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Iowa State Fair Trivia

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When was the first Iowa State Fair held?

The first Fair was 1854 in Fairfield. The 2008 Fair marks its 154th year and will run

August 7-17

How old are the Fairgrounds?

The Fair moved to the present site at E. 30th and University in 1886. Therefore, the Fairgrounds are 122 years old in 2008.

How many acres make up the Fairgrounds?

Approximately 410, including 160 acres of beautiful, wooded Campgrounds, which are open all season long, April to October.

What are future Iowa State Fair dates?

The 2008 Fair will run August 7-17, 11 days as usual. The Fair traditionally ends two weeks before Labor Day

Future dates:

2009 - August 13-23

2010 - August 12-22

2011 - August 11-21

2012 - August 9-19

2013 - August 8-18

2014 - August 7-17

2015 - August 13-23

2016 - August 11-21

What is the economic impact of the Fair on the local economy?

Conservative figures indicate the 11-day Fair is the catalyst for approximately $60 million worth of spending in travel, hotels/motels, restaurants, shopping, etc.

What has been the largest Fair attendance?

In 2004, the attendance was a record-breaking 1,053,978.

What is the theme of the 2008 Fair?

"U Gotta Love It "

What was the hottest temperature recorded at the Fair?

108 degrees on Older Iowans' Day, August 16, 1983

What nationally known magazines have covered the Fair?

The National Geographic Traveler, Cosmopolitan, Time, Life, ESPN Magazine, Newsweek, Gourmet, Saveur, People, Midwest Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Fast Company and countless others.

Who holds the record for attracting the largest Grandstand crowd?

In 1972 Sonny and Cher attracted 26,200 in two shows.

In 1975 the Beach Boys drew 25,400 in one show.

In 1970 Johnny Cash attracted 25,300 in two shows.

In 1974 Chicago played to 24,700 in one show.

In 1982 the Oak Ridge Boys drew 23,500 in two shows.


What happens to the butter from which the Butter Cow is sculpted?

It is frozen and stored during the year and reused for three or four Fairs. Butter sculpture has been part of the Fair since 1911. It takes an estimated 550 pounds of butter and 16 hours to craft the Butter Cow.

In addition to the Butter Cow, another companion sculpture also graces the Agriculture Building coolers. Name five creations from the past 10 years.

1996: Grant Wood's famous "American Gothic" (honoring Iowa's Sesquicentennial)

1997: Elvis Presley

1998: An American eagle

1999: Her own version of Leonardo DaVinci's "The Last Supper"

2000: Christian Peterson sculpting "The Gentle Doctor" statue (Petersen was Duffy's mentor and teacher.)

2001: John Wayne

2002: Peanuts Gang

2003: Harley-Davidson motorcycle (in honor of the company's 100th anniversary)

2004: Birthday cake in honor of the Fair's Sesquicentennial and an Iowa barn

2005: Tiger Woods

2006: "Mr. State Fair" Bill Riley (in honor of his 60th Fair) and Superman (Norwalk, Iowa, native Brandon Routh)

2007: Harry Potter

All butter sculptures are exhibited in a 40-degree showcase cooler in the Agriculture Building.

About how many exhibits are entered annually?

In 2005 more than 17,600 people entered 63,190 exhibits in various categories ranging from cattle to needlepoint to vegetables. A total of $457,964 was paid in premiums for the entries.

About how many concessionaires and exhibitors operate on the grounds?

Approximately 600 exhibitors and concessions operate daily during the Fair. This includes nearly 200 food stands (cotton candy to corn dogs), 300 exhibitors (farm machinery to hot tubs), and 200 merchandise booths (t-shirts to tools).

Which United States presidents have visited the State Fair?

Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower in 1954, Gerald Ford in 1975, Jimmy Carter in 1976 (as a candidate) and George W. Bush in 2002; Ronald Reagan broadcast from the Fair as sports director for WHO radio in the 1930s.

1999 marked the 40th anniversary of what important Fair traditions?

Duffy Lyon sculpted her 40th annual butter cow. And to mark this special anniversary, she fashioned her own version of "The Last Supper," in butter of course. The Bill Riley Talent Search also celebrated its 40th year.

What year did Sarah Pratt become the Fair's fourth butter sculpter?

In 2006, after appoximately 15 years of apprenticing with Duffy Lyon.

What entertainers have performed at the Fair a whopping 10 or more times?

Lou Christie tops the list with 13 Grandstand appearances (1981, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005). Christie performed on the Walnut Stage in 2000. He also appeared at the Blue Ribbon Weekend in 1992. Alabama has performed at the Fair ten times (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1998).

How are members of the Fair Board elected?

They are elected annually by delegates from Iowa's 106 county fairs.

Chainsaw carver Brian Ruth crafted five stunning wood sculptures from what naturally occuring materials on the Fairgrounds in 1998?

Storm-damaged trees.

What famous country star appeared in the Grandstand as a replacement for Ricky Van Shelton in 1990?

Garth Brooks. Brooks returned to the Grandstand in 1991 and 1993.

What is the name of the famous novel written by Iowan Phil Stong about the Iowa State Fair?

"State Fair." Three motion pictures with the same title have also been filmed. The Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical adaptation of "State Fair" that debuted at the Civic Center of Des Moines during the 1995 Fair officially opened on Broadway in March, 1996.

Fun fact: Phil Stong was former butter sculptor Duffy Lyon's uncle.

Who starred in the first film version of this novel?

Will Rogers and Janet Gaynor, with Lew Ayres, Louise Dresser

How long has Hog Calling been an Iowa State Fair tradition?

The first Hog Calling competition was held in 1926.

When was the first State Fair Queen Pageant (in its current format) held?


Approximately how many types of food can be purchased "on-a-stick" at the Fair?

More than 30. The list includes pork chops, dill pickles, corn dogs, cheese, Cajun chicken, caramel apples, chili dog, beef, cotton candy, veggie corn dogs, turkey drumsticks, nutty bars, chocolate cheesecake, hot bologna, chocolate covered bananas, taffy, fried pickles, honey, wonder bars, deep fried Twinkies, meatballs, Ho-Hos and fudge puppies (waffles drenched in chocolate sauce).

How old is Ye Old Mill?

This honest-to-goodness tunnel of love was built circa 1921. It was completely rebuilt for the 1996 Fair thanks, in part, to a donation from Bank of America (formerly Boatmen's Bank).

How many Fairs have been cancelled?

Five. The was no Fair in 1898 due to the World's Fair in Omaha and the Spanish-American War. The Fair was also a wartime casualty from 1942-1945.

If you unrolled all the toilet tissue stockpiled for the Fair, how many miles would it stretch?

1,818 miles (That's 5 trips to Chicago from Des Moines, or one trip to Los Angeles!)

What happens to the animal bedding following the Fair?

An average 1,600 tons of manure-laden bedding is hauled away each year from the Fair to be land-applied to several hundred acres of prime farm land.

Name the three entertainers who first appeared at the Fair on a free stage and then performed in the Grandstand.

John Michael Montgomery (free stage in 1993, Grandstand in 1995 and 1997)

Bryan White (free stage in 1995, Grandstand in 1997 and 1998)

Trick Pony (free stage 2001, Grandstand in 2002 and 2003)

When did the original State Fair Museum open?

The Ralph H. Deets Historical Museum, located across from Pioneer Hall, opened in 1982. The Richard L. Easter Musem Complex, including the Richard O. Jacobson Hall and Kenyon Gallery, opened in 2005.

What was the budget of the first Iowa State Fair in 1854?

In 1854, the budget was $323.

How many people work for the Iowa State Fair?

While approximately 59 people are employed year-round by the Iowa State Fair, the roster swells to more than 1400 employees during the Fair itself. Workers hired independently by exhibitors and concessionaires total approximately 1000.

What's the origin of Grandfather's Barn?

The barn was part of the original farmstead purchased in 1886 by the State of Iowa for the Fair's permanent home. The Barn was closed from 1989 until 1994 when a generous donation by Vermeer Manufacturing, Pella, helped completely rebuild it.

What is the name of the organization charged with raising money for Fairgrounds renovation?

Since 1993, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been closing the gap on the funds needed to restore the Fair's classic buildings and grounds. More than $50 million has been raised, pledged or committed and numerous projects completed to date. More than two-thirds of that total has been appropriated by the Iowa legislature.

How many ribbons are handed out during the Fair?

Approximately 45,000 ribbons, rosettes and banners are awarded annually to winners.

Approximately how many pork chops do the Iowa Pork Producers sell during a Fair?

Pork lovers gobble down approximately 5-6,000 chops daily during the Fair's 11-day run. In 2003, the Pork Producers served their one-millionth customer.

What Iowan and world famous fashion designer, at the age of 2, was named the Iowa State Fair's "healthiest city boy"?

In the early 1930's, Roy Halston Frowick was deemed the "healthiest city boy" at the Fair. A Des Moines native, Halston's career took off as a hat designer; Jackie Kennedy wore one of his pillbox hats to her husband's inauguration. Other celebrities to wear his fashion creations include Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Ford, Ali MacGraw, Lauren Bacall and Liza Minelli.

Who wrote "Hawkeye Fair" for the Iowa State Fair?

Karl King. The famous bandmaster, who composed nearly 400 marches, waltzes, overtures and serenades, also led the band at the Fair for 10 days every year from 1921-1959.

What are the lyrics to the song "Our State Fair" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical titled "State Fair"?

Our State Fair is a great State Fair,

Don't miss it, don't even be late.

It's dollars to doughnuts that our State Fair,

Is the best State Fair in our state!

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