Iowa State Fair

Iowa – 14903 Miles Driven.  

It’s on some peoples bucket list of things to do, and for others they can’t think of anything worse.  Love them or you hate them there’s no escaping that state fairs are a quintessential part of American culture.  The Iowa State Fair is widely regarded as one of America’s finest.

The Iowa State Fair is an 11-day event held each summer since 1854 on 445 acres of land, with over 1 million people passing through the gates each year.  There’s a wealth of interesting things to see; prize winning giant animals, prize winning giant fruit, giant people, there’s something for everyone.  A particular favourite of mine was a 600lb cow made of Iowa butter, also known as the Butter Cow.

The rides
The rides

Then there’s the food, oh so much food.  Historically state fair food has had the reputation for being mostly deep-fried and incredibly bad for you, and honestly from what I saw, most of it is.  I gave myself one rule for my day spent at the Iowa State Fair and it had nothing to do with controlling calories, everything I ate there had to be served on a stick.

1) Pork chop on a stick

Iowa is the largest pork producing state in North America, and with approximately 50 million hogs marketed each year it’s a multi billion-dollar industry.  The Iowa Pork Producers Association runs the main pork stand at the state fair and the number one item is a giant 9oz Iowa pork chop, on a stick.  In 11 days they’ll sell a staggering 65,000 of them.  The pork chops are simply roasted for 50 minutes and wow are they good.  $7 very well spent.

The food
The food

2) Smoothie on a stick

The reality was that the strawberry smoothie on a stick was just a homemade ice-lolly.  There was probably more sugar in it than fruit but at least it sounded healthy.

3) Corn on a stick

Perhaps the most obvious way to serve sweet corn anyway, but in tribute to Iowa being the largest corn producing state in North America I had to have one.  Mine had been boiled for 15 minutes and roasted, and I passed on the post-roast butter bath.  It was a well cooked cob but I was outraged at the $6 price tag; it was only $1 cheaper than a giant pork chop.  I wouldn’t exactly call that promoting healthy eating.

The Butter Cow
The Butter Cow

4) Deep-fried Twinkie on a stick

With over 400 calories and over 30 grams of fat nothing good was ever going to come from eating a deep-fried Twinkie topped with powdered sugar, on a stick.  But it was the last thing I was going to eat at the state fair and I’d never tried an iconic Twinkie before, so I wanted to make my last choice count.  Did I enjoy my deep-fried, vanilla-cream filled sponge cake?  Absolutely.  Would I order one again?  Absolutely not.

My last greasy bite of stick food marked the end of my first day spent at a state fair.  Ok so the rides may be a little bit dated, and the majority of the food may be more than a little bit bad for you, and served on a stick, but the state fair is a small piece of American nostalgia that’s not necessarily that easy to find anymore.  State fairs encourage families and friends to spend the day out with each other without being ripped off for the privilege, and they give a lot back to the local community.  Would I go again?  Absolutely.

For more information on the Iowa State Fair visit www.iowastatefair.org.