Fair 2023 – Monday, August 14

Fair | Episode
Aug 14, 2023 | 56 min

Fair Highlights for Monday, August 14, 2023 include:

  • State Fair Parade
  • New Fair Foods
  • FFA Fair Prep - Kiley Langley
  • 4-H horses
  • Media and Politics at the Fair
  • Heroes' Day
  • Sheep Shearing
  • Craft Beer Tent
  • Bacon Buddies
  • Plein Air Painting
  • Night at the Museum
  • Midway Setup Timelapse
  • FFA Wool Collectors


[Announcer] Funding for Fair 2023 is brought to you by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation. And by:

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[Announcer] Iowa PBS presents Fair 2023. Here is your host, Bill Riley.

[Bill Riley] Hey, everyone. I'm Bill Riley and welcome to Fair 2023, the great Iowa State Fair. We invite you to be a part of this rich tradition. There is a reason the fair attracts more than 1 million people from all over the country every year. It's a massive event that encompasses so much of what Iowa is known for. Tonight kicks off a full week of state fair highlights on Iowa PBS. Everything from livestock contests to the music to food, and fun. Oh wait, did I mention the food? I did. Great food. For the next six nights in a row we will bring a full hour of the very best our state fair has to offer. Coming up tonight. It is a political year and at the fair that means reporters from all over the state and even the country will be gathering right here at the Iowa State Fair. We will learn something new about the history of the midway and our own Travis Graven will explore some of this year's new fair foods. Hey, I just can't wait to get started so let's jump right in with the event that kicks off our coverage every year, you got it, it's the Iowa State Fair parade.

[Paul Yeager] Oh, you can feel it in the air and I'm not talking about that rain that has since gone away but it's parade time. Everybody is standing up. We have the grand marshal of the parade. We have the queens. We've got dignitaries and politicians all over here, Bill. It is time for the Iowa State Fair parade.


[Paul] Regina Pirtle is this year's parade Marshall. Regina, when you got the call that said you were the parade Marshal What went through your head?

[Regina Pirtle] I was very humbled and surprised. I was not quite understanding, "why me?" But I was very happy.

[Paul] Why do you like the Iowa State Fair parade?

[Roberta Jurgersen, Clinton] It's just fun to watch. Good things to see. And all the kids and stuff.

[Paul] Is there something about the parade that you look forward to each year?

[Woman] The bands.


[Paul] How many times have you gone?

[Gail Steward, Orient] I think about 70.

[Paul] Hasn't changed at all, has it?

[Gail] Oh yes, quite a bit.

[Paul] You have come to this parade before?

[Kaylee Barker, Des Moines] Yes.

[Paul] What do you like about it?

[Kaylee] I love seeing the people gather around and have fun.

[Paul] Is there a float that you get excited for?

[Kaylee] I like seeing all the dancers, the dance groups.

[Nancy May, Des Moines] It's perfect. It's great. Great weather. Great year. Great weather. Beautiful.

[Paul] What do you look forward to most each and every year at the fair?

[Regina] The people, the coming together. It's like a family reunion to me. Because all of the participants and fairgoers become family. Even people like you, with your interviews, you know, you see them year after year and it is just a joy.

[Paul] It's always a joy to see you. Congratulations, Regina.

[Regina] Oh, thank you so much.

[Paul] Ava, how many times have you come to this parade?

[Ava] Just two.

[Paul] What do you remember?

[Ava] Um, the horses.

[Paul] Well, we have come to the end of the parade and one of those jobs is... you have to clean up after yourselves; and well, that's where we are at now with the horses. Reporting from the Iowa State Fair parade I'm Paul Yeager. Back to work.

[Travis Graven] Once you get to the fairgrounds, there is always one big decision to make. What do I eat? There are 64 new foods at the fair this year. Come with me as I sample some of the top favorites. Now, when I think Twinkie I think of a sweet treat. But that's not what they are serving up at Whatcha Smokin BBQ. Let's sample what they have. I'll take one of the Iowa Twinkies, please.

[Server] All right. $8. Twinkie, please.

[Paul Babberl, Whatcha Smokin?] It's a jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese, pulled pork, sweet corn and ranch seasoning, and we wrap it in bacon. Smoke it. Glaze it in our sweet and sticky barbecue souce and drizzle it in Ranch and green onions.

[Travis] How did you come up with the name Twinkie? Becuase it is nothing like the twinkie I remember as a kid.

[Paul B.] We go to Texas a lot and we do a lot of research down there. Eat a lot of Texas barbecue, and they have Texas Twinkies with brisket. And, we live in Iowa. So I figured, what better way to pay homage to Iowa? Put corn, ranch, bacon and everyting else that we love in a Twinkie and jalapeno and call it a Twinkie.

[Travis] Now, it's not on a stick. They do have forks, but I will use my fingers. Because we are at the fair, why not? Oh my goodness. I like peppers, that jalapeno definitely provides a kick. But the pulled pork, the bacon --this is a party in the mouth.

[Server 2] Hi, What can I get started for you today?

[Travis] Let's see if I can get this all right. I will take the deep-fried bacon brisket, macaroni and cheese grilled cheese.

[Server 2] Yes, absolutely. Can I get a fried, please?

[Travis] It starts off with our homemade bacon cheddar bread and then we have a three cheese macaroni with bacon and brisket inside that. Then, we put layers of tri-tip and that gets put into a deep fry batter back in the back. Fries. Comes out here and gets served with a raspberry chipotle sauce. It's like a barbecue Monte Cristo.

[Travis] Look at that. Can hardly fit it all in there. What's the verdict?

[Man] Very, very good.

[Server 3] What can I get you?

[Travis] I would love to try one of the new grinder balls.

[Server] Okay, absolutely.

[Brad Magg, Owner The Bacon Box] It's our take on a state fair classic, the state fair grinder sandwich.

[Travis] How difficult is it to come up with something new?

[Brad] That's one of our problems. We have too many ideas. This one, we've been sitting on for a couple of years. We have been waiting for the right time to get this one rolled out.

[Travis] Grinders are one of my all-time favorite state fair foods. I cannot wait to give this a try. That is a really good meatball. It has the mozzarella in the middle, marinara sauce gives it a nice kick on the outside. I have to go in for a second bite. 

After some main courses, I think it's time to try a little bit of tasty dessert, so we are here at the Over the Top stand. I would love to try the new Iowa Sweet Corn Sundae, please.

[Server 4] All right, I would love to get one for you.

[Woman] So the Iowa Sweet Corn Sundae is our sweet corn ice cream topped with green candy husks, which is just green candy melt but brings a lot of fun to it. And then, we needed toppings; and what goes better with corn than butter? Butterscotch is a perfect pairing and sprinkles of corn kernels on top.

[Travis] I didn't think I would like this as well as I do, but it is really, really good. After a hot day of walking around the fair, what better cold, refreshing treat to finish off your day of food at the fair.


[Kiley Langley, Wilton FFA] My name is Kiley Langley, and I am a part of the Sugar Creek Challengers 4-H Club and the Wilton FFA Chapter. I used to show cattle up until I was 14 years old. My ag adviser had a sign-up sheet for show lambs, and I was like "hum, what if I signed up for that?" So I signed up for it, and I have been showing lambs ever since. This is my big old flock of ewes. The first one is Plan B, and she was a little accent that we bought, and then there is Chanel and Coco. It's just something that I have a passion for. I think it gives me a purpose, and it's something to wake up and look forward to. "Oh, I need to go feed my sheep." I get to go feed my sheep, not like I have to. Because not everyone has this opportunity that I do. It's just awesome to see the connection with the animal and see them enjoy their lives.

I really like getting to know each of the lambs and each of their personalities. "Come on, girlfriend." Is she not so pretty? She has the biggest personality. And sometimes she just escapes and I don't know how she does it. And, she's the only one who gets out, and I just think it's funny. Showing is kind of like a job, but it's something I enjoy and it's rewarding. Each sheep, I feel it's like 7-ish hours a week spent in here. It's one hour per day, maybe two depending on what you are doing. You have to embrace the grind and embrace the work you do because if you don't like the work that you are putting in then it's a lot of work to not enjoy it. I enjoy the work. I like washing their legs. I like walking them and bracing them and doing show prep with them.

They are going for a run because they are fat. Don't eat the garden. The state fair is like a big get together for all of Iowa and showing at the state fair, I think is just amazing especially through FFA because I know a lot of kids that show sheep through FFA, so it's kind of like a big get together. I feel that every show that I go to, I always make at least one friend. I'll get to talking to one person and it's awesome to go make a connection with people and still see the hard work I put in in the barn pay off. I feel like it is still fun because of the competitiveness. You will never be at the Iowa State Fair and see a show that isn't competitive. This year I did win the Muscatine County Fair Queen which I was excited about and then they handed me the information and I see that the entire queen contest runs throughout the FFA show. So I sadly cannot show my lambs at the state fair because of all the stuff that I will be doing throughout the queen contest; but I am excited for this and it's a new opportunity that I can't wait to go experience. FFA has given me so many opportunities and I am not ready to be done with it. I'm not ready to be done showing lambs or be done being involved in my community. I will show until I'm 21. I'll show until they kick me out.

[Bill] Tonight, we will see how much you know about the Iowa State Fair with some trivia questions. Some of you might have politics on your mind so let's see if you know, "How many sitting presidents have visited the Iowa State Fair?" Not candidates, but presidents who held the office when they visited the fair. We will bring you the answer later. Right now, we are checking in with some 4-H members practicing their skills in preparation for the 4-H Horse Show. It's time for them to show off what they learned.

[Woman] The 4-H Horse Show has a long tradition of being here and this year we have 196 horses entered and about 168 exhibitors. Over 98 of those are seniors, the 9th through 12th graders. And about 67 of those kids are the junior age group. Today in our livestock Pavilion we have the 5th through 8th graders, so we have the junior age group kids who have to be 10 years old to about 13 or 14. That's the age group we will look at. Most practice every day. It's a lot of time and effort. It's hard and it gets very stressful when they start to show.

[Sarah Schobert, Judge] In terms of first impression for the exhibitors it will depend on what class we are judging. Some of the classes will be showmanship, walk/trot, hunter under saddle and equitation. For showmanship, for instance, those exhibitors will be with their horse in hand. They will be walking on the ground. It's all about their ability to handle and control their horse at halter. I am looking for someone who looks confident because that is the first thing I want somebody to think about as they come into the ring with a 1200 pound animal. That they look like they are in charge of their horse and then after that I look at their ability to perform a pattern of directions specifically and correctly. That the horse gets along easily and quickly and that they are basically having a conversation together that looks invisible to me. 

We'll be judging English walk/trot. We are looking at the horse at this class. The horse's ability to perform all the gates that the judge calls. Some other things we will be looking at is the horse's brokeness. Are they easily controlled? Do they have a lot of manners? Then, we'll look at consistency. Do they stay at the same pace the whole time within their gate that they are shown as well as their frame? Is their frame always in the same spot? That will be their head and neck carriage and where they are staying between the reins? Finally, we'll consider the horse's quality of movement at those certain gates that we are judging on. Are they long strided or do they cover a lot of ground at the trot which is going to make them more athletic?

In the pony English walk/trot today it will be really similar to the English walk/trot. The same criteria. The difference is we will have horses that are 14.2 hands or shorter. A hand is four inches. They are smaller packaged horses, labeled as ponies. We still look for athletic ponies. Ponies that have a lot of manners that can easily suit their riders, but still a long length of stride since this is an English-based class.

The Hunter Under Saddle today will move the horses up into a canter. This will be kind of like a slow gallop for the horse. It will be a faster gait than what you will see in some of the other classes like the walk/trot and so that is one asking for a higher degree of difficulty from the riders to sit a faster gait but also the horse is to perform a harder task that is more athletic. The canter is an important gait for English horses. Eventually that will be the gait they show if they will jump courses and fences.

[Woman] It's never going to go away. What little kid doesn't love horses? You can do lots of things besides ride it. Show it. Some of us still use a horse to work cattle. It's a really great bond and Iowa loves their horses so these kids work hard with their projects. They love them. They come back here year after year.

[Bill Riley] We will tell you the history of our great Iowa State Fair every night this year. And tonight we are going to tell you a little bit about how the Midway got its start.

(Crowd gathered in front of a tent for the "Paris Dancing Girls" act)

[Bill] When the fair was first organized in the 1800s, it was a strictly educational exhibition. It was a place for farmers to come together and learn from each other. Attractions and sideshows were set up outside the grounds.

(Man stands next to a four-tier display of large pumpkins, squash and other vegetables)

(Display booths for Cereals, Alfalfa and Forage and Root Crops)

[Chris Rasmussen, Historian] And then the people organizing the fair realized that in order to attract people to the fair it might be advantageous to have more entertainment.

[Bill] The fair realized they were not making money from the things that happened outside the fence, so they invited the sideshows inside, but in their own section, the Midway.

(Woman with snake draped on her shoulders)

(Fairgoers ride, and stand in line to ride, on a Ferris wheel and carousel)

[Thomas Leslie] The Midway is one of the most fascinating stories about the fair and it too goes back to the 1893 exposition in Chicago. The Midway at the Columbian Exposition was a park where the city let just kind of anyone come and sell anything. The first Ferris wheel is part of the Chicago Midway. The Midway at the state fair was designed exactly for that, to bring in outside vendors, to make money by renting space to them and to basically let the vendors do almost whatever they wanted to make money off of fairgoers.

(A rollercoaster, carousel and rides "The Whip" and "Ye Old Mill" pictured on the Midway)

[Leo Landis, State Historical Society of Iowa] Games of chance are coming in as well, though Iowans have a long fear of gambling and in fact, Bingo was illegal in Iowa through the 1970s. So, gambling may be taking place, but even games of chance are viewed with moral concern.

(Children ride in cars in a circle while eating ice cream, a double Ferris wheel spins in the background, a tent advertises a Lady Sword Swallower)

[Bill] The Midway was an exciting place in those days. A place to experience things that were new, exotic and strange. Some people though thought it went too far.

(Sign reads "Adults Only")

[Thomas] Burlesque began to be a big Midway draw, one that of course drew a lot of controversy and a lot of anger about the slipping morality of the fair.

[Leo] In the 1930s, there's a burlesque dancer, Jade Rhodora.

(Rhodora appears in a newspaper wearing a wrap and showing a lot of skin) 

In 1935, a legislator from Le Mars has heard that she is taking off all her clothes and this is terribly scandalous. And when you want to talk about cheap entertainment, there are naked women in a show at the Iowa State Fair? And the Des Moines Register and the Des Moines Tribute both run photos of Ms. Rhodora. And even those photos that run in the newspaper are pretty scandalous for 1935. So, you've got this period where you want to have wholesome entertainment, but the boundaries are being pushed in different ways, even through the 1920s, 1930s at the Iowa State Fair.

[Bill] Today, we can all agree that the Midway is nostalgic and thrilling. The contents of the Midway have changed, but the rides, games and attractions continue. More than 100 years later, you can still enjoy a ride on the old Ferris Wheel.

[Brooke Kohlsdorf] Every four years a presidential race lands here at the Iowa State Fair. We caught up with some of the national and international media who came to see what it's all about. 

[Nora Savosnick, Aftonbladet, Sweden] I am a photojournalist from a Swedish newspaper and we are here to cover the Iowa State Fair.

[Brooke] Is this your first time at the fair?

[Nora] It is my first time at the fair and also my first time in Iowa.

[Brooke] What are your thoughts or observations so far?

[Nora] So many things to do, as much as politics. We were here until late last night. My thoughts? Great diversity. The food is great. The people are great. Yeah.

[David Smith, The Guardian, U.K.] It's terrific. It's my first day ever at the Iowa State Fair and it's a lot of fun. I see why people say it's all about food. There is plenty of that. It's my kind of food. It's a hot day and you can see I'm overdressed. It's not hard to spot the first timer. For a lot of our readers in Europe and Australia and elsewhere, it's quirky and eccentric. The rest of the world watches this, fascinated. Iowa and the Iowa State Fair plays a huge role in deciding who will be the most powerful person in the world and of the Commander in Chief of the most awesome military in the world. For a while this is the center of the universe.

[Lisa Desjardins, PBS News Hour] I think what I want is a fried pickle dog with ham and spicy cream cheese.

[Server 5] Okay.

[Lisa] There is nothing like this that I cover. Everyone says it's the Super Bowl or this or that. It's not even worth comparing, because the Iowa State Fair with the history and the importance - it's really good. And also just the sheer diversity, fun, delicious and a wacky stuff that happens at this fair, so it's special. It's a lot like covering Congress in that you are constantly running around. You're much better off with comfortable shoes. You have to be ready for things to change immediately and people who seem nice might not always be nice but people who may seem mean are generally nice. In that way it's like Congress, but it's a lot more laid-back.

[David] I do think it's important. It's good that the presidency, at least partly, depends on this retail politics and one-on-one interactions. Candidates being able to hold a conversation and look voters in the eye and talk about that which matters. That's part of the power of Iowa. Many Iowans take politics extremely serious and are very knowledgeable. They know the drill in a way that your average citizen does not.


[Bill] When you visit the fair, do you enter any of the contests? There are so many choices. Here are some of the top winners.

Fine Art - Adult Acrylic/Tempera

  • 1st Place - Svetlana Van Wyk, Sully
  • 2nd Place - Marcia Kruse, Lansing
  • 3rd Place - Paul Marlow, Cedar Rapids

Fine Art - Adult Drawing

  • 1st Place - Mary Ann Marvel, Osage
  • 2nd Place - Mate Whetstone, Ames
  • 3rd Place - Micalah Meets, Bondurant

Fine Art - Adult Jewelry

  • 1st Place - Audrey Stirling, Runnells
  • 2nd Place - Kimberly Fuller, Oxford

Fine Art - Adult Pottery

  • 1st Place - Li Zhang, Ames
  • 2nd Place - Kirk Niehouse, Marshalltown
  • 3rd Place - Caroline Freeze, Indianola

Horseshoe Pitching, Farmer's Championship

  • Ron Rowley, West Des Moines
  • Tom Cranston, Keswick
  • Richard Cranston, Keswick
  • Steve Hatch, Knoxville
  • Chris Jordan, Peru

Apiary - Observation Hive

  • 1st Place - Back Forty Honey, Grinnell
  • 2nd Place - Dean Johnson, Merrill

Apiary - White Extracted Honey

  • 1st Place - Storybook Honey, Charles City
  • 2nd Place - Country View Honey, Dubuque
  • 3rd Place - Emily Carrington, Ankeny

Apiary - Light Amber Extracted Honey

  • 1st Place - Back Forty Honey, Grinnell
  • 2nd Place - Joel Faircloth, Toledo
  • 3rd Place - Lakeside Bees and Markets, Altoona

Apiary - Amber Extracted Honey

  • 1st Place - Back Forty Honey, Grinnell
  • 2nd Place - Wearmouth Apiary, Saint Charles
  • 3rd Place - Ted Maybee, Corydon

Youth Decorated Cakes - Sculpted

  • 1st Place - Chloe Nissen, Waterloo

Youth Decorated Cakes - Single Cake

  • 1st Place - Emmaline Walz, Marion

Youth Decorated Cakes - Tiered

  • 1st Place - Claire Tigers, Wake
  • 2nd Place - Brooklyn Walz, Marion
  • 3rd Place - Elin Fales, West Des Moines

Best Grocery Bagger

  • 1st Place - Harrison Dahm, Denison
  • 2nd Place - Aliciah Vasquez, Des Moines
  • 3rd Place - Dave Peterson, Woodward
  • 4th Place - Matt Moore, Ankeny

[Bill] Well, it's already time for a short break, but stay with us because we have a lot more. When we come back we will head to the Sheep Barn to see these fluffy fellas get a really fast haircut. We will also see how painters capture the spirit of the fair. We'll find out what secrets wait to be discovered at the Iowa State Fair Museum. So, don't go far. We'll be right back with all of that and much more from the great Iowa State Fair here on Iowa PBS.

There was some amazing talent on the Riley Stage today. Here are the young Iowans advancing from today's competition. We'll bring you the Talent Championships here on Iowa PBS Sunday, August 20 at 8pm.

Sprouts Semifinalists 

  • Emily Weiss, 11, and Mae Whipple, 12, Burlington, Tap Duet
  • Aria Telander, 18, Grimes, Lyrical Dance Solo
  • Vivian Speck, 9, Dayton, Vocal Solo
  • Mara Henn, 11, West Des Moines, Ballet Solo
  • Madden Oliver, 11, Milo, Vocal Solo with Sign Language

Senior Semifinalists

  • Lucy Gannon, 17, West Des Moines, Piano Solo
  • Makayla Beisel, 16, Clarion, Contemporary Dance Solo
  • Hannah Thomas, 18, Little Sioux, Vocal and Guitar Solo
  • Michael Widjaja, 19, Sergeant Bluff, Cornet Solo
  • Alyssa Speck, 18, Dayton, and Leo Loeffler, 15, Gowrie, Musical Theater Vocal Duet
  • Kaelyn Townsley, 15, Winfield, Tap Dance Solo

[Bill] Welcome back everyone to our first night of Fair 2023. It's great to be here and to be part of such a long standing tradition. This year, the opening day of the fair is dedicated to honor the EMTs, fire and rescue, police officers and paramedics that serve our communities. An opportunity for all of us to recognize their contributions and show them just how much we appreciate their hard work.

[Charity Nebbe] It's Heroes Day at the Iowa State Fair. An opportunity to recognize the many first responders that help Iowans out throughout the year. Today, there are displays in many different locations. You can learn about different aspects of law enforcement. There are some incredible, historical artifacts including this 1935 Iowa State Patrol vehicle.


[Sgt. Alex Dinkla] You know. Lots of people want to refer to us as heroes. We are not the hereos. We are just everyday people. Yes, we do wear a badge, but our thing that we love to do is, we love to provide a great service to Iowans. Serve the communities that we work in and live in. Being here today is just another way that we do that.

[Officer] Because these dogs are incredibly hard working and they illustrate the work ethic that both Orin Pate and Sgt. Jim Smith have.

[Sgt. Dinkla] The whole purpose of that is so that we can interact with the public. We love to shake hands. Take photos. Here we are handing out a lot of trooper hats. So we are flooding the Iowa State Fair with young kids or even adults that wanted to wear a trooper hat. Like they have always said that they want to do. We are handing those out. We just like to interact with the community on a day-to-day basis.

[Trooper] My car breaks down. You call a buddy up to get me. Bring me somewhere.

[Man] Glad he did it. Thank you.

[Trooper] Yep. Thank you guys.

[Charity] You are here with the State Patrol, but you are partnering with other agencies.

[Sgt. Dinkla] The one thing about Heroes Day is it unites all of us together. So, we are here at the fair. Many people from all over the world are here. Well, we have many different agencies here.

[Charity] So obviously the fire truck is a pretty big draw. What do you want people to learn from this interaction?

[Dennis Barrick, Iowa Falls Firefighter] That fire trucks are something they need to have some respect for. When they see those flashing lights going they know there's an emergency. And also, it gives the kids a safe impression. We're there as a friend for them. We're there to help them. It's fun to see they want to drive. Something big for them. Something important to them.

[Charity] Thank you so much.

[Dennis] You're welcome. Glad to be here. Thank you.

[Charity] So, you are out here on the Grand Concourse. You have a tremendous display of vehicles. People who watched the Iowa State Fair parade also saw your vehicles in the parade, and this is such a fun opportunity for people to see the cars they remember from their childhood, or maybe they've only seen pictures of. Tell me a little bit about the fleet you brought.

[Sgt. Dinkla] That's one thing that's fun. We have done this for a number of years. We've brought some of our archived vehicles out here. It's a fun time because yes, we get to hear all of the stories of "I remember back when I was in high school..." or "When I was a kid..." 60-year-old folks telling us this. All ages and walks of life are telling us these stories. We still keep our history around to make sure we remember that, and we know where we came from and why we were brought about. That's something that we strive our best to do. Investigate crashes and try to make people safe on our roadways.

[Charity] It is so great to see so many first responders out here at the Iowa State Fair. Of course, bonus. Fire trucks. We are on our way.

[Alex Moser] Hi everyone, we are here at the 2023 Iowa State Fair Sheep Shearing Contest in Des Moines, Iowa. We are hoping to have a good show today. We have the sheep ready. The competitors are all getting ready, and we are about to start.

[Judge] Go!


[Alex M.] We have four different divisions here today based on the shearers level. Juniors, which is under 18. Intermediates, which is shearers that don't shear full time. And then we have the open or senior professional division, which is full time sheep shearers. New, last year, they had a golden age so that is shearers that are close to retirement but still shear a little bit and just want to come compete for fun.

[Rocky Anderson, Griswold] I've been shearing 50 years.

[Host] What do you think about when you are up there competing?

[Rocky] Whether or not I'm going to finish the job, at this age.


[Katie McRose, Seguin Texas] I have competed several years prior to this. I didn't compete last year, but I'm back. I'm going to be competing in the senior division for the first time. I am nervous every time I shear. If you're not nervous, you are not human, right? It used to be pretty rare for women to shear sheep, but now the sheep shearing art is really dying out. Average age of a shearer is somewhere around 50. So, we don't have a lot of youth coming in. But, we do have a lot more women coming in and that is very exciting to see. I have been doing this since I was 14. When I was 14 there weren't a lot of women in the industry. But now, 15 years later, we are starting to see a lot more women.


[Katie] I would not be surprised if you saw some 60 second sheep today, for sure. Two of the gentlemen that are competing today actually represented Team USA in Scotland this year at the Olympics of Sheep Shearing in Edinburgh, Scotland. They are going to be here. They are going to be some tough competition. Everyone is gearing up for the Sheep Shearing Olympics that comes again in 2026. We have to start gaining points, and the Iowa State Fair is a place where we will gain some points.

[Alex M.] Both of the U.S. team members are here. Myself and Nolan Abel. We are both from Iowa this time which is kind of neat. We ended up the 11th place team out of 29 countries that showed up. The sheep have been selected over thousands of years to grow wool. That's what they have been made for. That wool will just keep growing. Typically, you want to shear them at least once a year. Otherwise, the wool gets so long it affects how they get around. Affects their health. It's not sanitary. They don't shower everyday.


[Scott Carlson, Owner/Operator Iowa Craft Beer Tent] The Iowa Craft Beer tent. Yeah, we started out at a different location. We grew here about three years ago. This year we have 247 different taps of beer that we are going to have. We have 86 different Iowa breweries. I just thought the Iowa State Fair should have some Iowa craft beer. That's all I kind of thought about. When people come to visit the Iowa State Fair, they should try something from Iowa. At least a beer from Iowa. A few years ago, the fair board and the concessionaire and the manager said "Hey, we can move you guys? You kind of out grew your space." When the fair brought us down here, we saw the space. We saw that we could really build a nice size tent. It turned out great. We are physically 3 times bigger than when we first started. Just the tent. But, now we have the expansion on the sidewalks into some grass.

[Garrett Carlson, Ames] For anyone who was here the day of the storm last year, that big rain storm. We got pretty flooded in here. A muddy mess.

[Scott] A gentleman named Tim Malicoat said, "You know what would be great in here? Concrete. I'll get it done." The Ready Mix Association and the Concrete Association donated the concrete, about 14,000 square feet of concrete. It has been amazing to see the growth.

[Garrett] We don't have to have any worries about the rain, and it is really nice to clean up spills. It's a great feeling.

[Scott] You'll see couches. We do live music every night from 7pm to 11pm. Great music. We have lots of fans. Lots of shade. We really are an oasis within the fair. We are just far enough away that they can kind of chill. You will see it all.

[Garrett] The best thing is everyone is really happy here. I love being around happy people. People who want to have a good time, and people who want to try new things and ask questions. The volunteers are great. It is just a great atmosphere to be in. It is wonderful to have so many people here enjoying our Iowa Craft Beer Tent and having a good time at the fair. It's just really a good sight.

[Scott] Every tap is different. When a keg is empty or gets tapped. That would be disappointing to somebody, especially if you had waited in line to get your beer and you are thirsty and you are really excited about that beer. We didn't want that customer to be disappointed so what we decided to do is when that happens, they win a t-shirt, and it says "I tapped it at the Iowa State Fair." Kegs are going to be popping, right. You are going to be hearing that bullhorn go off. We got one, or we got two, or we got three...

[Garrett] What's up Iowa Craft Beer Tent? You know what that means. I'm here with Bruce and he just tapped the Bikini Bottom Pineapple Wheat. He gets a free shirt. Let's give him a round of applause. Cheers.

[Scott] And so they are the only ones who can get that t-shirt. No one can buy them. Right. You only can win them. And people get excited about it.

[Vinicious Velho] Right now, I just ordered a Hefeweizen. I was like yeah, I'll have one of these light beers. It's hot out. Great day for good beer. I was ordering the beer and then all of a sudden the keg just popped. Awesome. Then all of a sudden I have a shirt. That was great.

[Scott] It's so wonderful to see Iowa support Iowa beer.


[Bill] And now for the answer to our question which was, "How many sitting presidents have visited the Iowa State Fair?" And that can be a little tricky because so many presidential hopefuls have visited in recent years. But, the answer actually is 4. Dwight Eisenhower visited in 1954. Gerald Ford in 1975. George W. Bush in 2002, and Barack Obama in 2012. 

Our next segment is about creating connections and opportunities in the Swine Barn. Our own Abby Brown shows us how.

[Abby Brown] The Swine Barn is absolutely buzzing. Squealing with excitement for Bacon Buddies. It is a bunch of fine swine, a couple of dozen 4-H and FFA members teamed up with some special olympians.

[Cody Reineke, Massena] We have to go get you a bath.

[Girl 1] This way.

[Girl 2] Here on the side. Perfect.

[Girl 1] Good job.

[Abby] Tell us about Bacon Buddies.

[John Kliegl, President and CEO Special Olympics Iowa] Bacon Buddies is a partnership with the Iowa Pork Producers and Special Olympics. It is an inclusive pig show. It provides an opportunity for our Special Olympics athletes to partner with a 4-H or FFA member and get into the show ring and show their skills on showing livestock. I had children who did 4-H and FFA, and I have a daughter with special needs, and she was never able to participate. An FFA member from Earlham, Iowa, Kylee Brown came up with this idea. It actually started in Wisconsin on a much smaller scale and then a group of FFA members from Earlham traveled up there and said, "We have to do this in Iowa." Iowa State Fair being what Iowa State Fair is after 2019, my phone rang off the hook from Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, everywhere from all over. You will see tonight. There will be grown men crying from excitement. You see the agricultural world step up and accept our athletes as equals. Provides them the opportunity to be on the same stage.

[Woman on loudspeaker] There are 4 exhibitors in our first...

[Kylee Brown, Earlham] When I was a sophomore in high school, there was this little girl who showed pigs on the Iowa Jackpot Circuit. She had intellectual developmental disabilities. It was really inspiring to see. I sat back and wondered why we didn't see that within our industry. I talked with the people who put the one on at the Wisconsin State Fair show. They gave me awesome direction. It is so great to see county fairs taking it on now. It's not just with pigs. It's sheep. It's goats. Many different people are taking it on.

[Taylor Rohing] It is so great to see all of the smiles around the barns. Everybody happy.

[Abby] And you have a future participant in your family, can you tell me about her?

[Taylor] My sister is 6 years old. She has Down Syndrome. I am super excited because she will start the Special Olympics in a couple of years.

[Abby] Cody, what did you learn today?

[Cody] I learned about the pig. I washed the pig. I fed the pig. I walked the pig. I did have fun, yeah.

[Karen Thies, Mother of Participant - Polk County] He loves animals. He loves car washes. He loves people. He loves singing. When I was telling him that he was going to come and meet a pig he was so excited to give the pig a car wash. The smiles that we saw today were some of the biggest smiles that we have seen. He has had a lot of health issues over his lifetime. Just to see those smiles and how happy he was. Amazing.

[Blair Ryan] Everyone knows that the Iowa State Fair is picturesque, but wait until you see it on canvas.

[Paul Marlow] I have been doing the Plein Air competition... It has been so long I don't remember. It's a competition but also a chance for fellow artists to get together and have fun in an icon of Iowa history, which is the state fair.

[Kara Berhow, Fine Arts Superintendent] It is a French word. But really, it just means painting outdoors. Experiencing all the real and natural light that comes from being outdoors. And, trying to put that down on the canvas. We paint and create art in real time.


[Nancy Mueller, West Des Moines] I just thought it would be fun. I've done some Plein Air before in the Amana Colonies. I like to paint in pastels. I like to do water colors, and that's what I'm doing right now.

[Daniel Adams, Eldora] I like to experiment. Right now, I'm just laying in a background, an underpainting. Blocking it in. I started my art career professionally at Walt Disney World. I started there and I was there for the opening day. I did portraits on Main Street USA and worked my way up and became head of the art department there. Now, I'm living up in Eldora. Beautiful. Small town Iowa. Love it there. And this. This is the epitome of Iowa. The Iowa State Fair. How cool is this?

[Kara] This year, there are 9 participants going today and 8 participants on the 12th. After that we will have voting for everyone who comes along and use the artwork and the winner receives a prize.

[Nancy] The important part, I think, is the composition. That takes the longest time to do. Because if I just start painting, I don't know how it will turn out; and some artists do it that way. I like to have a plan. Like, I like that flower that's behind you. I'm putting that in, but that could be anywhere. Then I have the funnel cakes and the corn dogs behind you.

[Paul M.] In Plein Air painting, if you are painting from life, the light changes constantly, and so a lot of artists like me will take a quick photo. I've got one on my iPad. And, I'll refer to that when handling shadows, lights and darks. There's nothing better than being right in front of what you are painting. Nobody said I should paint a fire hydrant when I'm surrounded by these classic antique tractors, but it needed to be painted, so that's what I ended up doing.

[Kara] I think that the fair is a lot of people's favorite thing about the summer in Iowa. So being involved with that, in any capacity, is great. Being able to share art with other Iowans is huge. People come to the fair to see the big pig, the big bull. But they don't always think about the very talented artists living right here in this state. And that they can see them creating the art right in the moment, it's pretty cool.

[Blair] Clearly the sights and sounds of the fair have inspired these artists. Is there something here that inspires you?


[Emily Wynn, Agriculture Education Coordinator] We are at Night at the Museum which is our Fair After Dark event. Night at the Museum is a time for adults 21 and over to check out the museum and have a drink and try out our state fair cocktail that we have for tonight. 

[Bartender] As long as it has whisky in it, whatever else you put in it will be fine, right? 

[Emily] They get to come up and learn something in the museum. All after dark.


[Melisa Medina, Bristol, Rhode Island] It's kind of fun, actually. Sit. Come to the fair. Have a few drinks. Rock in a rocker on the front porch. Sounds really great to me. And then I got here, and it's trivia, and I'm a trivia nerd so...


[Melisa] Oh, I love history. I am a mathematician by trade, but history is something I love. I love seeing the historic tractors in Pioneer Hall and everything else, it has been great. This is going to be a good chance for me to walk around and see everything.


[Francisco Gonzalez] We saw the Fair After Dark advertised and thought it would be cool to have a couple drinks and learn history about the Iowa State Fair and there is a scavenger hunt, it's kind of fun.


[Francisco] All right, one more.

[Emily] After Dark has been going on for about four years and we have rotated through different areas. We did the Animal Learning Center and the Food Center and this year it was the museum. We have all kinds of fun, interactive locations all across the fairgrounds and this is our way to highlight those. Not only do we have the animal barns and the Grandstand, but we also have a museum. It's really fun because there are people that have come to every single one of them so this is like their tradition at the Iowa State Fair. They come to the fair After Dark and have a great time from 8:30 to 10:30 at night.


[Francisco] I had never been to Iowa before and it's now the 40th state I have visited, and I thought there is no better place to come than the fair. This is amazing. America at its finest.

[Stephanie Holmes, Nashville Tennessee] Love it, love it. It's Americana, love it.

[Bill] You know, setting up for the fair begins days, even weeks before the fair starts. We set up a camera to capture the dramatic transformation of the Midway.


[Bill] It's hard to believe we have already come to the end of our first hour of fair highlights, but do not worry, there is more to come. We will be on the fairgrounds all week gathering all the fair stories you have come to expect and love; and we have a few new surprises in store. We also know many of you have a tradition of watching our fair highlight programs, and we want to make sure you have all of our state fair coverage at your very fingertips. 

You can check out our website and our YouTube channel as well as our Facebook and Instagram pages. There you can get daily doses of state fair fun. There are several ways you can engage with us about our beloved Iowa State Fair, anytime and anywhere. 

Now for tomorrow night's show. Prepare to be impressed by this year's big animals. Get ready to meet the fair's new CEO and find out which county queen will be crowned the queen of the Iowa State Fair. Thank you for being here everyone. It's wonderful to be back here bringing you the best our state has to offer. Be sure to join us tomorrow night for more highlights from our great Iowa State Fair. Until then, I'm Bill Riley and have fun at the fair.

(Fair 2023 Credits Roll)

  • Host - Bill Riley
  • Executive Producer - Cameron McCoy
  • Producer - Theresa Knight
  • Editors/Production Assistants - Julie Knutson, Sean Ingrassia
  • Segment Producers - Judy Blank, Patrick Boberg, Dan Bolsem, Laurel Bower, Tyler Brinegar, Josh Buettner, Andrea Coyle, Travis Graven, Deb Herbold, Emily Kestel, Colleen Krantz, David Miller, John Torpy, Peter Tubbs, Paul Yeager
  • Videographers - Matt Clark, Darrin Clouse, Scott Faine, Eric Gooden, Kenny Knutson, Adam Welch
  • Editors - Neal Kyer, Kevin Rivers
  • Audio - David Feingold, Sean Ingrassia
  • Technical Director - Neal Kyer
  • Camera - Melanie Campbell, Sarah Currier, Joshua Woolcott
  • Engineer in Charge - Kevin Rivers
  • Field Reporters - Abby Brown, Travis Graven, Brooke Kohlsdorf, Dana Lain, Charity Nebbe, Blair Ryan, Aaron Steil, Paul Yeager
  • Motion Graphics - Brent Willett
  • Production Assistance - Tiffany Clouse
  • Production Supervisor - Chad Aubrey
  • Graphics - Kate Bloomburg, Joe Bustad
  • Creative Director - Alisa Dodge
  • Digital Team - Danny Engesser, Abby Friedmeyer, Randy Garza, Bryon Houlgrave, Emily Peterson
  • Communications Team - Caryline Clark, Matt Clark, Bo Dodge, Laura Noehren, Hayley Schaefer, Dan Wardell
  • Communications Manager - Sarah Lewis
  • Engagement Manager - Caryliine Clark
  • Programming & Operations Manager - Matthew McPike
  • Director of Communications - Susan Ramsey
  • Director of Emerging Media - Taylor Shore
  • Director of Programming & Production - Andrew Batt
  • Executive Director & General Manager - Molly Phillips

[Announcer] Funding for Fair 2023 is brought to you by Friends. The Iowa PBS Foundation and by:

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My name is Dr. Cara Haden. I’m super passionate about animal welfare. There’s a lot of pigs that rely on me to train their caregivers. What we focus on in our training is encouraging our caregivers to understand that what they think and what they do matters.