Thursday, August 07, 2008

Iowa State Fair and the Corndog Chomp

Our state fair is a great state fair! Don’t miss it. Don’t even be late! (From Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical State Fair)

Oh, it’s that time again…Iowa State Fair time! Hooray! I’ve been giving sales pitches for the fair to just about everyone I meet for years. I keep trying to convince my non-Iowan friends to come, but they never do. Sigh. Rose tried to come, but tickets to Des Moines are VERY expensive. (Don’t I know it!)

Well, Aunt Sandy did make it back. She, Mom and I decided to all go together to the first day, when it would be free if we got there early enough. We would also get to take part in “The Great Corn Dog Chomp,” during which we would attempt to set a world record for most people simultaneously eating corn dogs.

Well, that part of the day was a fiasco. We got into the fairground on time. We managed to get into the Grandstand in time for the opening ceremonies, and were given numbers for the corndog chomp. Our numbers were in the 10,000 range. After an hour and a half, as we got closer and closer to the chomp, some of us began to sense that we would not receive the free corndogs we had been promised. You see, they planned for 8,000 corndogs, gave 10,500 people numbers, let in 12,000 people…and had five thousand cranky people who didn’t make it in the Grandstand. The organizers managed to scrounge up an extra 400 corndogs, but that still left 3,600 cranky people (8,600 if you count the people outside).

I was cranky, indeed, but after I bought myself a corn dog, I felt better. In fact, although my corndog was not free, it was fresh and piping hot with condiments, unlike the free corndogs in the grandstand. Our next stop was the Agriculture Building to see…The Butter Cow! Hooray!

This year, the butter sculptor included a butter Shawn Johnson, Iowa’s very own pint-sized Olympic gymnast. The new sculptor does a great job with the cow, but she isn’t as good with people as Duffy Lyon (the former butter sculptor). Then we got free eggs-on-a-stick. Food-on-a-stick is very popular at the fair. Each year a new gimmicky food-on-a-stick premiers, including bananas, ice cream, cheese, pickles, pork chops, lamb, and pork chops on a stick. This year the newbies were shrimp on a stick and salad on a stick. Heh.

After the Agriculture building, we decided to go to the top of the hill to the Arts & Culture Building to show Sandy my award-winning photo. She got the picture of me below. Like Dad, she asked whether I had considered professional photography. I was flattered by her question, as Sandy is very into photography.

We worked our way down the hill, even stopping in the museum-ish village area. Thought as a child I spent about seven days per year at the fair, that’s an area we didn’t visit (for whatever reason), so I don’t even know what it’s called! In the telegraph/telephone museum, Sandy and Mom talked about what the phone system in Woodward had been like when they were kids. There was a party line, and whenever anyone on the line was called, it rang in everyone’s house! You would listen for your own distinctive ring (e.g. two long rings and a short ring). Then you would tell all your snooping neighbors to hang up.

A woman in town lived in the telephone office. She had to use a switchboard to connect your calls, especially long distance calls. I asked what happened when she went out of town. Mom and Sandy looked baffled by the very idea, leading me to believe that small-town-telephone-operators didn’t have much fun in their lives…except, perhaps, eavesdropping. Poor woman!

We walked around collecting freebies, snapping pictures and seeing the sights. We explored the Avenue of Breeds, toured the 4-H building, were massaged in the Grandstand market, got some lunch with my uncle Jay, saw a few seconds of the tractor square dancing (which is being discontinued this year—the practice required to “dance” using eight tractors in a tight space is extensive) and took the Skyglider over the fairgrounds. I had some ice cream while Sandy had a pork chop on a stick.

Then it was time to go. I’d been applying sun screen like a mad woman, but the harsh Iowa sun was broiling me, none-the-less. That said, I can’t wait to get back to the fair!

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