By Danielle Burmeister
Editor's note: Danielle Burmeister is marketing coordinator for the Iowa State Fair.
For many of you, visiting the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is the highlight of your summer, an August tradition you work toward year-round raising livestock, growing crops and perfecting old family recipes. Year after year, you return with your friends and family to experience Iowa's great celebration, a salute to the state's best in entertainment, agriculture, industry and achievement.
This year, combine your own traditions with those at the fair and spend some time celebrating Iowa's agriculture with a full 11 days of ag education designed to emphasize farming's impact on the Midwest.
The John Deere Agriculture Building
Constructed in 1904, the Agriculture Building was one of the first permanent structures built on the fairgrounds. Today, the building serves as a hub for all our ag-related excitement during the fair, highlighting some of the best farming traditions in the Midwest. Home to the world famous butter cow and its companion sculptures, the building also houses displays of the area's most impressive horticulture and floriculture as well as several educational exhibits focused on teaching today's fairgoers the importance of local agriculture.
Any given fair day, visitors can stroll through countless examples of the area's most impressive efforts in agriculture including farm and fruit crop displays, corn and soybean art, beautiful roses, dahlias, gardenias and more. The building also houses the area's most unique vegetables including the Midwest's longest green beans, tallest stalks of corn and heaviest pumpkins, as well as competitive programming like the weed identification and egg decorating contests.
Seed Survivor, an interactive display teaching younger generations the art of planting and growing crops is a big hit with young fairgoers. The display is designed to keep their interest with multimedia and virtual reality games as well as an insect video scope, sunflower planting station, watershed center and talking walls, all while educating them on the importance of this local tradition.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The building also offers daily educational programs provided by agricultural organizations throughout the state including the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Honey Producers Association, Iowa Ostrich Association and more. Fairgoers can even stroll through Discovery Garden, located just outside the building. One of the most beautiful spots on the fairgrounds, the garden is maintained by the Polk County Master Gardeners and features a stunning variety of plants and flowers.
The Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center
The state-of-the-art Animal Learning Center highlights another aspect of local farming traditions with a focus on livestock education. Throughout the fair, visitors to the building can watch live animal births, visit newborn chicks, turkeys, ducks and ostriches and enjoy ag-themed stage entertainment commemorating the Midwest's great agricultural traditions.
Throughout the day, younger fairgoers can enjoy special kid-friendly stage programming including the Thank a Farmer Magic Show and the Ag Craft Hour as well as ag-themed contests including the Milk Chug-a-Lug, Egg Relay Race and Cheeseburger Chomp.
The building also hosts The Way We Live Award displays and presentations which honor families throughout Iowa who demonstrate a daily dedication to animal agriculture and exemplify farm values derived from hard work and a love for the occupation of farming. Help us celebrate this year's six award-winning families who, just like you and your farming neighbors, cultivate a deep love of the land and the crops they produce.
The Wine Experience at Grandfather's Barn
The newly-redesigned Wine Experience at Grandfather's Barn offers fairgoers a chance to explore one of the state's fastest growing industries -- viticulture. While there, visitors can enjoy daily educational programming, demonstrations and displays from wine and grape enthusiasts as well as hands-on grape stomps throughout the day.
Grape Getaway offers a fun way for young fairgoers to learn about this aspect of local agriculture with special grape-themed activities and displays for kids. The family-friendly area offers an opportunity for kids to learn about pressing grapes into grape juice while participating in ag-themed crafts and activities.
In the evening, older fairgoers are welcome to return for wine tasting and live music by local artists.
And Much More! Numerous opportunities to learn about agriculture
In addition to our special ag-themed buildings, the fair also offers several opportunities throughout the fairgrounds to learn about Midwest agriculture.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
This year, the Varied Industries Building will house special agriculturally-themed LEGO art by certified LEGO Professional Sean Kenney. The piece, built entirely out of LEGO bricks, will display the positive impact of farming on Iowa, the nation and the world.
Little Hands on the Farm, one of our most popular attractions, offers young fairgoers a chance to learn about farming in a fun, hands-on exhibit. Kids explore the "farm" as they operate kid-friendly tractors, dig in the garden and visit various animal barns. Once they've gathered, planted and harvested their crops, they get to exchange their goods at the grocery store for a tasty treat.
The Milking Parlor is a great place to learn about the milking process from dairy industry professionals. Fairgoers of any age can get all their questions answered while watching a live milking demonstration and even participate in a butter-sculpting contest.
The AgVenture Discovery Trail, an ag-themed scavenger hunt that leads kids through the fairgrounds as they learn about livestock, wind energy, crops and more, offers another way to explore the fair while teaching kids about farming traditions. Young fairgoers can get started by picking up a lanyard and a map at any of the Information Booths scattered throughout the grounds.
Visit the website to help you plan your visit to 2013 Iowa State Fair
As always, you can find more details about these events as well as our complete schedule and programming information at the State Fair website.
While we work hard to offer educational programming that celebrates our rich agricultural heritage, we know that our traditions are simply a reflection of the hard work and dedication of fairgoers throughout the Midwest. So, when you visit this year's fair, be sure to celebrate your own success and that of your neighbors by strolling through the animal barns to see the prize-winning livestock, walking through the Elwell Family Food Center to look at your mouth-watering blue ribbon recipes and cheering on your friends and family in any number of competitive events throughout the fair.
We look forward to another great year at the Iowa State Fair and hope you can all join us as well celebrate our state's rich agricultural history, August 8-18.