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State Historical Society of Iowa
Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair

The internationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair annually attracts more than a million people from all over the world, and it is one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. The very first Iowa State Fair was held October 25-27, 1854, in Fairfield, Iowa, but was moved to its Des Moines location in 1886. The fairgrounds stretch over 445 acres and include 160 acres of campgrounds. The State Fair boasts a number of notable attractions, including the Butter Cow, which was first sculpted in 1911 by J.K. Daniels and is made with wood, metal, wire, steel mesh frame and 600 lbs. of low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter.


Expedition Activities
   + Iowa State Fair Word Search Puzzle
   + Goldie at Home Activity: DIY Carousel
   + Virtual Historical Walking Tour
   + From the Vault: Iowa State Fair Collections
   + Iowa History 101 Series
   + Video: State Fair Train Collision
   + Video: #IowaArtifacts - State Fair
   + Iowa State Fair: Historical Highlights
   + The Goldfinch: Iowa State Fair

From the Vault: Iowa State Fair Collections

The State Historical Society of Iowa has a large collection of materials related to the Iowa State Fair, from tickets to posters to award-winning canned vegetables. Analyze State Fair objects and videos from the museum's collections to learn more about the State Fair's illustrious history. 

Virtual Historical Walking Tour

The Iowa State Fair may be cancelled this year, but explore the fairgrounds virtually with a few highlighted stops along the State Historical Society of Iowa's annual historical tour in 2016. 


Solve a Word Search Puzzle

Find the listed words hidden in the grid of letters in this Goldie's word search puzzle. The words in this puzzle are inspired by the history and attractions featured at the Iowa State Fair. 

Iowa History 101 Series

Watch the July 23 live webinar with State Curator Leo Landis about the illustrious history of the Iowa State Fair. For more webinars, visit Iowa History 101 Series

Watch Videos

Would you eat some 77-year-old green beans that won a blue ribbon at the 1942 Iowa State Fair? Or watch two locomotives intentionally crash outside the fair's grandstand? Watch videos of both in the State Historical Museum's collection of #IowaArtifacts. 
     + State Fair Train Collision
     + #IowaArtifact - State Fair


Goldie at Home Activity

This Goldie at Home activity focuses on the carousel, a classic attraction located at many fair midways. Goldie at Home activities connect Iowa history with STEAM education and include easy-to-follow instructions that require few materials. 

Discover Additional Resources

Throughout its history, the Iowa State Fair has been a unique institution, serving to educate, inform and entertain people from around the world. Learn more about its origins and how the Fair has evolved through the years. 
     + The Goldfinch: Iowa State Fair
     + Iowa State Fair: Historical Highlights