How ‘bout making it an Iowa Christmas?
You all know this was the magical (I use that term loosely) year we moved back home. What better way to honor my great state than to tell you how you can make it an Iowa-kind-of-Christmas for your family, too!
First off, if you know someone who lives in Iowa or is from Iowa that doesn’t get the Our Iowa magazine, well, it’s about time they did! Amazing pictures, great articles, and feel-good Iowa moments.
Bring on da butter cow…
Secondly, it’s never too early to think about the Iowa State Fair! Yes, you can buy advance tickets, plus a ton of memorabilia from them, too! Only 250 days till ISF! They have a count-down. True story.
Hand me a Samwitch, Joey…
Third, do you have those lovely, but annoyingly hard-to-buy-for-retired people in your life? Get them gift cards to do the Tenderloin Trail and eat their way through Iowa! Yum!
Fourth, sport a native Iowa t-shirt like me! I love these shirts! They have them for women, men, and children! We can be twinzies.
Go Team Go!
Finally, if someone has time on their hands, then they should be supporting the home teams! Check out Iowa State, UNI, or even Iowa basketball, football, hockey, or volleyball games. Nothing boring about catching a game in person!
I could actually add a ton to this list. Might even do that next week, but for now – let’s just say we Iowegians, as they call us, gotta stick together!
Happy Holidays from Oakland, Iowa!
Thinking of purchasing one of these? Let me know. A proud Iowan? Tell me about it.
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!
Where should you be in the next 10 days? The Iowa State Fair, of course! So you’ve been to a county fair or the Nebraska State Fair, and they were alright, but the Iowa State Fair is on a whole different level! It’s HUGE! Nothing even compares (except maybe Texas State Fair, but it’s not Iowa, ha ha).
I still remember when I was in 5th grade and Mrs. Merkle made us write about a vacation place. Everybody else wrote about lakes, oceans, amusement parks, and there I was writing about the state fair and the fun of dropping a giant rubber spider in front of tourists. Although I’m now a huge fan of Vegas, D.C., and Mall of America, ISF would still make the cut. If you’ve been, you can back me up. If you haven’t – GO! If you need a reason why, I have those, too.
Go for the livestock. You and your kids will love seeing what we refer to as the Big Pig, the largest bull (and yes, his junk is big, too), all the horse shows with their ribbons and crap, the llamas, the loud-mouthed-dumbass sheep, the chickens, ducks, miniature ponies, rabbits, and don’t forget the shorthorn show (mucho important) on Saturday the 17th!
Go for the view. Seriously, I love people-watching. I always say the biggest freak shows show up at fairs, carnivals, and car races. And they have all of that at Iowa State Fair! Lol. I’d also say to go on the sky jack. What a sight from the air! Plus, I love the gorgeous flowers, the enormous pumpkin-growing contests, and you aren’t American if you’ve never seen the butter cow! (Yes, I even witnessed the butter Garth Brooks and Michael Jackson in my day.)
Go for the food. Yes, it’s worth it. Yum. Be ready to founder. There’s all your fried varieties – corn dogs (footlong, baby!), fried Snickers, fried s’mores, funnel cakes, etc. Then there’s the premium-quality meat – steak sandwiches from the cattlemen, turkey legs, mutton burgers in the sheep barn. Plus, you have to have dessert – milkshakes from the dairy producers, snow cones from the carny vendors, fudge from that little building I don’t know the name of, and honey-roasted almonds from the big nuts guys. Lol. And at the end of the day, there’s always beer at Stockman’s, a long-standing Iowa State Fair tradition.
Go for the free stuff. Yes, you can seriously come home with enough school supplies to get you through the year! Hit the varied industries building and the tourism building and load up on book covers, pens, pencils, fans, balloons, tattoos, and even a few koozies for that evening beverage. There’s something for everyone.
Go for the legend. Laugh if you want, but the Iowa State Fair is legendary, even Barney Stinson would agree. There’s the Ye Olde Mill you can canoe through, the free music concerts of the next big music sensations, the big slide, the 4-H tradition being carried on, and this year, you can even see my family get the Century Farm Award.
Honestly, the weather is great. The time is right. You gotta go.
Yes, it’s a lot of walking, and the food isn’t cheap, but I never regret my day at the fair. There’s always lots to laugh at, things I’ve never seen or heard of, and old favorites I’d be sad to miss…
Hope I see ya there!