Fair time at last
Aug 11, 2009
Before my family and I moved to Iowa three years ago, I was encouraged by a co-worker back in California to take full advantage of the Iowa State Fair.
Shoshana Hebshi with her twin 4-year-old sons, in the yellow bicycle carriage to her left. Photograph © 2009 Stan Brewer
Column by Shoshana Hebshi
Before my family and I moved to Iowa three years ago, I was encouraged by a co-worker back in California to take full advantage of the Iowa State Fair. She had been in Iowa visiting relatives when she made her pilgrimage to the fair. And she told me there was something about this fair that surpassed all other state fairs. She had planted a seed in me, and I made sure to attend that first summer.
My uncle-in-law luckily was visiting us at the time, and because he has an insatiable sweet tooth, I was able to try and split with him the fried Oreos and the fried Snickers bar. (The Oreos are better.) We also tried the cheese curds, the huge turkey leg that had been advertised on the fair billboards, and some ice cream. But it was more than the once-a-year indulgence in food whose effects my doctor would warn me would clog my arteries, induce Type 2 Diabetes, and bring on hypertension, among other things.
The Iowa State Fair, that first year, marked my inauguration into Midwest culture in a way no other person or single event has matched.
Growing up in San Diego, I attended the Del Mar Fair (now called the San Diego County Fair). I thought it was a great fair—tons of rides, animal shows, cotton candy lining the main drag, photo booths in which to cram all 20 of your closest friends, chances to win the big stuffed dinosaur prize at some rigged basketball game, and lots of people and ensuing traffic. That fair was great. But it pales in comparison to the Iowa State Fair.
This year, I am looking forward to revisiting some of my favorites from the last three summers: free hard-boiled eggs in the agriculture building, frozen pineapple yumminess, staking out a shady spot to people watch while eating a Bauder’s mocha latte ice cream sandwich, hoping to pick up some free seeds from the Earl May booth, letting the kids run through the water fountain, listening to interesting musical acts I never would have chanced upon other than at the Fair, parking for free within a 10-minute walk to the main gate, gawking at the enormous, prize-winning dahlias, checking out the larger-than-is-possibly-OK swine and bull, watching my husband chow down on at least one, maybe two, giant turkey legs, and enjoying one more year of having young enough children that we can enjoy it as a family and not lose them (and $40) to the fair rides. Oh, and of course, I will be enjoying at least one sampling of the fried Oreos.
The Iowa State Fair continues to be a mainstay and capstone of my Iowa summer experience. I continuously invite friends and relatives from far and wide to visit during these special 10 days. Sometimes they come. Other times they don’t. But it doesn’t matter whether or not I can share the experience with non-Iowans, because I have made it my own simple Iowa pleasure.
And now, that time has come again, marked by that hot, humid weather of mid-August (I call it Fair weather). It’s time to head east, stake out a good spot, sit back, and take it all in.
Shoshana Hebshi is a freelance writer and editor living in Des Moines. She will graduate with a master’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University this summer. Read her blog at: http://shebshi.wordpress.com