Makes Iowa Grow.” Be sure to pick up a free copy of the Iowa Food & Family Cookbook that features recipes for healthy cooking made simple. Plus, you can participate in IFFP’s agricultural trivia and activities for a chance to win a variety of prizes including Casey’s pizza for a year, $250 in Hy-Vee groceries and a farm-fresh meat bundle valued at more than $500.

There is so much to see and do at the Iowa State Fair that one day isn’t nearly enough. It really takes a tour – as in a period of time – to appreciate the concerts, educational presentations, exhibits and livestock projects. No wonder “Fair Tour” is the theme of the 2015 Iowa State Fair!