Iowa State Fair Trivia

Test your knowledge about the history of America's favorite state fair and you'll quickly discover that nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair.

When was the first Iowa State Fair held?

The first Iowa State Fair was held October 25-27, 1854 in Fairfield, 20 years before America’s great westward movement began.

How old are the Fairgrounds?

The Fair moved to its present address at East 30th and East University in 1886. Therefore, the Fairgrounds are just over 130 years old.

How many acres make up the Fairgrounds?

The Fairgrounds includes approximately 445 acres, including 160 acres of beautiful, wooded Campgrounds, which are open April to October.

What are future Iowa State Fair dates?

The 2024 Fair will run August 8-18, 11 days. The Fair traditionally ends two weeks before Labor Day. Future dates are below:

  • 2025 – August 7-17
  • 2026 – August 13-23
  • 2027 – August 12-22

What year was the Iowa State Fairgrounds named to the National Register of Historic Places?


Where are the Fair's time capsules located and when are they to be opened?

Time capsules are located east and west of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage. The first time capsule was buried to mark the Fair’s 100th birthday in 1954 and is slated to be opened in 2054; the other, buried in 1986 to commemorate the 100th birthday of the Fair’s current location and will be opened in 2086.

Who was Baby Mine?

Baby Mine was a 4 foot, 1,160 pound baby elephant that 15,000 Iowa children helped purchase for the Fair. The kids sent in nearly $1,000 in nickels and dimes, The Register and Tribune, the Iowa State Fair Board and others assumed the rest of the $3,600 cost. Baby Mine debuted at the 1929 fair and 25,000 children showed up the first day of the Fair to greet him.

How many railway locomotive collisions have taken place at the Iowa State Fair?

Three train collisions were presented to Fairgoers in 1896, 1922 and 1932. You can visit Kenyon Gallery in the museum complex to enjoy an interactive video presentation of the 1932 crash.

When was the first Iowa State Fair cookbook published?

The first cookbook was printed in 1983. To date, 21 editions have been printed. A new cookbook is now published every other year.

In what year did Fair attendance first top 1 million?

In 2002, Fair attendance topped 1 million with 1,008,174. The largest attendance in Fair history was set in 2019 with 1,170,375.

What is the weight of the Heaviest Pigeon on record?

2 lbs., 7 oz. in 2014.

Other records include:

  • Big Boar: 1335 lbs., 2012
  • World Super Bull: 3404 lbs., 2009
  • Giant Ram: 507.5 lbs., 2014
  • Largest Rabbit: 22 lbs., 5.5 oz., 2012

*weights have been recorded since 1991

How many food classes are judged annually?

The Iowa State Fair features the largest state fair foods department with over 700 classes and hundreds of individual entries.

How many cows are milked daily during the Fair in the milking parlor?

Eighteen cows on average (many more during the first weekend when Dairy Cattle are showing).

What species are represented in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center?

The Animal Learning Center houses beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, meat goats, chicken, turkeys, ducks and ostriches. In 2017, 5 lambs, 13 calves, 33 goats, 101 piglets and 172 chicks were born in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center during the Iowa State Fair.

How many breeds of animals are in the Avenue of Breeds?

Today, the Avenue represents 70 breeds and approximately 100 animals. Today, the Avenue of Breeds is located west of the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building. Prior to its location in the Swine Barn, the Avenue of Breeds was located in the Cattle Barn. 

How many buildings are located at Little Hands on the Farm?

Nine buildings: the Start Barn, Grain Bin, Poultry Barn, Tractor Shed, Sheep Barn, Dairy Barn, Grocery Store, Swine Barn and Beef Barn.

Since 1930 how many locations has the Fabrics and Threads Department called home?

From 1930-1949 they were in the Exhibition Building; in 1950-1958 the Balcony of Agriculture Building; in 1959-1964 Education Building; then 1965-1997 East End of Grandstand; in 1998-2001 West End of Grandstand; since 2002, they have been in Upper Level of the Varied Industries Building. Total, they have been in 6 different buildings.

What year did the Clearfield Lions start providing shuttles to and from the Iowa State Fair Campgrounds?

In 1964, the Clearfield Lions began providing shuttle buses between the Campgrounds and Fairgrounds.

How many bales of hay can fit into the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center?

It would take 96,075 bales of hay to fill the building from top to bottom. That is $672,525 worth of hay!

What has been the largest Fair attendance?

In 2019, the attendance was a record-breaking 1,170,375. The second highest Fair attendance on record was in 2018 with 1,130,260 Fairgoers.

What was the hottest temperature recorded at the Fair?

On August 16, 1983, it was 108 degrees and it just happened to be Older Iowans' Day.

What nationally known media outlets have covered the Fair?

USA Today, The National Geographic Traveler, CNN, Travel Channel, Redbook Magazine, Time, ESPN, Newsweek, The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Chicago Tribune, People, Midwest Living, HBO, Better Homes and Gardens, Los Angeles Times, all major networks and countless international media outlets.

Who holds the record for attracting the largest Grandstand crowd?

  • In 1972, Sonny and Cher attracted 26,200 in two shows.
  • In 1975, the Beach Boys drew 25,400 in one show.
  • In 1970, Johnny Cash attracted 25,300 in two shows.
  • In 1974, Chicago played to 24,700 in one show.
  • In 1982, the Oak Ridge Boys drew 23,500 in two shows.

What happens to the butter from which the Butter Cow is sculpted?

It is frozen and stored during the year and can be reused for up to 10 years. Butter sculptures have been a part of the Fair since 1911. It takes an estimated 600 pounds of butter and 16 hours to craft the Butter Cow alone.

In addition to the Butter Cow, another companion sculpture also graces the Agriculture Building coolers. Name five creations from past years.

  • 1996: Grant Wood's famous "American Gothic" (honoring Iowa's Sesquicentennial)
  • 1997: Elvis Presley
  • 1998: An American eagle
  • 1999: Her own version of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper"
  • 2000: Christian Peterson sculpting "The Gentle Doctor" statue (Petersen was Duffy's mentor and teacher.)
  • 2001: John Wayne
  • 2002: Peanuts Gang
  • 2003: Harley-Davidson motorcycle (in honor of the company's 100th anniversary)
  • 2004: Birthday cake in honor of the Fair's Sesquicentennial and an Iowa barn
  • 2005: Tiger Woods
  • 2006: "Mr. State Fair" Bill Riley (in honor of his 60th Fair) and Superman (Norwalk, Iowa, native Brandon Routh)
  • 2007: Harry Potter
  • 2008: Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and a tribute to four Iowans who changed the face of the world’s agriculture: Etta May Budd, George Washington Carver, Henry Wallace and Norman Borlaug.
  • 2009: Tribute to the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon
  • 2010: 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham
  • 2011: Replica of 1911 butter cow sculptures, including a calf, young boy and chicken. A sculpture of a young girl with a butterfly was added as a tribute to Norma “Duffy” Lyon.
  • 2012: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • 2013: A tribute to the Lincoln Highway (and President Lincoln)
  • 2014: A tribute to A Field of Dreams
  • 2015: A tribute to the 80th Anniversary of Monopoly
  • 2016: A tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek
  • 2017: A tribute to the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder and a replica of the Solheim Cup as the tournament visited Des Moines.
  • 2018: A celebration of the 100th anniversary of John Deere entering the tractor business with a replica of the Waterloo Boy Tractor
  • 2019: A celebration of 50 years of Sesame Street
  • 2021: A celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Giant Slide
  • 2022: A celebration of the 60th year of The Music Man in film history
  • 2023: Celebrating iconic Iowa athletes - Jack Trice, Kurt Warner and Caitlin Clark

All butter sculptures are exhibited in a 40-degree showcase cooler in the Agriculture Building.

About how many concessionaires and exhibitors operate on the grounds?

Approximately 500 exhibitors and concessions operate daily during the Fair. This includes food (cotton candy to corndogs), merchandise (t-shirts to tools), craft and exhibit vendors (farm machinery to hot tubs).

Which United States presidents have visited the State Fair?

Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower in 1954, Gerald Ford in 1975, Jimmy Carter in 1976 (as a candidate), George W. Bush in 2002, Barack Obama in 2007 (as a candidate) and in 2012 as President, Donald Trump in 2015 (as a candidate); Joe Biden in 2019 (as a candidate), Ronald Reagan broadcasted from the Fair as sports director for WHO radio in the 1930s. 

What year did Sarah Pratt become the Fair's fifth butter sculptor?

In 2006, Sarah Pratt took over after approximately 15 years of apprenticing with her predecessor Duffy Lyon.

What entertainers have performed at the Fair a whopping 10 or more times?

Lou Christie tops the list with 13 Grandstand appearances (1981, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005). Christie performed on the Anne and Bill Riley stage in 2008 and the Walnut Stage in 2000. He also appeared at the Blue Ribbon Weekend in 1992. Alabama has performed at the Fair twelve times (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1998, 2015, 2017).

How are members of the Fair Board elected?

They are elected annually by delegates from Iowa's 106 county fairs.

What famous country star appeared in the Grandstand as a replacement for Ricky Van Shelton in 1990?

Garth Brooks was the last-minute replacement for Ricky Van Shelton. Garth Brooks returned to the Grandstand in 1991 and 1993 as one of country music’s top acts.

What is the name of the famous novel written by Iowan Phil Stong about the Iowa State Fair?

State Fair. Three motion pictures with the same title have also been filmed. The Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical adaptation of "State Fair" that debuted at the Civic Center of Des Moines during the 1995 Fair officially opened on Broadway in March, 1996.

Fun fact: Phil Stong was former butter sculptor Duffy Lyon's uncle.

Who starred in the first film version of this novel?

Will Rogers and Janet Gaynor, with Lew Ayres, Louise Dresser

How long has Hog Calling been an Iowa State Fair tradition?

The first Hog Calling competition was held in 1926.

When was the first State Fair Queen Pageant (in its current format) held?

The first pageant was held in 1964.

Approximately how many types of food can be purchased "on-a-stick" at the Fair?

Over 50 foods are available on-a-stick. The list is endless. Here are a few to get you hungry: pickles, pork chops, corn dogs, corn on the cob, cotton candy, veggie dogs, turkey drumsticks, fried pickles, hot bologna, deep fried candy bars, deep fried hot dogs, chocolate covered cheesecakes, pineapples, cornbrats, salads and hard-boiled eggs.

How many Fairs have been cancelled?

Only 6 Fairs have been cancelled. There wasn’t a Fair in 1898 due to the World's Fair in Omaha and the Spanish-American War. The Fair was also a wartime casualty from 1942-1945. The Fair was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you unrolled all the toilet tissue stockpiled for the Fair, how many miles would it stretch?

The toilet paper would stretch 1,818 miles (That's 5 trips to Chicago from Des Moines, or one trip to Los Angeles!)

What happens to the animal bedding following the Fair?

An average 1,600 tons of manure-laden bedding is hauled away each year from the Fair to be land-applied as natural fertilizer to several hundred acres of prime farm ground.

Name the entertainers who first appeared at the Fair on a free stage and then performed in the Grandstand.

  • John Michael Montgomery (free stage in 1993, Grandstand in 1995 and 1997)
  • Bryan White (free stage in 1995, Grandstand in 1997 and 1998)
  • Trick Pony (free stage 2001, Grandstand in 2002 and 2003)
  • Gary Allen (free stage 1999, Grandstand in 2004, 2007 and 2009)
  • Cross Canadian Ragweed (free stage 2004, Grandstand 2005)
  • Dierks Bentley (free stage 2004, Grandstand 2007 and 2016)
  • Shooter Jennings (free stage 2006, Grandstand 2008)
  • Chuck Wicks (free stage 2008, Grandstand 2009)
  • Candy Coburn (free stage 2008, Grandstand 2009, 2010)
  • The Band Perry (free stage 2011, Grandstand 2012)
  • Tenth Avenue North (free stage 2011, Grandstand 2012)
  • Lady Antebellum (free stage 2008, Grandstand 2014 and 2016)
  • Color Me Badd (free stage 2016, Grandstand 2017)
  • Dan and Shay (free stage 2015, Grandstand 2019 and 2021)
  • Carly Pearce (free stage 2017, Grandstand 2019)
  • Zach Williams (free stage 2017, Grandstand 2019)

When did the original State Fair Museum open?

The Ralph H. Deets Historical Museum, located across from Pioneer Hall, opened in 1982. The Richard L. Easter Museum Complex, including the Richard O. Jacobson Hall and Kenyon Gallery, opened in 2005.

What was the budget of the first Iowa State Fair in 1854?

In 1854, the budget was $323.

How many people work for the Iowa State Fair?

While approximately 75 people are employed year-round by the Iowa State Fair, the roster swells to about 1600 employees during the Fair itself. Workers hired independently by exhibitors and concessionaires total approximately 1000.

What is the name of the organization charged with raising money for Fairgrounds renovation?

Since 1993, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been closing the gap on the funds needed to restore the Fair's classic buildings and grounds. More than $170 million has been raised, pledged or committed and numerous projects completed to date. More than two-thirds of that total has been appropriated by the Iowa legislature.

How many ribbons are handed out during the Fair?

More than 40,000 ribbons, rosettes and banners are awarded annually. In 2011, 43,492 ribbons, rosettes and banners were awarded and 5,053 of them were first-place awards.

How many trees and flowers are on the Fairgrounds?

There are 3,000 trees on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, and 35 new trees were planted in 2023. Two gardeners are responsible for 12,500 flowers and 27 flowers beds on the grounds.

Approximately how many pork chops do the Iowa Pork Producers sell during a Fair?

Pork lovers gobble down approximately 5-6,000 chops daily during the Fair's 11-day run. The Pork Producers sell approximately 48,000 pork chops over the course of the Fair. In 2003, the Pork Producers served their one-millionth customer.

What Iowan and world famous fashion designer, at the age of 2, was named the Iowa State Fair's "healthiest city boy?"

In the early 1930's, Roy Halston Frowick was deemed the "healthiest city boy" at the Fair. A Des Moines native, Halston's career took off as a hat designer; Jackie Kennedy wore one of his pillbox hats to her husband's inauguration. Other celebrities to wear his fashion creations include Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Ford, Ali MacGraw, Lauren Bacall and Liza Minelli.

Who wrote "Hawkeye Fair" for the Iowa State Fair?

Karl King wrote “Hawkeye Fair.” The famous bandmaster, who composed nearly 400 marches, waltzes, overtures and serenades, also led the band at the Fair every year from 1921-1959.

What are the lyrics to the song "Our State Fair" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical titled "State Fair"?

Our State Fair is a great State Fair,
Don't miss it, don't even be late.
It's dollars to doughnuts that our State Fair,
Is the best State Fair in our state!

What are the day attendance records?

  • First Thursday: 101,262 in 2008
  • First Friday: 115,703 in 2001
  • First Saturday: 127,277 in 1991
  • First Sunday: 112,396 in 2017
  • Monday: 105,522 in 2017
  • Tuesday: 102,953 in 2019
  • Wednesday: 109,323 in 2019
  • Second Thursday: 107,449 in 2015
  • Second Friday: 112,891 in 2019
  • Second Saturday: 128,298 in 2022
  • Second Sunday: 119,754 in 2012