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New, returning activities mix at Iowa State Fair

Monday, August 6, 2012

(Photo)
Every year the Iowa State Fair offers a little something for everyone, and this year is no different.

That's according to Le Mars members serving on the Iowa State Fair Board.

Starting Thursday through Sunday Aug. 19, visitors can experience new activities such as a zip line or enjoy classics such as pork chops on a stick at the Iowa State Fair.

In addition, 4-H'ers have the opportunity to pit their exhibits against those of their peers -- vying for the highest honors in the state.

Dave Hoffman, an Iowa State Fair Board member from Le Mars, said rewarding 4-H'ers for their hard work is one of the primary focuses of the state fair.

"Our main thrust is to review, award and honor those people who are up and coming young citizens," he said.

In addition, the state fair offers a lot of entertainment, exhibits and food, Hoffman said.

"There are around 400 different vendors at the Iowa State Fair," he said. "We have new and interesting items every year."

That seems to be the case with the promise of new funnel cake flavors such as German chocolate and blue sapphire at this year's fair.

"The blue sapphire funnel cake is supposed to be in honor of the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic," Hoffman explained.

However, if fairgoers' tastebuds prefer something a little less sweet they can look forward to the pork producers' classic pork chop in a glove or on a stick.

"That is probably the most popular item at the Iowa State Fair," Hoffman said.

Before filling up on favorite foods, thrill-seeking fairgoers might want to take a ride on a zip line or test new rides in the midway.

Hoffman said the zip line, which allows a person to ride along a suspended cable, is "brand new this year" and open to anyone who meets physical requirements.

The zip line includes jumping from a 28-foot-tall tower and flying 130 feet across the fairgrounds on the inclined cable, for an extra cost, according to the Iowa State Fair website.

"We purchased it so it will be here every year," Hoffman said of the zip line.

There will also be plenty for younger visitors to do at the state fair including additions to Little Hands on the Farm, where children learn about agriculture hands-on.

Bill Neubrand, an Iowa State Fair Board member from Le Mars, said that free, interactive activity draws between 25,000 and 30,000 children each year.

Children might milk a cow or grab a handful of corn from a grain bin or pick up an apple, all items which can be traded at a store in the area for a treat, Neubrand said.

In addition to Little Hands on the Farm, the fair also features the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center.

"We have different animals giving birth all during the fair -- cows calving, baby chicks or ducks, goats kidding," Neubrand said.

For fairgoers who prefer less hands-on activities, there's always the livestock show.

"We have record numbers this year, somewhere around 9,000 to 10,000 head," Neubrand said.

The fair also features a large foods, fabric and threads division, he added.

"There's about 8,000 to 9,000 entries in that department," Neubrand explained.

Local 4-H'ers will compete for top honors for their county-level grand champion projects.

"There's a lot of great projects that the 4-H members and FFA members are sending to the Iowa State Fair," Hoffman said.

Neubrand noted that Plymouth County will be "well represented" at the state fair.

"I think every county has something entered," he said. "It can be photography, vegetables, livestock right down the line."

Fair board members are hoping the variety of activities will bring thousands to the Iowa State fairgrounds, 3000 East Grand Ave., Des Moines, this Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 19.

The 2011 state fair attendance reached about 1.2 million, something fair board members hope to equal or surpass this year, Neubrand said.

Handling crowds that size makes improvements to buildings, parking lots and campgrounds an annual necessity for the Iowa State Fair, Hoffman said.

As part of that, 60 new camping sites were added to the fair's campground bringing the total to 2,900, equating to about 11,000 people, Neubrand said.

"It grows a little every year," he added. "We've still got 600 on the waiting list that want permanent camp spots."

Hoffman said several million dollars of improvements are made at the fairgrounds each year.

For example, this year's renovations included installing an elevator and updating restrooms in the three-story cultural center along with increasing the number of vending booths in the upper deck of the grandstand, Hoffman said.

Those improvements, plus the new and traditional activities, attract visitors from across the country and beyond to the Iowa State Fair, he said.

"There will be a delegation from South Korea," Hoffman said. "They would like to start a fair in their country."

He encourages people to come on out to the Iowa State Fair to take a look at the new and traditional activities, adding that discount tickets can be purchased through Wednesday on the fair's website, iowastatefair.org.

"It's really one of the greatest fairs in the world," Hoffman said. "It's just full of things to do."



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