Monday, August 10, 2015

Iowa State Fair Guide: 7 free things to do at the fair

7 free things to do at the Iowa State Fair - miscelenious

The Iowa State Fair is so big and so jam-packed with things to do that it's impossible to narrow the must-do list down to any number. The best way to experience the fair is to keep going back, whether that means returning every day, a couple days each year, or just one day every year. My personal recommendation is to check it out a couple half days each year, because it can get a bit overwhelming to be there longer than that, but I know some people who camp at the fair for the whole time, every single year, and love it. Whatever floats your boat!

No matter how you decide to do it, the Iowa State Fair is one of the best (if not the best) state fairs in the country, so it's something that should be on everyone's bucket list — Iowans especially. And for those of you who are trying it out for the first time this year, I've put together an Iowa State Fair Guide. I'll have a different post for the next four days, so make sure you come back every day to check it out! Today, we'll start with 7 free things to do at the Iowa State Fair.

1. The Bill Riley Talent Search. As a kid, I remember watching the Talent Search and wanting to be up there myself one day. Sadly, a major case of stage fright prevented me from ever giving it a shot. But it's a fun way to spend time at the fair, and it's cool to see so many talented people.

2. See the butter sculptures. This exhibit has always had a special place in my heart because the famous "Butter Cow Lady," Norma Lyon, was a friend of my family and someone I'd see every week at church when I was growing up. She was the sweetest woman, and she had such amazing talents. Her butter sculptures drew attention from the whole country, and the tradition carries on this year with sculptures from Monopoly.

3. Check out the contests. State fairs are all about unique, quirky attractions, and Iowa is no stranger to that. Get a front row seat for the accordion contest, beard growing contest, mother-daughter look-alike contest, outhouse races and the cow chip-throwing contest. When it comes to fairs, the weirder the better.

4. Watch a cooking demonstration. Food is a (very) big part of the Iowa State Fair, so it's only natural that cooks and chefs should be demonstrating their craft at various locations and times throughout the 11-day event. We typically watch these while we take sanctuary from the heat before moving on to whatever's next in our schedule. And hey, it never hurts to learn a new skill.

5. See the Chainsaw Carvers in action. These guys take woodworking to a whole new level by making intricate sculptures out of a log — using chainsaws. Yep, chainsaws! It's an unfathomable talent in my book, and definitely worth a stop.

6. The Red Trouser Show. I stumbled upon this one with a friend a couple years ago, and we actually stayed to watch for a long time because it was so cool. These two guys (wearing red pants, obviously) do crazy stunts like balancing on top of a tall pole balanced on top of the other guy's face. It's insane!

7. Catch a free concert. There are a few different stages around the fair where you can watch free concerts. There's limited seating, so if there's someone on the list that you really want to see, make sure to leave early to get good seats. This year's lineup includes local favorites like The Nadas and Bonne Finken, and bigger names like the Village People and Sir Mix-A-Lot — how do you say no to a free show with Sir Mix-A-Lot, amiright?

What are your favorite things to do at the State Fair? I'd love to hear!

P.S. 10 foods to try at the fair, 8 things you'll see at the fair and my 2015 fair bucket list

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