The Iowa State Fair holds a special place in my heart.
It’s where I first met Debbie in 2003. I was at the fair campground doing a story for the Montezuma Republican on families from the area who camp at the fair. There’s a lot of them and camping there is a big deal!
A year later, we were planning a wedding to be held in September 2004.
And in the years since Debbie and I, along with our Iowa family, have enjoyed camping and attending the state fair.
This last week, we would have been cleaning the camper and making a trip to the grocery store for food and supplies. One of us would have possibly went with my brother-in-law to set up the camper at the state fair campgrounds. You have to go early or it becomes difficult to slide a 28-foot camper in a spot the size of our living room.
I remember one year, the entire family went to set up the camper. It’s a special time of the year.
Well, this year, as we all know, the Iowa State Fair has been canceled. As with fairs across the country and many other events, COVID-19 is being blamed.
According to an article in USA Today, the Iowa State Fair has been canceled only five times in its 165-year history, and never for a pandemic or large-scale medical crisis. There was no fair in 1898 because of the year’s competing World’s Fair in Omaha, and World War II dimmed the Grandstand’s lights from 1942-45. It’s been 75 years since the fair was last canceled. How times have changed!
In 2006, Debbie and I released our first book, “Iowa’s Tradition: An ABC Photo Album of the Iowa State Fair.” The book was born out of my love for photography and Debbie growing up attending the fair.
The self-published book, which was printed at Sutherland Printing in Montezuma, was picked up by Barnes and Noble. In recent years, we have been able to donate copies of the book to various children’s cancer hospitals around the state. And we still sell copies on occasion.
The stories and good times Debbie has told me of being at the fair with her friends growing up always bring a smile to my heart. And I also enjoy the stories I’ve heard about camper neighbors who become extended family and attend weddings and other family events. Our former neighbors to the south, John and Dorie, welcomed me into the family when I first started coming to the fair. And they even made the trip from Creston to Montezuma to attend our wedding.
I have also heard about the old Tindle freezer that sat in front of the camper. Many camping neighbors used it to store food during the 11-day fair. The campground is like a small town with a big heart. Folks often stop to visit or if the need arises, pitch in a helping hand. I enjoy visiting with the other campers.
As for the fair, we will miss the miniature horse shows and walking through the barns and seeing all the animals. The Pioneer Hall is one of my favorite buildings on the fairgrounds. I will miss entering my antiques this year and watching the various old-time competitions such as the cow chip throwing contest. And we enjoy antiquing at the various booths in the building.
And I can’t forget about the polish sausage stand behind the Varied Industries Building. My mother-in-law told me about the eatery. They offer the best polish sausages I have ever eaten. Debbie loves the corndogs and cheese curds.
And we both enjoy Beatty’s Watermelon Stand, which is located next to where the Giant Slide was until it was moved earlier this year. They are known for their huge tenderloins, an Iowa staple. I’m not a huge tenderloin fan, so a tasty ham or roast beef sandwich and an order of French fries is the next best thing. We will also miss visiting with the Beatty family.
We will miss going through the food building and for the first time since 2007, we will not be sponsoring food contests. We normally sponsor two contests through our company, Our Front Porch Books. One contest is for kids and one is for adults. The kid contest challenges youngsters to create a dessert based on their favorite book. The other one is based on favorite foods enjoyed at the Iowa State Fair.
And lastly, Debbie and I will miss walking around the fairgrounds and people watching. I always enjoy a quick nap on the benches located on the fairgrounds. I may be the state fair record holder in that department.
There are many other activities we enjoy from the photography in the Culture Center to the exhibits in the 4-H Building, the horseshoe competitions, walking the Grand Concourse, the various music acts and the Cowboy Auction Shooting, but the best part is spending time together and being with family.
Here’s to 2021!
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.