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State Historical Society of Iowa

Make this year's Iowa State Fair historic

Aug 7, 2023

Iowans can take a step toward a healthier future by stepping back in time during the 9th annual Iowa State Fair Historical Walking Tour that kicks off the Iowa State Fair Thursday, Aug. 10.

Co-hosted by the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, the historical walking tour is free with the price of admission to the Iowa State Fair. Gov. Kim Reynolds will be joined by Iowa Department of Administrative Services Director Adam Steen, Iowa Healthiest State Initiative Executive Director Jami Haberl, and Healthiest State Annual Walk co-chairs April Schmaltz of Delta Dental of Iowa and Heidi Parkhurst of Bank of America, as well as other fairgoers for the walking tour. 

The tour will start at 8:15 a.m. near the Administration Building on the Grand Concourse and finish about 45 minutes later in time for the fair's opening ceremony at the Public Safety Building. The route is approximately 1 kilometer, or about 1,500 steps for an average walker. Guides from the State Historical Society of Iowa will share stories at several historic sites along the way.

“Iowans are deeply rooted in the history of our state and nothing is more historic than the Iowa State Fair,” State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “Opening the fair with the historical walking tour gives Iowans and others an opportunity to follow the footsteps of earlier generations and to learn how our past continues to shape the world in which we live today.”

Iowans from all walks of life have crossed paths at this dynamic cultural gathering for more than a century. This year’s tour highlights include the following:

  • George Washington Carver of Ames who gained his start as an agricultural expert in Iowa at Iowa State College.
  • Keith Elwick of Benton County whose inventions were the basis for Hawk-Bilt manure spreaders and gained him a meeting with Queen Elizabeth in 1963.
  • Jessie Field Shambaugh of Page County who promoted youth clubs – that made her one of the founders of 4-H – and co-authored “Community Civics,” a book about civic engagement.
  • Iowa has had more USDA secretaries than any other state including the longest-serving – James Wilson of Tama County. The current secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has served the second-longest tenure.
  • Ruth Buxton Sayre of New Virginia became a leader in the American Farm Bureau and was known as the “first lady of the farm.”

"We’re grateful to partner with the State Historical Society of Iowa on this opening day walk,” Haberl said. “This is a great opportunity to be physically active, spend time with our fellow Iowans, and celebrate our shared history.”

Details about the program can be found at

The State Historical Society of Iowa has been a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy since 1857. With a dual mission of preservation and education, it maintains a museum, two research centers, and seven historic sites. The society preserves and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources through a variety of statewide programs, exhibitions and projects while serving as an advocate for Iowa’s past and connector to the future. The society is part of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services. Follow the State Historical Society of Iowa on Facebook and Instagram.