Friday, August 21, 2009

Why I Love The Iowa State Fair

For a girl who was raised in “the big city”, I love the atmosphere and the uniqueness of the Iowa State Fair.

To remind Iowa State Fair scoffers of the significance of this event, I mentioned in my blog posts, dated August 14 and August 19, 2008, that, “You may know that the Iowa State Fair was listed as one of '1,000 Things To See Before You Die' as chronicled in a book of the same name (Schultz, Patricia. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List. New York: Workman Publishing, 2003. p. 630. )." Take that and add it to your list!

With this in mind, I usually try to figure out a way to load up the kiddies and make an annual trek to The Iowa State Fair. In order to fully enjoy a day at the Fair, one must, first, option a second mortgage on the house in order to pay for all the yummy food delicacies that await you while there. With an average cost of $8 per “yummy” multiplied times myself and two bottomless pits for children, let’s just say the trip is really costly (especially if you have to include gas, hotel, souvenirs, etcetera, etcetera) but it is really worth it.

This year’s adventure included all of the traditional stops: the Super Bull (“Big Black,” an Angus bull rockin’ it in at 3,404 pounds), the Big Boar (“Buddy,” weighing in at 1,117 pounds), the butter sculptures (the traditional Jersey cow and an additional sculpture commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Landing), and a stop at the Lamb Association food stand for a stick of lamb jerky or a lamb burger. You can see all of these truly fascinating features by visiting the Iowa State Fair website at

But this year, we also managed to take in the sights of Iowa’s biggest pumpkin….nearly 1,100 pounds! Now that is a pumpkin Charlie Brown would be proud of!

But what do I really love about the Iowa State Fair? It is all about a state coming together. It is all about the wholesomeness of Iowans gathering in Des Moines to show off the biggest, the best, the tastiest, and the kitschy-est attributes of this wonderful mid-western place. It is about families and fun and home-town pride. Folks representing their communities (and the pride of the family name!) enter into competitions for events like flower arranging, quilting, livestock showmanship, talent, and cooking….just to name a few!

Speaking of cooking….this year, I was really fortunate to be asked by Blue Bunny® to judge three cooking contests featuring Blue Bunny ICE CREAM!! Yes, 1SweetMama tasted and evaluated, in all, over 35 dessert entries in two dessert categories: youth and adult. At one point during the judging, I turned to my fellow co-worker and judge, and said, “I think I have died and gone to heaven!” The capper to the day was judging nearly 20 entries in the youth “Ugly Ice Cream Contest”. This is a contest in which kids ages 6-12 must create an ugly ice cream concoction (with a Blue Bunny Vanilla ice cream “base”) in which all inclusions MUST be edible foods….but the food combinations are ghastly! For instance… entry featured Blue Bunny Vanilla ice cream, pickled pigs’ feet, anchovies, pickled herring, and some other unidentifiably horrific (and stinky!) ingredients. Another entry featured Blue Bunny Vanilla ice cream, mealworm larvae, and crickets (dead and dried). You get the idea.

Fortunately, judges do NOT have to taste these entries and I wouldn’t exactly have described the experience as “heavenly”…. “otherworldly” is, perhaps, more of an accurate description. However, the Bug Ice Cream Chef’s mother invited us to try a larvae and we all reluctantly complied. Tasted like a musty potato chip.

With livestock pooh on the soles of our shoes, less cash in our pockets, and mealworm larvae in our bellies, the boys and I departed for home in “The Ice Cream Capital of the World(R)” with another fabulous Iowa State Fair experience in the 1SweetMama Family history books.

A great way to round out a summer in Iowa.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

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