Summer 2020: How to Celebrate the Iowa State Fair While Social Distancing

Summer 2020: How to Celebrate the Iowa State Fair While Social Distancing

Missing the Iowa State Fair? Keep the Fair Spirit Alive!

Late summer in Des Moines means hot humid weather and (usually) the Iowa State Fair, attended by over one million people annually. That tradition takes this year off in response to COVID-19, and the whole state of Iowa will deeply miss its favorite summertime festival. To keep the spirit alive in 2020 we rounded up several ways families can enjoy their favorite activities remotely, including eating fair food and participating in a few contests and competitions.

Here’s a few ways you can celebrate the Iowa State Fair while social distancing this summer:

Attend Fair Food Fridays hosted by Brenda’s Concessions

If you’re in the mood for cheese curds and a giant turkey leg, you’re in luck.  Brenda’s Concessions, a Fair vendor, has been hosting Fair Food Friday’s since April. The drive-thru event is held off Scott Street and 36th Avenue at 203 Southeast 34th Street in Des Moines from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm on Fridays. You can place an order online through 

Enjoy a Taste of the Fair

Even though we can’t attend the Iowa State Fair this year, doesn’t mean we can’t get a taste of what we will be missing. The Iowa State Fair, along with their food vendors, is hosting two 2020 Taste of the Fair weekends, July 24-26 and July 31-August 2. Visit their website for specific times of the event and for a list of vendors.

Complete an Iowa State Fair Activity by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

As part of their Weekly Goldie at Home Programs the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has focused one of their programs on the Iowa State Fair. Iowa has a rich history of fairgoing and while fairgrounds around the state may be quiet this summer, you can complete this Goldie at Home activity which focuses on a favorite midway attraction at many fairs – the carousel.

Celebrate the Fair with Iowa PBS

While there won’t be corndogs, queen contestants or a sale of champions this year, Iowans may still look forward to five nights of Iowa State Fair highlights from the past five decades on Iowa PBS. Viewers longing for the views from the Grand Concourse can tune in to Celebrating the Fair airing August 10-14, 2020 at 9:00 pm on Iowa PBS’s primary channel, Facebook and YouTube.

Purchase Some Fair Swag

Even though, there won’t be a Fair this year doesn’t mean you have to miss out on purchasing a souvenir or your favorite collectible. Starting Monday, July 27, you can order Iowa State Fair apparel through a dedicated online store. The website will remain open for orders through August 28, 2020. Also starting July 27, there will be other new 2020 merchandise available for sale. Including: charms, pottery piece, Isabel Bloom sculpture, lapel pin, ornament, Sticks plaque and the 20th edition Iowa State Fair cookbook. Summer 2020: How to Celebrate the Iowa State Fair While Social Distancing –

Make Your Favorite Iowa State Fair Foods at Home

Honey Lemonade

If you love the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Honey Lemonade, that you find on the top floor of the Ag Building, you’ll love this recipe by My Farmhouse Table.

Pork Chop on a Stick

The Iowa Pork Producer’s reveal their secrets for this Fair food favorite.  It’s unsurprisingly easy to recreate.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

The reason corn tastes better at the fair is because they grill it and then provide several toppings you can layer on.  Farm Flavor’s recipe will give you the lowdown on how to recreate this Fair classic.

Funnel Cake

Funnel cake is the quintessential fair food.  Deep fried goodness.  Taste of Home’s County Fair Funnel Cakes recipe will help you recreate the timeless treat at home.

If you’re looking for even more recipes, Hy-Vee has 21 Fair Foods You Can Make at Home.

Host Some Iowa State Fair Inspired Contests & Competitions at Home

2020 Coloring Contest

The Iowa State Fair is once again hosting a Coloring Contest.  Visit the website to find the contest rules, registration form and coloring sheets. Submissions will be judged, and the Fair will host a virtual display of entries. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place rosettes will be mailed to the winner of each division.  Entry deadline is July 30, 2020.

Iowa PBS Fair Fun at Home Contests

And while there won’t be a life-size butter cow, Iowa PBS viewers will have an opportunity to show off their butter sculpting skills in the Fair Fun at Home segments. They are asking viewers to submit photos and videos of them participating in various Fair-related contests such as joke telling, ugly cake decorating and, of course, butter sculpting. Some of the submissions will be featured each night on their Celebrating the Fair shows. State Fair fans can still be a part of Iowa PBS’s Fair programming.

DIY Contests

  • Cow Chip Throwing: If you don’t have any cow chips laying around, you can always substitute a frisbee. 
  • Bubble Gum Blowing: You won’t be on the Bill Riley stage, but you can still challenge the fam to a bubble gum blowing contest.  You can print out a FREE Bubble Meter for Bubble Gum Contest over on Paging Super Mom.
  • Make a Day of It: Create a schedule of activities, start the day off with a hog calling contest, have a spelling bee mid-day, a late afternoon checkers contest and finish off the day with a family talent show.

Did you know? This isn’t the first time the Iowa State Fair has closed since its inception in 1854. There was no fair in 1898 because of that year’s competing World’s Fair in Omaha, NE, and there was no fair during World War II from 1942-1945.



How will your family keep the Iowa State Fair spirit alive this summer?

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