Editor’s note: This column originally published Aug. 8, 2016.
The corn dogs are battered and already in the fryer at one food vendor on the Iowa State Fair Grand Concourse.
We love to take walks in the evening through the 445-acre fairgrounds, especially as fair draws closer. Betsy and I were not more than a minute into our stroll Tuesday night and a wedged-capped server at one of the multiple corn dog stands asked a family sitting on a wooden bench if they needed two or three of their breaded delights on a stick.
Every night we go out to the fairgrounds from now until opening day, more food booths, midway rides and exhibits will pop up. Tuesday evening’s corn dog vendor opened early to serve other fair entrepreneurs and early campers as they prepped for the greatest fair on Earth.
Just up the concourse the wood smoker at a permanent pork chop stand was lit, giving the fairgrounds a scent of campsite. At the old-style ice cream parlor, the boarded windows had been replaced with red and white stripped awnings and a paper mache blue ribbon behind the display glass. Inside, tables and iron-legged stools were stacked waiting for someone to sit down with the first state fair scoop of 2016.
In late July and early August, the Iowa State Fairgrounds transforms. Fountains which sit idle for 11 months of the year begin to flow, buildings that are vacant suddenly fill with activity and stands that serve every food imaginable — most fried and on a stick — set up shop.
During our latest walk, grounds crews just finished for the evening at the 4-H dorms, laying sod after a new parking lot was poured and a paint job which spruced up the outside of the old concrete structure was complete.
We always end our weekly walk at Grandfather’s Barn — the place where Iowa wines of all varieties will soon be ready with singles and flights. It’s one of the highest points on the grounds and gives a striking view of the downtown Des Moines skyline several miles to the west. From there we can see workers all over the fairgrounds cleaning and preparing until sundown.
Behind us we can hear Ford, Chevy and Dodge pickups driving in and out of the campgrounds which is filling with vendors, farmers and die-hard campers who’ve already claimed their spot.
Soon there will be horse, cattle, hogs and birds ready to show. Demonstrations from raising piglets to the tallest open class cornstalk will be predominately on display. And let’s not forget the butter cow.
Our weekly walks will soon be replaced by daily trips to “the best state fair in our state.”
Aug. 11-21 cannot get here soon enough.
Contact Mike Mendenhall atmmendenhall@ jaspercountytribune.com