Iowa State Fair organizers estimate The Butter Cow could butter about 19,200 slices of toast.

By Alison Fox
August 11, 2019
The Iowa State Fair is the largest state fair in America and attracts tens of thousands of people each day. The official count for Friday’s attendance capped out at 103,096 people.
Jason Bergman

Apple pie on a stick, chicken in a waffle on a stick, peanut butter and jelly on a stick, and deep fried pecan pie topped with caramel and bacon – you guessed it — on a stick.

These are just a few of the 69 different foods you can eat in stick form at the Iowa State Fair, an annual tradition that draws more than 1 million people.

A 133 foot tall wind turbine stands atop Expo Hill. The turbine was built in 2007 and provides enough energy for the length of the fair. Fun fact: It is also the tallest attraction on the fair grounds.
Jason Bergman

The state fair, which was first held in 1854 and is open this year through Aug. 18, is one of the longest held and largest of its kind in the country, according to organizers. And it’s in this vein that the fair has become a major campaign stop for candidates for political office.

But even beyond the campaigns, deep-fried Twinkies, and smoothies-on-a-stick, the Iowa State Fair has something for everyone.

Don’t come to the fair unless you’re prepared to loosen your belt buckle. From Foot Long Corn Dogs (pictured here), to pork on a stick, to an endless array of deep fried everything (vegetables to Oreos), you’re sure to find a fix for all your fair cravings.
Jason Bergman
It my have only been 11 a.m., but this fairgoer started the day with a massive turkey leg breakfast.
Jason Bergman

Find your zen with goat yoga, pairing downward dog with some baby goats (and trust us, there’s nothing cuter than being licked by a newborn goat). Joining in the sun salutations are other baby animals, including ducks, piglets, and chicks.

Keep the animal theme going with The Butter Cow — for the record, not a real cow — a fair tradition since the first one was sculpted in 1911. Made up of about 600 pounds of low-moisture, pure cream Iowa butter (with a wood, metal, wire, and steel mesh frame), organizers estimate the cow would butter about 19,200 slices of toast.

After admiring the butter — and maybe detoxing with a salad-on-a-stick since everything is better in stick form — head to the Grandstand where you can catch concerts like Luke Bryan, The Chainsmokers, Zac Brown Band, and Hootie & the Blowfish. While admission to the fair is only $12 for adults, tickets to Grandstand concerts are extra.

Gary Keenan uses a chainsaw to carve a Moai (think Easter Island) out of wood. Gary and his team do chainsaw carving presentations each day of the fair and then auction off their creations on the last day.
Jason Bergman
Witness the famous Butter Cow on display in the Agricultural Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Butter Cow has been a State Fair staple since 1911 and weighs around 600 pounds.
Jason Bergman

Later, go for a ride on the Tilt A Whirl or ram into your friends and family from the bumper cars as no day at a state fair would be complete without them.

The fair grounds, in Des Moines, are the perfect place from which to explore the Midwestern city’s quirky T-shirt shops, vintage arcade games, and wineries. From thrilling rides to outrageous food combinations, this is what a day at the Iowa State Fair looks like.

Fairgoers pose with the 2nd largest pumpkin (698 pounds!) in the Iowa State Fair Big Pumpkin Contest. The winning pumpkin came in at a modest 760 pounds.
Jason Bergman
The Giant Slide is just one of the many attractions at the State Fair. Attendees (and some Presidential candidates, too) hop on a potato sack and slide down the wavy apparatus in a short but thrilling ride.
Jason Bergman
The fair grounds offer a wide range of activities for young and old. As part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources building, children can practice their archery skills in a makeshift range.
Jason Bergman
The fair isn’t just about butter cows and fried food, though. Inside the exhibition hall, visitors can try out the latest in immersive VR technology.
Jason Bergman
The annual Iowa State Fairs Queens contest takes place at the Anne and Bill Riley Talent Stage. Candidates from across the state compete in front of a panel of judges. This year’s winner, Hannah Koellner of Mahaska County, won a total of $8,000 in scholarships.
Jason Bergman
A participant in the Youth Dairy Cattle Show walks his cow through the Livestock Pavilion. The event teaches children about proper livestock care and showmanship techniques.
Jason Bergman
Every day at 5 p.m., the Budweiser Clydesdales parade through the grounds. Fairgoers can get close to have their photos taken with the prestigious horses, but still must maintain a 5-foot distance.
Jason Bergman
Elivia Papcun of Norwalk, IA prepares for the Cowgirl Queen contest on Friday. Papcun came in 2nd place last year and is hoping to bring home the gold (and scholarship money) after a year of training.
Jason Bergman
Fairgoers scream and shout as they are catapulted into the air.
Jason Bergman
The fair offers rollercoasters, a ferris wheel, and every type of ride a thrillseeker could ask for.
Jason Bergman
In addition to rides, fairgoers stay busy with a wide range of games and challenges. It’s not uncommon to see people carrying overstuffed teddy bears or other trophies from their wins.
Jason Bergman
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