So if you know me, you know that one of the most exciting things to me about not teaching for the first time in 20 years is that I get to go to the Iowa State Fair. Now, I could try justifying myself but when a national book comes out about the 101 places to see before you die and it’s on the list, I figure that speaks for itself. Furthermore, I’ve been explaining this to people since I was in fifth grade and we had to write about a place we truly loved. Where did I write about? I think that’s self-explanatory. Needless to say, I’ve been to a few fairs in my day and if you haven’t been, you should. It’s sad to think that so many Iowans have never been to something so uniquely special and huge for our state. SO go… even if you have before. The weather is awesome! The drive is short. And trust me, you will find the good there…
I’ve included a little video I made that I hope inspires you…
So I can’t fathom what it must be like to NOT want to go to the Iowa State Fair! But rumor has it that some people actually don’t know what the hoopla is about. They think it’s just a bunch of animals. Okay, so there’s lots of them, but, I mean, come on, there’s gotta be a baby goat, a llama, a miniature pony, or a shorthorn somewhere in there that you like!
But assuming there is not, in honor of a neighbor of mine, I am going to tell you my top 10 things you can see at the Iowa State Fair that doesn’t involve poop. Lol.
10 Things that Don’t Involve Poop
So, things you gotta see if you’re avoiding the animals (or even if you’re not):
*You gotta do the Ye Olde Mill canoe ride. It’s a time-honored tradition and, as kids, it was rumored you kissed the one you would marry in that tunnel. Now, I’m gonna say that might not be exactly accurate, but it’s an Iowa State Fair tradition. You gotta do it once. (I know. That’s a dangerous statement, isn’t it?) If that isn’t enough, let’s talk about another major go-to: the big slide. You ride a rug down this enormous slide and they have microphones for all your cuss words and shenanigans! It’s awesome!
*If rides aren’t your thing, but you’re a poor teacher or a parent of kids that lose their crap constantly, you need to hit the commercial building for all the free stuff! Pens, pencils, balloons, magnets, and, of course, you can grab your UNI and Iowa State posters there, too! (Okay, the Iowa ones, too, I suppose) 🙂
*The cultural building is way cool, too. If you’re not into animals, then maybe you like art, photography, or wood-working. I’ve seen some cool furniture there, some ridiculous doll houses, and some kick-ass photos! (Oh, and a lot of weirdos, but that goes with the territory! Lol. I was there, too, so I can’t judge.)
Make the Best Better
*The 4-H exhibit building is like Pinterest on crack in person. I won’t lie. I’ve been known to snap a few pics and recreate at home. And as a former 4-Her, we’re high quality. 🙂
Play me some Funky Music
*You can’t help but run into one of the free concerts. Lots of up-and-coming artists get their starts at state fairs. Be in on their first rodeos, so to speak, or their last. Lol. You can catch Tiffany, Nelson, and Slaughter for free! Of course, the big boys you pay for play at night under the grandstand and those are definitely worth seeing, too!
*If you’re more of a sit-and-watch-it-happen-around you person, find the Bill Riley stage. It makes you proud to be from Iowa with tap dances, gymnastics, singers, magicians, you name it, showing off their talents.
Ride the ride
*It’s not my style so much, but the Iowa State Fair has the Midway of all Midways. It’s huge. Go on some rides. See the sights from sky-high. Personally, I love the sky-jack that gives you a view of the whole fairgrounds. It’s a crazy sight on a busy day or on a warm night!
*You gotta check out the contests. Seriously. They have the craziest contents ever. I can’t even believe some of the stuff you see. People, they have a boy’s cooking contest, they have a fly tying contest, and a banjo contest. And that’s just one day! They actually have tributes to Miracle Whip salads!
Pucker up, Buttercup!
* Now, obviously, I also think you need to trek to the butter cow, but if that’s too close to an animal, don’t despair, they have a Laura Ingalls Wilder, too – all in butter!
Yum, Yum, Get me Some
*But, let’s face it, I could go on and on about the state fair, but ultimately, if you go for no other reason than the food, you’re still gonna walk away happy! Between the corn dogs, the cattlemen’s roast beef sundae, the malts from the dairy barn, the fried Oreos, heck, you can even have salad on a stick if you’re that crazy, but I wouldn’t recommend it when there’s good food to be had! And, of course, there’s beer. So you got that goin’ for you, too!
So whether you’re an animal poop hater or born in a barn like me, there’s plenty to keep you busy! Just promise you’ll Instagram or Facebook your best photos – I’ll be watchin’ for ‘em!
Did I miss something? Have a good fair story? Never been? Tell me what you’ve got to say!
Do you know what this weekend is? Okay, yes, it’s tax-free weekend in Iowa which I am all for, but it also happens to be rodeo weekend in Carson! I know a little cowgirl who is awfully excited for the parade and a college cowgirl who’s excited for the pre-and-post-rodeo events! Lol.
People in metro areas seem to make fun of the excitement that comes with rodeo weekend for the locals around here. We get that it might sound a little hokey, but it is the highlight event of the summer in Carson. Friends and relatives actually put it on their calendars to be home this weekend! And in a world where there’s a lot of terrible things happening, it’s nice that we can all hang out and be happy to see each other.
But I have to admit I’ve never been to the parade. It wasn’t exactly on my radar in my high school and college years! Lol. But I have been to the rodeo. I used to go to the one at Ak-Sar-Ben/River City Roundup every year and I’ve made a few appearances at the Sidney one, too. As a cattle girl, I definitely made it as often as possible to the Carson Rodeo in my younger years. It wasn’t very often that my boots and Rockie Mountain jeans were considered cool so I definitely took my opportunities! As a cattle girl, I appreciated the rodeo even if I didn’t fully understand how they managed to do all those things. I remember our neighbor girl riding in it, and I was so impressed. Now days, I think more about my little girl mutton-busting. I’m pretty sure she’d love it! But, my husband, not so much! Lol.
With or without mutton-busting, I think it’s pretty awesome that Carson puts on a kick-ass rodeo and I dare say, a pretty good party, in the process! The whole town gears up for this weekend. It’s like the lights come on, everybody rallies, and ta-da, we have a rodeo! We all know it’s truly not that simple, but I love that the town goes all out and everybody chips in to make it great. That’s something pretty special in my book.
As I have said many times this summer, there’s a lot of people behind the scenes that do a lot of work to make one weekend of the year a great weekend for everybody who attends! I have seen a million flyers. I’ve heard it on the radio. I’ve seen it on Facebook, and I have definitely heard it via word-of-mouth. Like I said, I’ve got a couple of cowgirls who are pretty excited!
So if you’re needing weekend plans or just wanting to support a great event on a beautiful weekend, swing by. I promise it won’t disappoint.
Got a good rodeo story for me? We’re listening!
So people have always laughed at me because I often mention that I used to do what I called RAGCRAI every year. I called it my Regular Annual Great Car Ride Across Iowa, because let’s face it, I’m not much of a biker. In fact, I’m not a biker at all! I fully admit I cannot, nor want to, ride a bike! Does it change my feelings about RAGBRAI? Not in the least! I am all about RAGBRAI* as long as nobody expects me to take part in the 2-wheel portion of it!
So you’re laughing, right? Why would I like RAGBRAI if I don’t even ride a bike? It’s simple. I love that people come to Iowa to party. Seriously! Sorry. Let me restate that: I love that people come to Iowa to test their physical endurance… lol. First of all, I’m thrilled that people in Iowa take part and that others actually come to our state to participate. Secondly, I’m glad that Iowa shows we do know how to have fun and that we can make a week out of it! I love that it even involves exercise! But mostly, I love that it involves a bunch of towns gearing up for a big event and putting on a good time. That makes me happy! I can see the good! And I hear lots… and I do mean LOTS…of stories!
You hear stories all the time about people stopping to help someone with a tire, giving them a water, offering their barn for a nap, or their bathroom in the middle of nowhere. I love that those stories come out of Iowa because that’s who we are. We want to be the good guys. I still remember when RAGBRAI came through Oakland a million years ago and the church did a food-stand. I got to help my mom make signs and we did Burmashave signs that lined the road saying things like 3.14 ahead for homemade pie. I was pretty damn proud of my signs and if I’m not mistaken, they sold out of food! 🙂
Of course, another favorite story was my trip to Muscatine. As many of you know, my best friend from my cattle showing days lived there and RAGBRAI was scheduled to hit the river one afternoon when I was there so we ended up taking her parents’ boat out and watching as the bikers came in to dip their tires and end the night with a fireworks display. It was so freaking cool to watch these people celebrate making it across Iowa – tears, laughs, personal victories, beers…
Sure, there are much crazier stories as we all well know, and good for them! Live it up, my friends! Just keep me out of the pictures! 🙂 But whether the story is one of accomplishing all the miles or the naked mud slide, there’s no way you can’t find a little good on the road!
So Happy RAGBRAI, everyone! Tip the stein or dip the tire for me!
*Footnote: For you out-of-staters, RAGBRAI stands for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Thousands of locals and out-of-staters bring their campers and buses and bikes to bike across Iowa for a 7-day bike ride/party. They ride by day and drink by night! I kid you not! And the route changes every year, but they start on the Missouri River and bike to the Mississippi River so sooner or later everyone gets included.
*Further disclosure: Just call me Schultz off Hogan’s Heroes: I know NOTHING!
*Final footnote: for you in-staters, don’t forget that means extra State Troopers on the road if you’re traveling. 🙂
Have a RAGBRAI story? Let’s hear it! Out-of-state and curious? What do you want to know?
So it’s probably no surprise to anyone that knows me that my “good” of the week is the East Pottawattamie County Fair. If you want to see good kids, good parents, good work ethics, good success stories, good moments, good laughs, good animals, and good times, you will want to make your way to Avoca between Wednesday and Monday. (Well, and besides, it’s your chance to see me, too. Lol.)
And if that’s not enough, today you are going to listen to me wax a little nostalgic. I was talking to a guy I met this week that had grandparents who lived in Oakland when he was a kid. He spent his summer time here, and we were laughing about the stuff you remember form your childhood. What I remember most involved the people at that county fair.
I remember being a kid and Lori’s friends putting up with me – Dave, Kirk, Jeff, Carol, and Jay even played cards with me! I remember paying to get into the fair or having to go really early so we didn’t have to pay! Lol. I remember Misch teaching me to make donuts for her presentation with these circle blocks we had. I remember seeing Robin, Kris, and Scott (yes, they know who they are, no need to add last names) laughing and I wouldn’t know why but they were always up to something! I remember seeing people get thrown in the tank back when we used tanks at the fair. You got thrown in if you were cute or if you were annoying. Looking back, those were some funny reasons! I remember the demo derbies, too, and that chicken on the Pauley’s car!
Personally, I remember being excited for the dog and cat show because they let me hand out ribbons! Crazy, huh? Once I was in 4-H, I remember my first market heifer, Jen, she was a mousy thing and I had to take her out in front of the grandstand on the track and my dad telling me that there were no fences and she’d be in the next county if I let go so not to let go! I remember sitting on the showbox with Kerri and Stacey. I remember hanging out at the campers with Brad, Perry, Jennifer, Stacey, Guthrey, and a lot of others. I remember Ryan Danker’s calf always running across the fairgrounds and him holding on still! I remember having my steer, Travis Tritt, and being bummed I didn’t win, but any cattle person will tell you that you can win everywhere else and still get beat at your county fair! I also remember Rhoten telling me he was hamburger. I remember playing cards in the barns. I remember bawling when I was a senior.
And then it came full-circle, and I remember how proud I was when Tiffany and Kyra (2 of my nieces) were crowned queens or when Bethany suffered through mono to still show sheep when it was 100 degrees.
I remember tons more, but nothing earth-shattering, just small little snippets of a childhood well-spent at the county fair. I hope you have those memories, too, if not of the East Pott Co. Fair, I hope they are of somewhere…
And I hope when you see those people that make appearances in your flashbacks of childhood, I hope you’re as happy to see them as I am to see the people who show up at the East Pott. Co. Fair every year…
Got a story I need to hear? A memory I didn’t share? A story about a different county or a 4-H story or a project you made or an animal you showed? Let’s heat it.
So if I had to wage a guess, I’d have to say that the Dreamland Theater might have been the first place many a Riverside/Carson/Oakland/Griswold/Macedonia kid first held hands (or something more significant, but we will refrain from talking about that)! I have to say that I remember a couple of friends begging their moms to take us to Carson to see a movie, and I can pretty much assure you it was never because we were dying to see the movie that was playing. That was totally secondary! In fact, I’m pretty sure there are generations that could say the same thing!
It’s a lot easier to beg your mom to drop you off 6 miles away than it is to convince her she needs to head to Omaha and entertain herself somewhere other than where you are! Lol.
So when looking for the good around me, it doesn’t take long to see the Dreamland Theater as a prime example. First of all, a movie theater in a small town is always rockstar! There’s never enough to do in a small town! Plus, they actually get the good movies in a timely fashion. (Go ahead and keep in mind that I have a toddler and don’t get out much!) But I love that it is even an option. I also love that on any given Saturday night, you can find families headed to the Main Street for what Chevy Chase would call good-old-fashioned-family-fun and while there, you can chat with your neighbors or spy on the neighbor’s kid for them! I kinda think that’s awesome!
And as a mom of a toddler, I’m excited that I don’t have to pay a fortune to take my kid to an animated movie that she might not sit through!
If that wasn’t impressive enough, I happen to know there are a whole lot of people who donate money and time to help keep the theater running. Probably they wonder why they bother at times because the headaches are greater than the rewards in most cases, but from where I sit, I couldn’t be more thankful to drive by and see the lights on. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in my thinking.
Sure, you could just hop on Netflix, but there’s something special about a night out, a bag of popcorn with lots of butter, and a big screen. So mad props, Carson! Way to get it done right!
Got a story about a trip to the Dreamland Theater or some other small town movies? Let’s hear it. Got something else to say? Go ahead. Find that good, people. It’s here for the taking.
We all know what this week is! It isn’t hard to find good when you’re staring in the face of the 4th of July weekend! It’s one of those weekends where you instantly think water, drinks, sun, grilling, and friends. Maybe not necessarily in that order!
As Independence Day approaches, I can’t help but appreciate the people who go the extra mile. Like these people that decided to take their mailbox décor up a notch! LOVE it!
Of course, I also love the banners on the decks and the red, white, and blue Adirondack chairs and the tinsel ropes! I love people who go above and beyond for a holiday! (I’m not one of them currently! Lol, but maybe again someday!)
But let’s talk what I’m even more excited about: the town festivities. Here’s the deal. City people always ask why you live in a small town. I think 4th of July is the epitome of why one lives in a small town. There’s a parade. There’s free food for breakfast and for supper. There’s fun activities going on, sponsored by tons of different people that love our town enough to volunteer their time! There’s somebody selling sweet corn on the side of the road. There’s grills and parties and family gatherings. There’s fireworks and lawn chairs and people sharing sun tan lotion and bug spray and pools and slip and slides and tubing on the river or at the quarry. I don’t know how you can’t be happy when all that is in your grasp.
And truth be told, I’m hoping to see a few people this 4th of July. We moved home and everybody works a lot. We have become a society of workers and ball game watchers. Those sure aren’t bad qualities, but I love it when we all get a day off (hopefully) to talk to each other and catch up. Like I’ve always said, I’ll never pass up a holiday!
So get your wieners out! Put ‘em on the grill. Slather on the sun tan lotion. Fire up the sprinkler. Grab a beverage and a koozie and check out the schedule. If not in my town, find one nearby. And then blab about how much fun it was on Facebook! Put the all “in” in INdependence Day!
Got a schedule for your home town you’d like to share? Let’s see it! Got a good 4th of July party story? Let’s hear it! Thinking you might be here to celebrate with me Oakland? Let me know!