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State Historical Society of Iowa

Step Into History at the Iowa State Fair

Aug 4, 2021

To commemorate this year’s 175th anniversary of Iowa’s statehood, Iowa State Fair visitors can choose their own adventure through the fair’s colorful history.

A self-guided historical walking tour, presented by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Healthiest State Initiative, will show where Iowa soldiers trained for World War I, where lumber from a roller coaster was repurposed to build several local houses, and where it’s likely a young Amelia Earhart first saw a plane take flight.

“The history of the Iowa State Fair reflects the history of Iowa itself, which is full of innovative leaders and hard workers from all walks of life,” said Chris Kramer, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “This walking tour offers a unique opportunity to learn about Iowa’s extraordinary march through time.”

The self-guided tour will kick off the fair with a rally at 8 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, in front of the DNR Building on East Grand Avenue and lead to the opening ceremony at 9 a.m. at the recently renovated Bruce Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building. Along the way, visitors with smartphones can learn about the fair’s history by scanning QR-coded sidewalk decals placed at 14 sites throughout the fairgrounds, where they will remain throughout the 11-day fair.

The shortest route to all 14 sites is just over one mile, or about 2,000 steps for an average walker.

“The walking tour is a great way to learn about Iowa history and get some exercise at the same time,” said Jami Haberl, executive director of the Healthiest State Initiative. “Being physically active is one of the most important steps that people of all ages and abilities can take to improve their health and overall well-being.”

The historical walking tour is free with the price of fair admission and has become a popular annual tradition, although different sites are chosen each year by experts from the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

In addition to exploring the fair, Iowans can mark Iowa’s 175th Anniversary by tuning into an array of “Iowa History 101” and “Iowa Stories” webinars, joining the new online Iowa History Book Club, subscribing to The Annals of Iowa for in-depth articles about Iowa history, exploring curated Days of Learning cultural resources, and participating in Goldie’s Kids Club, a program that offers online and in-person learning activities for children and families.

Details about all of the programs can be found at

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.