State prepares to flock to the fair

DES MOINES – Early birds could get much more than the worm as the Iowa State Fair opens Thursday in Des Moines.

The annual summer celebration that Iowans flock to will have an early opening – at 5 a.m. Thursday.

Visitors who come between 5 a.m. and 9 am. can enter into a contest on Expo Hill to possibly win cash prizes from the Iowa Lottery or tickets to the Aug. 16 Lady Antebellum country music grandstand show.

Those who don’t like to rise early will still have plenty of time to enjoy the fair, which runs through Aug. 17 with the theme “Amazingly Amusing.”

No doubt one of the best photo opportunities on the grounds this year will be at Seward Johnson’s “God Bless America” sculpture. It stands 25-feet high, weighs 5,900 pounds and depicts Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” couple. The styrofoam sculpture is located at the entrance to Pella Plaza on Rock Island Avenue and on display throughout the fair.

“Those who have seen it are impressed by its size and the detail of the sculpture,” said Lori Chappell, marketing director of the Iowa State Fair.

Speaking of sculptures, the iconic Butter Cow by Sarah Pratt returns this year and will be accompanied by a baseball-themed butter sculpture to honor the 25th anniversary of the release of the film “Field of Dreams.” The butter sculptures will be located in the John Deere Agriculture Building – just look for the long lines of people waiting to see them.

This year people can actually attempt to trim those waistlines instead of loosening a belt buckle at the fair. The Healthiest State Initiative is starting free exercise programs for all at 9:30 a.m. daily beginning Friday on Expo Hill. The exercises are different depending on the day and include yoga, Zumba and other ways to burn off those calories.

Speaking of calories, some new fair foods catching notice this year will be funnel cake on a stick, Caprese salad on a stick and chocolate covered bacon nougat on a stick.

As far as entertainment the fair has booked a wide array of acts – nearly 600 acts on seven stages.

So far this summer has been pretty mild weather-wise, but the fair has been known to bring out the heat in year’s past. When asked if she wants this mild weather to continue into the fair, Chappell said, “Absolutely.”