17 Ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair

Nothing Compares to Iowa State Fair Thrills

August 8-18, 2019 Des Moines, Iowa

https://www.iowastatefair.org/entertainment/fair-schedule/

I enjoy fairs of all sorts and sizes: craft, pottery, art and state and county fairs. Wherever there is a group of like-minded people happily gathered showcasing their talents, I’m delighted to join.

I’ve attended the internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair twice. In 2016, I was mostly a spectator. I applauded a friend as her family was honored with a Century Farm Award presented in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion.

I then joined her at a friend’s nationally known “Thank a Farmer” magic show in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. I spent most of the afternoon watching talented Iowa youth at the Bill Riley Talent Search, including the daughter of a fellow Iowa State graduate I hadn’t seen in 30 years. We re-connected between performances and applause.

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. It attracts more than a million people from all over the world each year. Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, I was included in the 120,833 people at the Fair. This time I walked nearly every inch of the fairgrounds, enjoying the sights, sounds and aromas of this great annual event. Both visits were distinct, but each enjoyable. I realized one can experience the Fair quite differently on each visit with a bit of pre-planning. I met some who attend multiple days each year and claim they see and experience it differently with each visit. That’s possible.

17 ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair

BEFORE YOU GO

  1. Define your purpose. Do you want a general overview experience? Are you going to ride the rides on the Midway? Do you want to see the livestock judging competitions? Are the entertainers your priority? Paid or unpaid performers? Will you sample fair foods most of the day? Are you looking forward to viewing the photography and art exhibits? Do you want to see the butter cow exhibit? Do you prefer commercial exhibits? What is it you want to get out of your experience? If you only have one day, visit the excellent Iowa State Fair website and pre-plan your visit. Print the map and schedule. Download the Iowa State Fair Food Finder app. It also includes the daily schedule of events.
  2. Purchase advance tickets. This will save you both time and money. Check the Iowa State Fair website for special admission pricing (Deals & Discounts) such as Fairgoers aged 60+. Until a couple of days before the Fair starts, one can even print tickets at home with no additional fee. Otherwise advance tickets are available in various grocery stores in Iowa.
  3. Pack accordingly. Bags are subject to inspection. Bring sunscreen, a camera and cash. While some vendors accept credit and debit cards, there is a preference for cash. A change of clothing may be necessary for small children. There are spray fountains to both cool and entertain kids. After the playground, hand wipes may be necessary. Restrooms and water fountains are readily available and well-marked. You may re-fill water bottles at fountains.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. This Fair has livestock. If you’re going to walk in the barns, closed toe shoes are best. Parking can be a distance from the entrance. Be prepared to walk, though there are courtesy golf cart shuttle rides available. The parking lots are not paved. Stroller rides can be bumpy.
  5. Preach patience. If you’re attending on the weekend, be prepared for large crowds. Though this is an extremely well-run operation, there is a lot of traffic and it can take a bit to get parked. [Remember where you parked.] The grounds, shows and events can get quite crowded. Keep in mind everyone wants to have an enjoyable Fair experience. Be patient. If there’s a show or event you must see, arrive early to get a seat.

AT THE FAIR

  1. Arrive early. Parking is $10 per vehicle. The grounds open at 7am. If you’d like to see the Fairgrounds without the crowds, arrive early. Sunrise at the Fair is spectacular. Most buildings do not open until 9:00 am.
  2. Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. This is an ideal location for young children to learn about farm animals. The building is near the North gate and has baby chickens, pigs, etc. along with educational stations where prizes are awarded for answering questions. This is a great place to see animals, if children do not have the energy to make it to the actual barns on the Fairgrounds.
  3. Variety. Butter sculpting. Yoga on the hill. Dutch oven cooking seminar. Grape stomping. Backgammon tournament. Egg rolling contest. Sheep shearing contest. The list of things to see and participate in is endless. It can be overwhelming. Pre-planning helps,  as does setting realistic expectations of what be accomplished on one visit.
  4. Accessible. ADA/Accessible parking is available, primarily in the North lot. Scooters and wheelchair rentals are also available. Keep in mind most of the parking areas are unpaved. Trams with marked stops are available once inside the grounds as are golf carts for mini-shuttle service from the parking lots to the gates. Check the Iowa State Fair website for additional services.
  5. Care Stations and ATMs. Need an aspirin or band-aid? Look for a Care Station vending machine at the Fair. Need extra cash? There are at least 30 ATM machines on location.
  6. Eat & Drink at the Fair. Outside food and beverages are not allowed. Download the Iowa State Food Finder app for a list of foods by vendor and location, including healthy foods. Beverages cups, once purchased, are re-fillable at most vendor locations for a minimal fee.
  7. From Above. Sky gliders give an overview of the fairgrounds from above. The ride is slow and easy, allowing you plenty of time to see and to take photos. There are two: east and west. Round trip is ideal.
  8. Keep it Clean. Hand sanitizer is plentiful throughout all of the animal barn areas and in all restrooms. Use it. Stop the spread of any potential disease.
  9. Talk to Them. The youth who’ve raised and are showing the animals in the barns are eager to talk about the experience. Approach them. Take an interest in their project and ask questions. Some of the most memorable conversations I had at the 2017 Fair were with a state FFA officer and an Iowa Pork Producers summer intern. These students are impressive representatives of their organizations.
  10. Check the weather. Do you need sunscreen or an umbrella? Evening Grandstand shows run late. Sometimes a light jacket or sweatshirt is necessary. Remember, to take breaks and drink plenty of water.
  11. Share. There are endless photographic moments at the Iowa State Fair. Check for hashtags and share on social media. Popular 2017 hashtags were #ISF2017 and #IowaStateFairThrills.
  12. Plan to Participate. Throughout the Iowa State Fair, you may find ways you can participate in future Fairs. Whatever your interest or hobby, find a way to work on a project and display or show at the Fair. Maybe you can’t raise a cow or pig in your neighborhood, but perhaps you can bake a Bundt cake, submit a photograph or raise a prize-winning rose or pumpkin. Be a part of one of the greatest Fairs around. Participate.

5 Favorites at 2017 Iowa State Fair: August 12th

  1. Fiddle and guitar music in Pioneer Hall
  2. West round-trip Sky glider ride
  3. Walking through the  barns early in the morning and watching youth care for their animals
  4. Horticulture gardens filled with bright, aromatic blooms
  5. Courtesy of fair goers, workers and volunteers

The 2019 Iowa State Fair is August 8-18, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Mark your calendar. Find your 5 Favorite things to do at the 2019 Iowa State Fair.

Linda Leier Thomason is a retired CEO who now writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. She’s represented the North Dakota Pork Producers as the 1979 Pork Queen and has attended countless county and state fairs promoting the pork industry. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. She is a dual graduate of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

If you have something you’d like Linda to write, contact her below.

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

Dr. Hoiberg-50 Years- 3 Sons-Much Success

isuEric O. Hoiberg was the second person I met in Ames, Iowa after parking my loaded, four-door, silver Plymouth Fury. The residence hall director was the first. Eric was my student advisor. I was a seemingly lost transfer student alone in a new town on a campus with a student body nearing the population of my home state of North Dakota.

To this day I recall the feeling of optimism and assurance I had leaving his office that August afternoon. I sensed I’d graduate as a Cyclone. I believed I’d succeed in the so-called real world post-graduation. He left me with the impression he believed in me, so I did in myself.

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Iowa State University (ISU) under his guidance.

Eric

Dr. Eric O. Hoiberg-an inspirational figure.

Die-Hard Cyclone

Hoiberg is a dedicated, loyal Iowa State University Cyclone, except for the fact that he earned 3 degrees (BA, MA, and Ph.D) at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL).  He spent 21 years as a Sociology faculty member and advisor for and coordinator of the Public Service and Administration (PSA) program. Before retiring, he was promoted to, and spent 11 years as, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Agriculture. Hoiberg returned to ISU twice after retirement. Once to create an alumni program. Next as the Interim Associate Provost while a search was being conducted.

European Influence

Eric’s upbringing greatly influenced him. Born in Fayette, Missouri, he and his three older brothers and homemaker mother, accompanied his father to Germany directly after World War II during the Berlin Airlift. There his father, a rural sociologist, worked with the Reconstruction effort helping churches cope with the Holocaust and other ravages of war. The family returned to Europe several years later when his father directed a group establishing Turkey’s first Land Grant University. The family traveled extensively throughout the Muslim country, expanding Hoiberg’s view of the world. However, he also developed a deep appreciation for the lifestyle and subculture of farmers and small towns where many of his extended family members resided. This combination of academic readiness and world-wide vision made him an ideal university employee.

Researcher

His doctoral research at UNL was published in the esteemed American Sociological Review and centered on creating a new methodology for assessing neighborhood and community structure and change. A comprehensive survey of 700 Iowa farm families, which provided a baseline for the state of agriculture in Iowa in the 1970’s, was his first research venture at ISU. Eric also conducted research on farmers’ adoptions of new technologies and techniques, particularly environmental practices. And, he was part of a national research team that studied a series of six rural communities across the country, originally studied by the USDA in 1940. His team examined change over the roughly 50-year period.

Despite this nationally recognized research, Eric cites the growth of the PSA program as his most valued career accomplishment. “I took over the program in its infancy and grew it into a strong program attracting excellent students who went on to do some good in society.”

One of those students, Renny Olhava Crawford shared “I remember sitting in his class my sophomore year. By this time, I’d already changed my major 4 times. As I was listening to the lecture, all I could think was – I love this!  I need to talk to him and learn how I can get more into this. So, I found a reason to go arrange a meeting, some question on an assignment, I believe.  After “clearing” up my question, I just told him, “I really love everything we are going over in this class-how do I study more about this?” I think his response was “Well maybe you need to look into PSA”.  He told me more. That afternoon I changed my major-and probably my life.”

Fellow PSA graduate John Bahr added, “Eric is one of the three key male figures who influenced my life. His guidance and insight helped me graduate from Iowa State. As a result, I learned discipline and gained academic confidence, which helped me to achieve personal and professional success.”

These Kids Now Days

Eric’s attitude and approach while working with students earned him numerous advising and teaching awards. He felt responsible to place curriculum in context so students gain an appreciation for the why and wherefore of courses they’re required to take. “There must be a link between the curriculum and the world of work they’ll be entering.”

He enjoyed students stopping by after a lecture to discuss how ideas/examples in class applied in their own lives. “This kind of discussion invariably increased my own understanding of the topic and reinforced that education is truly a two-way street.” And, he was frustrated when students focused solely on grades and test scores rather than understanding and communicating subject matter and applying it to their lives. “Evaluation is an important part of the educational process, but it shouldn’t be the only one.”

Over time he saw 3 key indicators that predicted student success: One, leadership experience in high school. “If a student came to PSA with extensive FFA experience, I could almost guarantee they’d be successful upon graduation.” Two, strong communication skills, and Three, a love for learning, indicated by a high level of intellectual curiosity and exploration. Today’s students also need a sound grasp of technical skills.

Hoiberg FamilyHoiberg Family

In addition to guiding and advising countless ISU students, Eric and his wife, Karen, who just celebrated 50 years of marriage, raised three boys: Steve, Fred and Andrew. Today, they also enjoy the company of 8 grandchildren. “My greatest sense of pride comes from my children and grandchildren. I revel in their accomplishments, both big and small. They’re each unique in their own way but also integral parts of our family unit.” Fred, the wildly popular former ISU basketball player and coach, has struggled publicly with heart conditions. “His concerns have strengthened our family. We all recognize life is fragile and we should be thankful for the gifts we have.”

Eric and KarenOne of those gifts is time together in Northern Minnesota-Eric’s favorite getaway. Now fully retired, he and Karen enjoy the spontaneity of life while he’s tirelessly working on becoming a scratch golfer. “It doesn’t seem to be happening.”

Compassionate, Curious, Understanding-that’s my college Advisor-Eric O. Hoiberg.

Proud to know him and deeply grateful for his influence on my life.

Share with ISU Cyclones and others who know Professor Hoiberg.

Feel free to leave your comments for Eric below.

At an event honoring Dr. Eric O. Hoiberg during the Bacon Fest on the campus of Iowa State University on October 7, 2017. Still an inspiration and mentor to many, including me.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. August 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

FFA Advisor Lives Through Death

Family PictureBrian has led one of the most successful Agricultural Education programs in the nation for 25 years in Napoleon, ND. A proud NDSU  Bison graduate (1982), his FFA Chapter has earned over 100 individual and team championships, two national team championships and numerous other top 10 national awards.

He and his first wife, Lorie, were married in 1984 and raised two beautiful daughters, Christina, 28, and Brianna, 26, both elementary school teachers.

Brian married Mary Beth in December 2011. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, fishing, hunting, going to concerts, working in the yard and garden, and playing cards.

He also loves decorating for Christmas, something that began as a challenge from Lorie one year and continues today.

Here’s Brian’s Story

Cold sweats. Soaked sheets. Prayers through the night, pleading for a quicker sunrise.

A nightmare?

YES. A nightmare called my life. No one should experience death and grief in the prime of his life. Unfortunately this nightmare centers around the death of a spouse. It happens to many of us and we live through it, maybe even grow through it.

Our Love Story

I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 20, halfway through my college education, against the advice of some who said we were too young. They questioned our thinking. I thought I’d found the lady I loved more than myself and I wasn’t going to let her get away! Were there hard times? Absolutely! There was never enough money. I battled alcoholism and, like many, we had everyday life struggles. But, the worst was yet to come.

The Nightmare

It started with my wife Lorie’s physician’s assistant finding a lump in Lorie’s breast. We convinced each other it was nothing. Lorie was only 32. But then we received the news that she had breast cancer and that we needed to react immediately. A mastectomy was quickly done and a decade of chemo, radiation and other medical procedures ended on May 24, 2006 when my wife of 21 years, 10 months and 18 days died in my arms with our daughters at her bedside in the old house we had called home for 15 years. The cold sweats and daily washing of bed sheets began that night.

Stages of Grief after Death

We battled her cancer for a decade. There were periods of hopeful remission and then re-occurrence. I went through the stages of grief multiple times: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. My experience convinced me this isn’t an inclusive list and varies from person to person and situation. What I can do is reassure you that with each day it does get better and that you will eventually reach acceptance of the death and loss.

Acceptance Journey

Reaching acceptance of Lorie’s death was slow and painful and not always pretty, but maybe my journey will give you guidance and solace.

1. First and foremost I grew immensely in my faith. We’d always been a church-going family that had a “normal” amount of faithfulness. However, this experience, and the loss of my mother four years earlier, intensified my inner faith. It had to in order for me to get up and move forward. I had to believe that Lorie was now pain-free in paradise alongside those who were faithful and had gone before her. And I had to believe God still had plans for me to make this world a better place and give me purpose. Otherwise, He would have granted my prayers and taken me instead. So I say, “Believe in the power of prayer and have those real and raw conversations with God.”

2. Family and friends will reach out to you. Accept the opportunities they present. This may be a conversation over coffee, a phone call or an invitation to do something. Even if you don’t feel like going out, I’d encourage you to do so. I am so thankful for the friends and family who reached out to me and invited me to shoot pool, attend a backyard barbecue, go to area races, etc. There were many times I wanted to say no but forced myself to say yes because I knew staying home wasn’t going to help me get up, get dressed and get moving. Ask yourself often, “What would my loved one want me to do?”

3. I’m an educator by profession with an 11-month contract because of supervised summer activities. Summer 2006, after Lorie’s death, began the longest, most painful summer of my life. I simply wasn’t busy enough. Although I didn’t want to not be busy, I subconsciously sometimes made this choice. The schedule was flexible, not fixed like the academic school year, and now I know I could’ve used the structure. There were times I needed to be alone, but it’s not healthy to withdraw and wallow in self-pity. One should return to a normal routine as soon as mentally and emotionally possible. It was the reason two weeks after Lorie’s passing that my younger daughter, Brianna, and I decided we’d attend the State FFA Convention. We also knew that’s what Lorie would want us to do. Once the new school year started, the routine got easier. Obviously I had to be at work, which includes many hours of after school activities. Keeping busy and returning to a schedule made the days go by quicker and with less pain as my mind was occupied with the activities of the day.

4. Find natural ways to release stress and improve your mental health. One of the things I truly enjoy is listening to music and singing along. It is scientifically proven music has mental health benefits. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you choose. I select the music that is appropriate for my current state of mind. Sometimes I listen to Christian music.

Sometimes I’m listening to my “angry” music to vent. Sometimes I play tear jerking country and sometimes just some fun easy listening tunes. I also started exercising on daily basis-walking and lifting weights, not for the physical benefits but for the mental health benefits.

Whatever your hobbies are, or if you have none, I would encourage you to continue them or find some. I would also avoid the use of alcohol and/or drugs. I’m a recovered alcoholic, so in my mind that was never an option.

We all know that alcohol and some drugs are classified as depressants but yet many have some strange idea that it makes them feel mentally better when, in fact, it intensifies the depression we already have.

Gifted With a New Love

Two years after my wife’s death I started to experience something I never brian and marythought I would feel again. I fell in love. By attending activities with friends, I began to build a friendship with a beautiful lady whom I married three years later. It started as a friendship only because, honestly, I never thought I’d again feel the kind of love that makes a person want to commit themselves to another for a lifetime.

But, I did. Falling in love and possibly remarrying are certainly not disrespectful to the one you lost. The love and memories you have for your deceased spouse are certainly not diminished in any regard. I relish the memories Lorie and I had. I see my wife in the beauty of our daughters and I will forever cherish the love we had.

Get Up. Get Moving.

If you allow yourself to fully experience the death of a loved, you will grow. How have I chosen to grow through this experience? I grew in my faith. I am more grateful for the people in my life.

I love more deeply. I am more forgiving and less angry in my daily life. And, ironically this experience has made me a more positive person.

So, as hard as it may be-Get Up. Get Dressed. Get Moving! Your loved one would expect no less!

How has Brian’s story and journey touched you? Comment below.

Remember to encourage your loved ones to do monthly breast self-exams and to have annual mammograms.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. December 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.
All Rights Reserved.