Iowa State Fair

Amy Mayer/IPR

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

John Pemble/IPR

Gun rights activists are renewing their call to allow firearms at the Iowa State Fair, after a violent incident on the fairgrounds Tuesday night.   

A man was stabbed and critically injured in a fight involving four young men on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds.    

On social media, the Iowa Firearms Coalition is urging the state legislature to end the ban.

"If the Iowa State Fair can't stop violent crime during the fair they should allow lawful citizens to adequately protect themselves,"  the organization wrote on Twitter.

John Pemble / IPR

Next year a newly-designed license plate will be available for Iowans.  Earlier this year, the governor's office asked for a new look for the plates. On the first day of the Iowa State Fair at the Department of Transportation’s booth, state officials unveiled three designs.  Gov. Kim Reynolds was on hand for the unveiling, and said she likes what she sees.

“They’ve done a good job,” says Reynolds. “I really am grateful to the staff for really their expertise in being able to design this.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

The dairy show at the Iowa State Fair continues into Saturday and cows are milked throughout each day. All the milk collected this year at the fair will be dumped.

In years past, milk collected from dairy cows during the state fair was sold to a Des Moines area co-op for production into cheese. But this year, the longstanding buyer backed out and no one else stepped up.

Image courtesy of Boomsbeat

The Iowa State Fair is the state's signature annual event, attracting over one million visitors in each of the last two years, according to its website. Some of the fair's most notable events are the vegetable, fruit, and flower competitions; the winners of which receive the coveted blue ribbon. Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron, who judges the competitions, explains what he and the other judges look for when it comes to blue ribbon quality fruits and vegetables.

John Pemble / IPR

Today is the first day of Iowa State Fair. One new change this year is the fair is no longer using one contractor for all the amusement rides. This means the fair itself is now responsible for managing all of the rides.

"We're blending about 20 different companies together to make this midway," says State Fair CEO Gary Slater. "Other fairs that have done that, other events that have done that need, we needed an outside safety consultant, Wagoner and Associates, so that everybody is making sure of the same checklist every day and that we have our own Iowa State procedures."

Flickr / Phil Roeder

This year, the Iowa State Fair’s youngest thrill seekers will be able to enjoy rides and games away from the faster, taller, scarier rides that are geared towards older children or adults.

Thrill Town is designed for the families who are still pushing around strollers. The idea is to create a calm, kid-friendly atmosphere that’s away from attractions like the "Haunted Mansion" or "Spaceroller."

ISTOCKPHOTO

Media violence researchers at Iowa State University published a study this month that finds media violence affects aggressive behaviors across a variety of cultures. 

More than 2,100 participants from Australia, China, Croatia, Germany, Japan, Romania and the U.S. named three of their most frequently-watched or played TV shows, movies or video games, and then rated how often they used each title. Then researchers evaluated the violence level of the media, and contrasted that data with survey answers that looked at behaviors like physical aggression or arguing. 

John Pemble / IPR

Ten Iowans have been honored at the Iowa State Fair with governor’s Lifesaving Awards.  Two of those recipients are Craig Smith and Steve Neal from Mount Vernon.  Last March they were sitting next to their friend Adrain Ringold during a coffee club gathering. Ringold suddenly passed out and had no pulse.  Smith and Neal took him to the floor and began performing CPR.

Neal sang the classic disco hit “Stayin Alive” by the Bee Gees, while Smith began applying chest compressions.

John Pemble / IPR

A new work of art about the bond between horses and humans is at the Iowa State Fair in the century-old horse barn. Most of the 400 stalls are occupied by horses waiting for competitions, some with their human companions camping next to them, providing company and care.  At stall 406 is something different: a white fiberglass horse head hanging on a wooden mount illuminated by several work lights.

 

John Pemble / IPR

The 2016 Iowa State Fair got underway this morning with an opening ceremony at the newly-renovated Oman Family Youth Inn building.  It’s one of many fair facilities that’s been upgraded in recent years with funding from the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  Fair manager Gary Slater says since the foundation was formed 23 years ago, it has raised $125 million.

"We have completed many renovation projects, many new construction projects, that obviously would not have been possible without this public-private partnership that we have," says Slater.

John Pemble/IPR
John Pemble/IPR

There are enough state troopers roaming the Iowa State Fairgounds, so fairgoers don’t need to bring in their own weapons to protect themselves.     

That’s from Governor Branstad, commenting on the current ban on fairgoers carrying loaded guns, even  for those with concealed weapons permits.

Branstad says he supports the right to carry.

Flickr / slappytheseal

Iowa’s ban on live poultry exhibitions, swap meets, exotic sales, and other gatherings of birds is ending on New Year’s Day.

The final poultry operation that was infected with avian flu came out of quarantine this month, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says it considers gatherings of live birds to be safe now.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Immigration was a hot topic Saturday at the Iowa State Fair during Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie's time at the Political Soapbox.  Protesters often interrupted during their speeches.

As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal speaks, a group of 25 protesters chant while holding a sign saying "citizenship now."  The Republican presidential candidate says their activism is financed by big business interests.

John Pemble/IPR

At night, a woman holds a tired child while looking at the glowing lights of rides from the Iowa State Fair's Midway. 8/20/2015 Photo by John Pemble

Photo by John Pemble

Every hour, thousands of people walk up and down the Grand Concourse at the Iowa State Fair.  Near the curb of this busy street is the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox, a small unassuming stage surrounded by hay bales.  This is where invited presidential candidates speak for 20 minutes about anything they want.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz delivered one red meat applause line after another to a receptive crowd today at the Des Moines Register soapbox at the Iowa State Fair.  

Cruz is  running for the Republican nomination for president.   Like other conservative candidates, he wants to dismantle most of the federal government, repeal Obamacare, and secure the borders.   

He says the fatal shooting of servicemembers at recruiting centers in Tennessee should never happen again.

John Pemble/IPR

During the hot days of the Iowa State Fair, kids cool off in a mist of water. 8/20/2015 Photo by John Pemble

Photo by John Pemble

Des Moines artist Ben Schuh was commissioned by the Iowa State Fair to create a mural on site during the 11-day event.  He is elevated 10 feet in the air by a motorized scaffolding, so he can work on the details of his drawing of the State Capitol and landscapes filled with wind turbines.  These are a few of the Iowa scenes on a 14-by-12 foot painting.  

John Pemble/IPR

Hannah Wickham’s ribbons in her guitar case for performing on the Bill Riley Stage.  It’s the Mt. Pleasant 18-year-old’s first time playing at the Iowa State Fair. 8/17/2015 Photo by John Pemble

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Among other things, the Iowa State Fair is identified with its buildings: from the enormous Grandstand to the dignified Pioneer Hall. Officials have launched a campaign to restore one of the fair's most unlikely architectural treasurers: the Sheep Barn. Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen has the story.

The brick barn dates back to 1915 and hundreds of thousands of curious fairgoers, if not millions, have walked through the sprawling shelter to gawk, some of them with video cameras rolling.

Joyce Russell/IPR file

Florida Senator Marco Rubio spoke to a rain soaked audience at the Iowa State Fair Tuesday.  The Republican presidential candidate kept his appearance on the Des Moines Register Soapbox state brief because of the weather. Rubio used just half his allotted time of 20 minutes. He stuck to his standard stump speech including the story about his Cuban immigrant parents and their work ethic.

John Pemble/IPR

A 1972 Allis Chalmers is one of many restored tractors at Iowa State Fair as part of the Future Farmers of America Ag Mechanics show. 8/15/2015 Photo by John Pemble

Joyce Russell/IPR

  Ohio Governor and Republican candidate for President John Kasich attracted a crowd of about a hundred people at the Iowa State Fair today, taking his turn on the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox.      

Rain forced the event inside.  

Kasich is appealing to moderates rather than conservatives in the race for the Republican nomination.

“I ran for office because I thought I could make a difference,” Kasich says.   “I’m a Republican but it has always been my vehicle and never been my master.”  

Photo by John Pemble

There is no shortage of veterinarians for house pets, but in some rural areas of the United States there aren’t enough veterinarians to go around for livestock.  A program called Vet Camp at the Iowa State Fair recognizes this problem and it is doing something to encourage youth to explore veterinary medicine on the farm as a career. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham touted his 33-year military career as one reason he should be elected commander-in chief during a stop at the Iowa State Fair Monday.

He told a crowd at the Register’s soapbox American troops were withdrawn from Iraq way too soon.

“Thirty-five-hundred soldiers on the ground is not enough we need about 10,000," he says. "We need a couple of aviation battalions to take the fight to ISIL. We’re going to need embedders and trainers at the battalion level. We’re going to need air controllers to drop bombs on the right people."

John Pemble/IPR

First place winning Janie Orange and Safari Orange Marigold flowers are on display in the Agriculture Building along with other varieties of colorful petals. 8/14/2015 Photo by John Pemble. 

John Pemble/IPR

Two more Republican presidential hopefuls spoke to Iowa State Fair crowds this morning.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took on members of a Wisconsin labor union, while former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina chose to use nearly all of her allotted 20-minutes taking questions from the crowd.

During Walker’s speech on the Des Moines Register Soapbox stage, members of a Wisconsin labor union began heckling the Wisconsin Governor who’s known for stripping bargaining rights from state employees. Walker told the protesters he’s not intimidated by them.

MIchael Leland/IPR

Here's what you'll see if you drop by where poultry is usually displayed at the Iowa State Fair's Avenue of Breeds.  Poultry was barred from the fair this year because of concerns over avian flu.  It's the first time since 1904 there's been no...real poultry at the fair. Photo by Michael Leland, 8/16/15

John Pemble/IPR

With the higher-profile candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders gone from the Iowa State Fair Sunday, the crowds waiting to see or hear presidential hopefuls were noticeably smaller.

Still, Republican Ben Carson delivered his speech from the Des Moines Register soapbox before a crowd of several hundred that spilled across the Grand Concourse from the stage area.  Carson said putting aside partisan bickering will give Americans the opportunity to solve serious problems, like the national debt.  He says it threatens to destroy the future for America’s children.

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