Fair Flashback - Livestock Barns in 1978

Fair | Clip
Aug 18, 2022 | 5 min

What's changed over the last 40 years in the livestock barns? We dig into the Iowa PBS archives to find out.


We'll start the second half of our show with a reach back into the archives. In tonight's Fair Flashback Chad Randolph former host of Market to Market reminds us what life was like on the south end of the fairgrounds way back in 1978. 

CHAD RANDOLPH: In our coverage of the farm events at this year's state fair we neglected to show you one thing, the people, the ones who spend most of their time every year at the state fair in these buildings. The people for whom every year the state fair is the big event. As much work as it is pleasure. The people showing the cattle, sheep, and hogs. They are, quite frankly, the life and breath of Iowa State Fair agriculture and the fact that these people show up year after year gives you a good indication of their support, not just for the Iowa State Fair but probably more importantly for all aspects of Iowa agriculture. 


They are the people of the south end, the people who are for the most part, frankly, just too busy to ever venture north of the show range. They probably don't eat many corn dogs, rarely go to the Midway, and only hear the roar of the crowd at the grandstand from quite a distance. They're farmers, not quite the dying breed some people might have you think, the people who make up the bulk of Iowa's social strength, and who are responsible for nearly 80% of its economic well being. When they come to the state fair they come to show off their work, talk shop, promote their products, or just eye with envy somebody else who's got something better. 


Theirs is a lifestyle with which most of us would be unfamiliar if not uncomfortable. For the most part, they drive pick-ups with trailers, camp out, sleep in animal pens or in makeshift, open air, quote, "dormitories" in the lofts of live stock barns.


Doesn't seem to bother any of them. For ten days every year this is their life. 


There is a certain camaraderie among the people of the south end. A camaraderie well worth seeing and seeing up close. Next year or tomorrow, if you get the chance, walk down into the live stock area, and as the fair people like to say, take a closer look. You'll see for example cowboys either real ones or one day cowboys. The city folks who buy cowboy hats and then wear them wrong. 

There are barkers there, too, just like any part of the fair. But over here in the south end, they're hawking wares you can't necessarily put in the back seat of your car and take it home. They are selling and selling hard equipment like combines, tractors, harvesters which is a comment, happy or sad, take your pick, on machinery manufacturers' ingenuity and the current state of farm economics. All in all, it's quite a package, but lest we lead you into thinking that everything is serious over here we want to remind you that camaraderie is what this area of the fairgrounds is all about. There are of course places to meet, relax, and have some fun 

You know, when you walk through the south end of the fairground, talk to the farmers, look at their products, you can't help but keep in the back of you mind one fact. That is that these people's livelihoods are probably more uncertain than any one of us would like to admit. For these people, these farmers are dependent upon nature for their livelihood. No questions asked. They have to put up with its fickleness and its whims. Don't blame them, then, if for ten days a year they have a good time.