By Rebecca Banger
With its many performances, food options and new rides, the 2017 Iowa State Fair won’t disappoint on Aug. 10-20. Here are 11 of the most thrilling attractions, events and celebrations the fair has to offer.
1. Thrill Parks. Three parks officially opening this year offer different thrills for different ages throughout the fairgrounds:
• Thrill Ville is ideal for the thrill-seeker. It’s located between the Grandstand and Ye Old Mill.
• Thrill Zone, also offering thrilling rides, is found west of the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building. It’s sponsored by Touchstone Energy Cooperative of Iowa.
• Thrill Town contains pint-sized thrills for kids and parents. It’s located northwest of the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center and east of Gate 10.
2. Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Celebration. The Blue Ribbon Foundation has been a key part of the Iowa State Fair. Since its beginning in 1993, the foundation has raised more than $135 million for renovations and capital improvements on the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Read about the foundation’s journey in “A Great State Fair: The Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Revival of the Iowa State Fair.” The book is sold at the State Fair Store in the Robert G. Horner and Sheri Avis Horner Service Center.
Fairgoers can support the foundation by buying Iowa State Fair memorabilia and bottled water. The foundation will also host a social painting class on the third floor of the Patty and Jim Cownie Cultural Center for fairgoers to get creative.
3. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Aug. 12 will be the day for the nationally acclaimed Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Regional Contest. The top male and female finishers will compete in the National Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4, 2018. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs will be provide hot dog samples north of the Susan Knapp Amphitheater Stage, sponsored by Coors Light with media sponsor KSDM Fox 17, on Aug. 11-13.
4. Fair food. Food is one of the main attractions at the Iowa State Fair. With nearly 200 food stands and 75 items on-a-stick, all your fair favorites will be back along new ones. The top three new foods will be announced in July, and fairgoers can vote for their favorite food during the fair.
5. Fair-ovation. Get ready to learn about the latest and most innovative ideas from Iowa’s youth on Aug. 13 at the Oman Family Youth Inn. In partnership with the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Fair-ovation is a new event at the fair, which lets youth showcase their ideas, inventions and concepts for working professionals to review.
6. 2016 Panorama Photo Display. At the 2016 Iowa State Fair, photographers Tim Olson and Tony Moline used 1920s equipment to shoot a 150-foot-long panoramic portrait, showcasing about 800 fairgoers, exhibitors and vendors. This year, the panoramic print will be on display, along with excerpts from interviews, in the Patty and Jim Cownie Cultural Center Atrium during the fair.
7. National Livestock Shows. The Iowa State Fair will host the Red Angus National Show in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion, sponsored by Prairie Meadows, Aug. 19. The National Shire Horse Show will be Aug. 12-15, and the National Percheron Show will be Aug.17-20. Evening horse shows require admission.
8. The Spirit of Iowa Tribute Bell. The creation of this artwork will raise awareness about veterans. Fairgoers can be a part of the bell’s creation on Aug. 12-14. The completed bell will be showcased in the Veterans Day Parade Aug.14. Following the parade, the bell will be on display in Rock Island to honor those who have served, those who do serve and those who will serve.
9. Heroes Day. Heroes Day celebrates emergency and fire personnel, police officers and paramedics on opening day of the Iowa State Fair Aug. 10. Special displays will be on Grand Avenue. The Governor’s Lifesaving Awards and Outstanding Service Awards will be presented at the Susan Knapp Amphitheater sponsored by Coors Light, with media sponsor KDSM Fox 17, at 9:30 a.m.
10. More parking. The fair will now offer additional parking. For easy access, fairgoers can take the free Blue Line Parking Shuttle from the Northeast Lot ($10) to gates 13, 15 and 16. Bicycle parking is also available inside Gate 10 for free.
Show your advance fair admission ticket at one of DART’s three State Fair Park & Ride locations and receive half off the round-trip fare. Parking is free at all DART locations. Discounted round-trip fares with advanced fair admission tickets are $1 for adults and 50 cents for seniors (ages 65 and over), people with disabilities, Medicare cardholders and children (ages 6-10).
Regular round-trip fares are $2 for adults and $1 for seniors (ages 65-plus), people with disabilities, Medicare card holders and children (ages six-10). Children ages 5 and under are free. All buses are wheelchair-accessible. Cash only. Free parking is available at three locations from 8:30 a.m. to midnight every day of the fair: Center Street Park & Ride at Seventh and Center streets, Southeast Polk Schools at Northeast 80th Street and Highway 163, and the State Capitol on East 12th Street.
11. Budweiser Clydesdales. The American icons are making another appearance at the Iowa State Fair. The Budweiser Clydesdales will have a daily parade on Aug. 16-20 at 5 p.m. From their first national entrance in 1933 to their enduring presence on the American landscape, the Clydesdales are more than the symbol of Budweiser beer; they are the living embodiment of America’s great industrial spirit. Their last appearance at the fair was in 2014. They will be stabled north of Gate 11 just off the Grand Concourse.
Banger is the Iowa State Fair content and writing intern.