Posts Tagged: iowa state fair

Fair Time is Fun Time!


One of the true signs of summer in the Midwest is Fair Season – and the 2015 Winneshiek County Fair is, literally, right around the corner from our house…right now through July 11! Grandstand shows, livestock judging, competitions, exhibits, demolition derbies, races, rides, auctions, dances, and the inevitable fair food – it’s enough to not only get the kids excited, but the kid-at-heart folks too. We go pretty much every day!

We’ve put together a list of 7 of our favorite things at our hometown (neighborhood, really) fair to get you started:

1. Animals! Right now (like as of yesterday, opening day of the fair), Roxie is enjoying the cow barns the best – other favorites: the sheep and goats, pigs, and, of course, the bunnies!


2. 4-H Projects Building! Aryn was in 4-H growing up, and loves seeing the sewing, craft, and photography projects that bring back memories of childhood summer fun.

3. Food! We usually head straight to the Luren Booth for pie, but surprisingly, haven’t gotten any pie yet (which is our favorite thing of this favorite thing), but yesterday we did grab a couple breakfast specials. Pancakes, eggs, yummy sausage, and coffee (or milk or juice if that’s your thing). Lunch at the Green Clover Cafe 4-H stand around the corner is a great spot too – Roxie is excited they have Gogurts (maybe your toddler will be too)! And don’t forget about ALL THE OTHER FOOD options (so many). Pork chop on a stick, hot beef sandwiches, the Moo Mobile…oh, and funnel cakes, nachos, pizza…better go with an empty stomach! (More food pics inevitably coming…)


4. Rides! Who doesn’t love a Ferris wheel ride? Well…we’ll see if our kid does (first-timer), but even if she doesn’t, there are lots of fun mild-to-wild rides to check out. $20 for 20 tickets! Wristband Days are Wednesday & Friday 6-10 pm, Saturday 2-6 pm.


5. Grandstand Events! Buying a button gets you in to all the events. Check out the schedule here.


6. Kids Activities! We hit up the petting zoo yesterday – entrance is free, and you can buy some food for $1. Be careful, though…those goats can get pretty excited when you’ve got food in hand (see below…sorry, Rox)! There’s also magic shows and bean bag contests!


7. Great Free Music! Although it’s great to buy a button and check out the larger entertainment acts, there are other fun options too – from the Buck Hollow barn dance to the Jim Busta Band, you’ll be happy you wore your dancin’ shoes.


Here in the tri-state area there are tons of county fairs that offer up great family entertainment at affordable prices. Here’s a list of a few of them you can still catch! Did we miss one you love? Let us know!

NE Iowa:

Winneshiek County Fair: July 7-11, 2015

Allamakee County Fair: July 15-19, 2015

Dubuque County Fair: July 28-August 2, 2015

Fayette County Fair: August 5-9, 2015

Clayton County Fair: August 5-10, 2015

SE Minnesota:

Winona County Fair: July 8-12, 2015

Wabasha County Fair: July 15-18, 2015

Fillmore County Fair: July 21-25, 2015

Olmsted County Fair: July 27-August 2, 2015

Houston County Fair: August 19-23, 2015

SW Wisconsin:

Trempeleau County Fair: July 23-26, 2015

Grant County Fair: August 16-23, 2015

Crawford County Fair: August 26-30, 2015

Vernon County Fair: September 16-20, 2015



P.S. Don’t forget to make your plans to attend the Iowa State Fair August 13-23 in Des Moines! Since 1854 Iowans have enjoyed what has been rated one of the top summer attraction in the US by publications such as USA Weekend, Midwest Living, and the New York Times.

The Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines feature an incredible park-like 400-acres (the Fair’s home since 1886) and also adjoin 160 acres of Campgrounds – both parcels that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The fair has provided a place through history that has educated, informed, and entertained people from every walk of life. It is also host to “one of the world’s largest livestock shows,” as well as the largest art show in the state.

Entertainment is also high on the list at the Iowa State Fair with over $400,000 / year spent on bringing in top-notch acts. This year’s grandstand line-up includes performances by Casting Crowns, Justin Moore, Def Leppard (yes!), Reba, Carrie Underwood, YES & Toto, Alabama, The Fray, Meghan Trainor, Rock-A-Thon, and of course the excitement of the Grand Outlaw National tractor & truck pull, and more.

And as if that weren’t enough, don’t forget about the butter cow – hand crafted out of over 600lbs of butter by Norwalk sculptor and expert cake decorator Sarah Pratt. Not to mention the 50+ foods available… on a stick.

Fair time is fun time! See you there!

Butter-to-Art: An Interview with Butter Sculptress Sarah Pratt

By Benji Nichols 

With roots dating as far back as the 1400s, butter has been used in various ways to create art – Monks even made deities out of yak butter! Here in Iowa we’ve been making butter art since the early 1900s with the Iowa State Fair “Butter Cow.” The list of the artists who have worked in this medium at the State Fair is surprisingly short, but Inspire(d) was lucky enough to catch up with the latest heir to the title “Butter Sculptor.”

It is worth noting that the construction of a butter figure is even more complex than you would already suspect. More than 600 pounds of low-moisture, pure-cream Iowa butter are used to cover a frame constructed of wood, metal, wire, and steel mesh. Inside a 40-degree cooler, Sarah Pratt applies layer upon layer of butter until an almost full size figure comes to life. It’s also worth noting that the butter is not wasted – in fact, it is often used to create sculptures for up to ten years – so no sneaking a taste! The Midwest Dairy Association has sponsored the attraction since 1960, and we are delighted to have had the chance to ask Pratt a few questions.

Name: Sarah Pratt

Age: 32 (in 2009)

Profession: Teacher at Phoenix Elementary Early Childhood Center in West Des Moines

I: Where did you grow up?

SP: Toledo, Iowa

I: How did you get involved with Norma ‘Duffy’ Lyon (Butter Sculptor for decades prior) helping to create the butter sculptures? 

SP:I grew up knowing Duffy and went to school with her grandkids. But it was actually a trip to the State Fair to help a friend of mine, Kari Lyon, who also happens to be the great-niece of Norma. She was showing dairy cattle and I went along to experience life in the Dairy Barn. While Kari was in the show ring I was put to work in the butter cooler, cleaning buckets and softening butter. The next year Norma called me and invited me to help again. I continued to help and Duffy trained me over the next 15 or so years.

I: What’s your favorite butter sculpture or cow that you have created? 

SP: I enjoyed sculpting Harry Potter. There were so many fun things to incorporate from the stories. But the sculpture that I was and am the most passionate about is the piece I sculpted last year honoring Norman Borlaug. So many are unaware of his accomplishments and the difference he has made in the world! It was a privilege to share Mr. Borlaug’s story with Fairgoers.

I: What else will you be carving besides the cow for the 2009 Fair? 

SP: I will be sculpting a scene from the Apollo 11 mission.  “One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.”

I: How long does it take you to create the sculptures? 

SP: I work for about three weeks before the Fair begins.

I: Any comments about working with butter as a medium? Tricks of the trade?

SP: At the right temperature butter is very much like clay. The trick is to get the butter to that point and keep it there.

I: Anyone you’d like to acknowledge or thank?

SP: I want to thank Norma for all of her support! Without her confidence in my ability I would have never believed I could do it. And of course I need to thank my husband, Andy. He is a great sounding board for ideas and has spent many hours helping me plan and build the armatures.

The Iowa State Fair runs every summer in mid-August in Des Moines. And you can get in on the butter sculpting action! Submit your name for a chance to test your skills in the Butter Sculpting Competition at the fair. See you at the Fair!