The Evolution of the Iowa State Fair's Grandstand

Our Great State Fair | Clip
Aug 3, 2023 | 1 min

Originally a timber structure like many of the older buildings on the fair, the Grandstand evolved over many years to become the monumental structure it is today.


[Narrator] There was also the need for a large gathering spot that could seat thousands of people and be home to different kinds of spectacles, concerts, demonstrations and races. The Grandstand became a focal point for the modernization of the fairgrounds.

[Thomas Leslie] Originally a timber structure, like many of the other older structures on the fair, it deteriorated, proved inadequate for the crowds and in the early 1900s they built the center section of the Grandstand, a steel structure, that was designed to be curved both so that everyone had a good view of the finish line and so that they could use it for concerts as a sort of an outdoor arena. In 1927, the Grandstand got extended to its present length and the steel structure was clad in this very monumental brick skin that was designed to be a memorial to Iowans who died in World War I. And to me that is an interesting story. It goes from being this kind of very rag tag event into something that really is one of the largest performance spaces not only in Des Moines, but in the state.