End Summer at the State Fair

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

Rides on the Midway, Minnesota State Fair, Fal...

Rides on the Midway, Minnesota State Fair, Falcon Heights, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Get ready for fried stuff on a stick! August is the month for state fairs across the country. Ferris wheels, the Midway, livestock shows, competitions, blue ribbons, and – of course – unusual foods are heading your way!

The Iowa State Fair begins in August. This wildly popular fair attracts visitors from across the country. They come to enjoy the Iowa State Fair Butter Cow (a tradition of sculpting a cow out of butter that dates back to 1911), and great contests such as turkey calling, outhouse races, mutton busting, fiddling, and decorated diapers. There’s also a Mr. Legs Contest and a Mohawk Contest, where Mohawks will be “judged on creativity and originality.”

While nothing tops strolling down the Midway and enjoying stomach-churning rides and the Ferris wheel, the silly contests could rank a close second. Livestock also plays a huge role in the fair and the Cattle Corner, Horse Haven, and Pig Place are just a few of the must-see exhibits.

Of course, there’s nothing quite like the food. The Iowa State Fair will feature many new foods this year, including something called “deep fried pickle dawgs.” Other new foods include blue sapphire funnel cakes, fruit on a stick, and chocolate covered chocolate chip cannolis – on a stick. Of course, the favorites are back – fried butter on a stick, deep-fried Twinkies, and deep-fried Snickers.

The Iowa State Fairgrounds are located in Des Moines, a great city to visit any time of year – but especially in early August, when the fair gets under way.

Another great state fair taking place in August is the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. This fair will be held from August 10-19. Dating back to 1853, the Illinois State Fair is one of the largest in the country. In addition to the fair food, attractions, and exhibits, the Illinois State Fair Grandstand features musicians such as Train, Cheap Trick, Miranda Lambert, and Demi Lovato.

The Indiana State Fair will be held August 3-19 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds near Indianapolis. The theme for 2012 is “Celebrating the Hoosier Spirit” and will include a large dairy exhibit and a new family entertainment site called Family Fun Park. The park will include an extreme trampoline show, pony rides, and the Rainforest Rescue show with live, exotic animals. And, if you want to try milking a cow or making cheese, butter, or ice cream, Cowtown USA will allow visitors to participate and sample the dairy products. The Hoosier Lottery Grandstand will include motorsports events such as a demolition derby, tractor pulls, and a motorcycle race.

If you want to test your fortitude after chomping down on all the Midway foods, take a ride on the Vertigo Midway Ride – it rises 100 feet in the air before swinging passengers out over the Midway. Other rides include the Yo-Yo, the White Water Flume, the Toom of Doom, Thunderbolt, Silver Streak, and the State Fair Slide.

The Minnesota State Fair begins on August 23 and lasts through Labor Day. As a last “hurrah” before school begins, this would be a great end-of-summer vacation. Located between Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Minnesota State Fair is one of the largest fairs in the country and has the largest average daily attendance of any fair in the US. New attractions for 2012 will include the Great Big Sandbox for children, skate park lessons, four new kid-friendly rides, seven thrilling new Midway rides (such as the Freak Out, the Flipper, and the Sizzler), and a spectacular maze of light and color called the Luminarium.

For those on the eastern seaboard, the Great New York State Fair runs August 23 to September 3 at the fairgrounds in Syracuse. The unique food you’ll find here makes it well worth the trip: the Big Kahuna Donut Burger (and, new this year, the Big Kahuna Donut Dog – a bacon-wrapped hot dog in a maple-glazed long john donut), deep fried mac and cheese, deep fried lasagna, deep fried brownies, and deep fired jelly beans.

After all the fried treats, head over to the Farmer’s Market tent for some fresh, locally-grown produce. Then, dash on over to the Midway and try out the Giant Wheel, the Top Spin, or the Zipper. Or, head over to the Grandstand and catch a concert.

There’s nothing like an evening sky lit with the dazzling lights of the state fair – the view alone is enough to bring out the kid in all of us. Toss in the classics such as cotton candy, roller coasters, the Ferris wheel, and silly contests and this is a guaranteed good time. Don’ miss out on this classic American end-of-summer tradition – find a state fair near you and enjoy!