My first time going to the Iowa State Fair was on a visit to Des Moines in 2009. I am familiar with the county fair and state fair concept, having lived in the U.S. for over a decade now. However, I quickly learned that the Iowa State Fair is in a category unto itself. I don’t know how really to describe it. A carnival metropolis of people, animals, tourists, food, and music – all within the city limits of Des Moines? I quite honestly have never seen so many people in one place. And don’t get me started on “foods on a stick” – okay, my personal favorite is chocolate-dipped key lime pie.
I have been to the fair a couple of times since that first visit. We were just newly moved in this time last year, and I was still adjusting to my new home and city. This year though, I’m ready for the fair. I’m settled in. I know the lay of the land. I know how to get to Ye Olde Mill.
My 2012 fair week started off with my first ever East Sidenight. I didn’t know much about East Side night, other than the obvious of a get-together for East Side Des Moines-ians (my husband grew up on the East side). I did however hear through various friends and family (and the media) that it could get a little rough. My plan for that was to put on sturdier shoes – sandals instead of flip-flops. And turns out (unless I missed something dramatic) that’s all I really needed.
What I found instead of angry young men looking for a fight, was people of all ages, dancing and enjoying seeing each other, all with a plastic cup of Budweiser product in hand. And the music was a pretty good reflection of the age range, from Toni Basil’s “Mickey” to music that I didn’t quite recognize which must have meant it was current. The only thing that seemed out of the ordinary was seeing people smoke and drink. Instead of getting aggravated about inhaling second-hand smoke (yes, I’m one of those people) I decided to get nostalgic for the days of coming home from a club with my hair and all of my clothes being smoke-filled. I did notice a number of police and security present, and one young fellow being extracted from the crowd – for what reason I’m not sure. But that happens at most concerts and sports games these days. In the end, I had a great time.
This week, I’m taking a day off from my day job to take my daughter to the fair. She is still probably a bit on the young side to take it all in – and we won’t be going through the midway – but I imagine she will love seeing all of the animals. And I’ll just find more to love about the fair. Now where is that building with the dessert on a stick…