Agriculture anchors Iowa State Fair

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

DES MOINES --Agriculture continues to anchor the Iowa State Fair, said Kathie Swift, state fair marketing director.

The theme of this year's fair, which runs Aug. 7 to 17 in Des Moines, is "One in a Million.''

More than 17,000 head of livestock were shown at the 2002 fair and about the same number are expected this year.


Six dairy cattle breeders will be judged Aug. 8 to 9, while 15 breeds of beef cattle, plus feeder calves, will be judged Aug. 9 to 16. The Iowa State Holstein Show, held at the fair every three years, is set Aug. 9. The Governor's Charity Steer Show is also Aug. 9, with an auction to follow.

The 4-H Grand Champion Market Steer will be selected Aug. 13, followed by the 4-H/FFA Sale of Champions Aug. 16. Prior to the sale, $90,000 in scholarships will be awarded to nearly 60 youths who intend to pursue careers in the livestock industry. Last year's sale generated $126,700.

Seven breeds of open class swine shows are scheduled for Aug. 10 to 11. Twelve sheep breeds will compete in shows Aug. 7 to 9 and Aug. 13 to 17. Four divisions of llamas will compete Aug. 16-17.

The fair will again feature the traditional butter cow, but to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Harley Davidson, butter sculptor Duffy Lyon is fashioning a Harley "Hawg'' motorcycle to sit alongside her butter Jersey.

Fairgoers can watch Lyon work Aug. 7 to 10 in the coolers on the east side of the Agriculture Building. Lyon has been sculpting butter cows at the fair since 1960.

Thirteen divisions of horses will compete during 11 days of competition. The annual Draft Horse and Pony Show -- one of the biggest in the nation -- will wrap up the fair's final weekend, Swift said.

Thirty top drivers from Iowa and surrounding states will take part in two days of free harness racing in the Grandstand Aug. 7 and 11. Draft horse and pony pulling events are Aug. 8 and 10 in the Grandstand.

The Iowa State Fair Foods Department is the biggest in the country, including 180 divisions and 900 classes, Swift said. More than $58,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to winners.


Fairgrounds renovation continues, and visitors will see a $1 million new roof on the livestock pavilion, Swift said. Visitors will feel the new air exchanger installed in the pavilion to improve air quality.

Work continues on Legacy Terrace along the grand concourse in front of the grandstand. Water fountains have been added.

"It's an oasis of cool and green on 90-degree days,'' Swift said.

A new $1 million Skyglider will be finished just in time for this year's fair. The glider will stretch from Gate 10 in the southwest corner of the fairgrounds to just north of Diamond Jack's Restaurant on Rock Island Avenue. It will carry an estimated 1,000 riders per hour in each direction. The fair's other Skyglider, built in 1975, carries 750 riders per hour in each direction.

For more information about the Iowa State Fair, telephone 1-800-545-FAIR or check out

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