Butter Cows, 1300 lb Boars, and Deep Fried Everything!

Today started rather uneventfully by waking up and driving the five hours to Des Moines Iowa, home of the Iowa state fair.

Let me tell you, the Iowa State Fair was everything we could have imagined and more.  Our experience began with a half mile hike from the remote parking lot through the state fair campgrounds to the gate. And, in true State fair fashion, no more than fifty paces from the gate stood a building full of cages of show chickens of many breeds and varieties.

One of the many chickens to be judged at the fair.

After briefly gawking at the poultry we decided to venture forth into the belly of the beast. We walked along the central thoroughfare encountering a great diversity of locals wearing a wide variety of their including such a gems as: “My other rack holds guns”, and “Good guys go to heaven. Bad guys go to Pattaya”,  as well as no shortage of John Deere shirts. Surprisingly enough, I don’t recall seeing a single NASCAR t-shirt. As a note, though colorful, everyone we ran into was very nice and courteous. After spending some time people-watching, I convinced Marianna to take a trip on the Sky Glider, which is essentially an aging ski lift that takes you to the other side of the fairgrounds.

A view down the main thoroughfare of the Iowa State Fair.

We got dropped at Pioneer Hall, where we got our first experience of the competition of state fair-dom. We wove through display after display of antiques all meticulously kept, proudly displayed, and judged for their merit. Categories ranged from baptismal dresses, tea service sets, face vases, toys, to souvenir cups. The variety was really impressive.

We followed up our visit to Pioneer Hall with what I consider to be the highlight of the state fair. The livestock barns.  We first walked through the Cattle Barn walking past stall after stall of what Marianna called “big ass cows”.  I’m not sure if I’ve never actually seen a cow this close before but if was impressed by the sheer magnitude of these animals.

What Marianna appropriately described as a “Big-Ass Cow.”

After the cattle barn, we took one last gulp of fresh air before heading into the Swine Barn. Heeding the advice of the local news reports to not touch the pigs as to avoid contracting swine flu, we observed these majestic animals from afar. After perusing hundreds of these animals we stumbled upon a highlight of the exhibit, a 1335 lb. boar  named Reggie. The prominently placed signs read “Please don’t touch the boar”.  To which Marianna stated ” You don’t have to worry about that!”.

Reggie the Boar, in all of his 1335 lb glory.

Sheep were next on our tour of livestock. The building was set up very similar to the swine barn, with many rows of hundreds of stalls.  However, this building featured a much less pungent odor.  Marianna found it remarkable that sheep actually say “baa”, like literally sound like a grown man saying “baa”. We rounded out our tour of livestock with a visit to the horse barn which was mostly inaccessible due to horses being prepped for show. Upon the conclusion of our tour, we realized how disconnected our suburban lives are from this seemingly prominent culture.

Bo, the 380 lb ram, says “baa.”

Speaking of which, we found a craft beer garden with 35 beers on tap from a wide showing of Iowa craft breweries. We had the opportunity to sample quite a few beers ranging from Wits to Kolsch to a strong showing of IPAs.   Marianna’s preference was for the Soulful Saison by Court Avenue Brewing Company while my favorite was Pastime Pale Ale by Madhouse.  The craft beer tent was a refreshing break from the Midwest culture overload we were experiencing.

We finished up our trip to the state fair by walking through the remainder of the fairgrounds including venturing through the pavilion featuring all the judged foods. Think award-winning blueberry pie!  Both realizing that we were hungry, we decided to have one last snack before we left for the day. We originally planned to get some deep fried butter, but after observing the patron in front of us receiving a full stick of butter on a stick, battered, fried, and doused with cinnamon sugar sauce, we opted to forego the experience. We just couldn’t do it.

We realized we had forgotten to take a look at the butter cow, so after grifting the kind folks from 5 Hour Energy people out of 40 hours of energy, we headed over to the Agriculture Pavilion.  We stood in awe of the massive buttery bovine.

The butter cow, approximately 600 lbs. of low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter, measuring about 5-1/2-ft high and 8-ft long.

After deciding we’ve had our fill of the fair we decided to head out and get a head start on our journey to Badlands National Park, taking an impromptu detour to visit the birthplace of John Wayne and a few of the bridges of Madison county.

We will be staying in Sioux City, Iowa, just over the 1500 mile mark on our journey.  Tomorrow we will be making the trip to Badlands National Park and our first evening of camping on our trip.

Also, Marianna wants it to be noted to everyone interested in Iowa fashion, rhinestone belts are “where it’s at y’all!”

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