"Give a Piece a Chance." — Books. Blog. Pie Classes. And a Pinch of Activism.

Happiness is…the Iowa State Fair

(Photo: Pork Chop On a Stick, an Iowa favorite. Mine too!)

You may have noticed I haven’t updated my blog in a week. That’s because since the moment I arrived in Iowa last week I’ve been very busy…eating, at the Iowa State Fair. My days as a pie judge here have been so full I can barely keep track of what happened when. Then I realized I can differentiate my days based on what food I’ve eaten.

Day One: Corn Dog… and pie
Day Two: Pork Chop on a Stick… and pie
Day Three: Pork Tenderloin… and pie
Day Four: Pie, pie, pie…. and pie

I promise I’ll fill you in on the pie judging, but first I want to give you the lay of the land. There is a lot to do at the state fair, besides eat pie and pork products, such as:

See sows nurse their newborn piglets (er, future pork products) at the Animal Learning Center.

Watch chicks hatching from their eggs. They even have little umbilical cords, which was news to me. Yes, this shows my ignorance. And, no, even though I grew up in Iowa I did not live on a farm. Though I would have liked to. Buy a combine. Or, if you’re not in the market for a new $250,000 tractor, you can at least learn about what these giant things do from a local farmer. Below is Tim, from Dubuque, Iowa. Go down the Giant Slide. This a state fair institution. For $2.50 you can climb 100 stairs, sit on a burlap sack, and cruise down the slide for a 10-second ride. Make sure you scream loud as the microphones placed at the mid-point project the sounds to the crowds below.Meet a cow. You could be innocently wandering around the fair grounds and run into cow traffic jam. The cows have to move from their barns to the show pavilion for their competitions. (Pie is not the only competitor here!) Accidentally step in some manure? Well, this is Iowa. Get used to it. Ogle over the largest boar. This one below, named Tiny, is actually the second largest, weighing in at 1,166 pounds. I couldn’t get good pictures of his neighbor, Big D, who weighs 1,210 pounds. That’s a lot of bacon!Pull up a stool at an old fashioned soda fountain. I didn’t actually eat ice cream (was saving room for pie), but I had to stop here to meet the man greeting people at the door. He could have been a character from the old Andy Griffith TV series. Besides his friendliness, huge smile and twinkling eyes, I loved that he was wearing dress shoes with his shorts.Have your picture taken with the Iowa Pork Queen. This beauty was keeping watch over the pigs in the Animal Learning Center at the fair.
Stand in line to view the Butter Cow. This is another famous fair tradition. The nearly life-size sculpture uses over 600-pounds of butter. You could make a lot of pie dough from this cow. I’m happy to report they do use the butter afterward. We Iowans are practical people and don’t waste much.
Eat something healthy! Yes, you can actually find something that is not fried at the fair! In between the booths for deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Oreos, deep fried Snickers bars (you get the idea), you will find some Iowa-grown melon at Beattie’s Melon Patch. Where you will also find deep fried pork tenderloin and French fries on the menu.

I promise I will give a full pie report. But you can also expect to get a wide range of state fair flavor. I love the Iowa State Fair!