State Fairs (as Seen on Instagram)

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 by Grant Stevens


Udderly fantastic: The famous #buttercow. #iowastatefair #isthisheavennoitsiowa 

For the first time in years, I missed the Iowa State Fair. And this, blog readers, is bumming me out -- in large part because I firmly believe the Iowa State Fair is the best state fair. Yes, other state fairs are out there, but in my eyes, they just can’t compete. The Iowa State Fair has been going strong for 155 years, is home to the world-renowned Butter Cow, and was even the basis for the hit Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair.

Having grown up in Iowa, I’m probably (definitely) a little biased. But the Fair has always been a magical place for me, something that was both the same and different each year I want. It's a continuum of ever-evolving history and experiences.

So, in a spirit of homesickness and celebration, I’ve compiled a few favorite images for you to enjoy. And to be FAIR (terrible puns are also part of the fair-going experience), I’ve also added a few photos of other state fairs, because they’ve gotta try, right?


#Fireworks after #ladyantebellum concert #iowastatefair

Stretching 600 feet along the Grand Concourse, the Grandstand is one of the largest buildings on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Designed to be completed in stages as funds became available, the first phase, a large open steel amphitheater, was built in 1909 and enclosed later. Five more sections were added in 1927. Under the Grandstand are the Shoppers Mart, the Hall of Law, and the Hall of Flame, which are used for exhibits during the Fair.


my fair favorite #isf2014 #iowastatefair

The many food vendors at the Iowa State Fair are known for their wide array of fried food, “foods-on-a-stick”, and iconic signs, like the one shown above. This year, the Fair had 70 different foods-on-a-stick, ranging from Caprese Salad On-a-Stick to a Jalapeño Corndog On-a-Stick to a Jumbo Toasted Marshmallow On-a-Stick.


#isf2014 #isf #iowa #iowastatefair #love #instadaily #instagood #picoftheday #love #knit #knitting #sheep #summer

Designed in phases in 1915, 1923, and 1939, the Sheep Barn has a unique terra cotta trim, murals, floral arches, and even ram’s head column capitals around the perimeter of the building. The six-acre barn houses 480 sheep pens, 840 cattle ties, and a show ring with bleacher seating for 500 spectators.


#iowastatefair

Ye Old Mill is the Fair’s oldest permanent amusement ride, where visitors ride fiberglass boats through an enclosed waterway and watch dioramas. The old-fashioned “tunnel of love” has been in continuous use since it was built in 1920-1924, and is one of only two such attractions remaining in the country (out of seven built by John Keenan).


Just one of the beautiful sites to enjoy at #ISF2014

My personal favorite building at the Iowa State Fair, Pioneer Hall, was built in 1886 for the first Fair held on the current Fairgrounds. Built as an exposition hall, it is now a museum of Iowa agriculture and the site of the Fair’s Rural Americana Olde Tyme contests including hog- and husband-calling, wood chopping, and cow chip throwing.


I'm not one for heights, or Ferris wheels, but@dmarieolsen guilted me into a ride on "THE BIG WHEEL" (their terminology, not mine). Although I had a few jitters the first time around, it was actually pretty fun and a beautiful view of the fairgrounds! #circlecitysesh20

One constant at State Fairs: Ferris Wheels and midway rides. The Ferris Wheel above is at the Indiana State Fair, which started in 1852. Indiana was the sixth state to begin holding an annual state-wide agricultural fair. During the Civil War, the county fairgrounds was converted into Camp Morton, a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. The gates opened at the current Fairgrounds in 1892.


Keep sharing your #PuffLove with us! #wistatefair

The Cream Puff, a cream-filled pastry, has been sold at the Wisconsin State Fair since 1924 and is the most popular treat -- more than 387,000 were sold in 2013! The Wisconsin Bakers Association operates the Cream Puff Bakery in the Original Cream Puff Pavilion, as well as two additional locations in the Fair Park.


Rain doesn't stop the fun at the Ohio State Fair! The skies have cleared, and now we have a beautiful rainbow over the Rabbit & Poultry Pavilion and Natural Resources Park! #osf14

The first Ohio State Fair had a rough start (an outbreak of cholera delayed its initial 1849 debut), but it is now one of the largest state fairs in the country. In 1896, the Ohio State Fair became the first with an electric lighting system, which made it possible to offer night-time racing. Also that year, horseless vehicles made their first appearance at the Ohio State Fair.


Let's make it another Big Tex #tbt. Share your favorite pics of the big guy. #bigtex #sharethesft #texas @dickiesofficial @lucchese

Big Tex is a 55-foot (16 m) tall statue and marketing icon of the annual State Fair of Texas, built in 1952. On October 19, 2012, the last weekend of the Fair, Big Tex was destroyed by an electrical fire that started in the in the right boot and worked its way up the structure, first becoming visible from the neck area. After the fire, a new Big Tex was created, making his debut in September 2013.


Last one for the day, #iowastatefair

One last parting shot from the Iowa State Fair. A fixture on the fairgrounds, the Skyglider is one of the most popular rides at the fair, and the best way to get a birds-eye view of the grounds. It’s also the easiest way to lose a pair of flip-flops.

Have a favorite state fair in your life? Tell us about it!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Grant Stevens

Grant Stevens

Grant is the Manager of Community Outreach at the National Trust. He's proud to be from a Main Street Community and the Black Dirt Capitol of the World – Conrad, Iowa! Growing up on a farm, he always loved going to town and looking at the historic buildings. Now a resident of DC, Grant enjoys reading, running, and anything rural.

Slideshows, Travel