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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Aug. 12, 2005

Behind the scenes at the Iowa State Fair

by Samantha Beres

Butter sculptures, food on a stick and big tractors are a few mainstays of the Iowa State Fair. But with hundreds of exhibitors and concessions sprawled out on hundreds of acres, Inside thought a talk with veteran workers of the fair might cull out a few must-dos.

Here's what some of your colleagues, who have worked the fair for many years, had to say:

Mary Clancy

Mary Clancy

Mary Clancy

Task at hand: Deals with anything that has four legs and a tail. (For 4-H animal entries, checks in and checks out livestock, oversees staff and volunteers working with the various shows, ringmasters, judges and judging results.)

Years working the fair: 15

Clancy, who has never missed a state fair, said that her parents carried her the first year when she was a baby, dragged her the second year and turned her loose the third year.

But to the point, she says the best food is the old-fashioned kettle corn up by the Buckskinner's Camp; the best bargain for food is the turkey tent and the best-kept secret is probably the museum in Pioneer Hall.

"If you're an antiquer or nostalgic, that's one of the best places to go."

James Romer

James Romer

James Romer

Years working the fair: 24 (the last four as a board member)

Task at hand: Problem-solver. (As chair of the fair's concessions and exhibits committee, presents challenges to the board so that solutions can be discussed.)

"It doesn't matter if it's January or August. When my feet step onto the Iowa State Fairgrounds, it's magical."

The Agriculture Building is one of his favorite stops, and "there's also Discovery Garden outside the building. You don't get that at every fair."

It's hard for Romer to narrow down a favorite food, but "the pizza is phenomenal." He said most people think the fair fare is all deep fried, but it runs the gamut, and there are great salads.

The best tip ever: Ahhh! There are 2,200 permanent toilets and urinals on the fairgrounds, so if you're standing in line, chances are good you can find a place to go without waiting. Romer recommends asking for bathroom locations at an information booth before standing in line.

Marcia Anderson

Marcia Anderson

Marcia Anderson

Task at hand: You name it, she does it. (For the Iowa State exhibit she does everything from set-up to tear down; oversees volunteers and all activities, fills in where needed.)

Years working the fair: 14

"I learned how to drink iced coffee at the fair." If you want what she's drinkin' there's iced coffee for a buck right outside the northeast corner of the Varied Industries Building.

"Even though there's hardly time to eat, it's all about the food!" When she can get away, Anderson treats herself to a lamb kabob, the turkey grill or fresh fruit. Then, she goes to find a place in the shade on the porch of the Administration Building.

Best kept secret: "The telecommunication guys have this office that is air-conditioned. If I have to cool off, I know where I can drop in for a visit." She also plans to squeeze in a free backrub from one of the masseuses set up under the grandstand.

Doug Cooper

Doug Cooper

Doug Cooper

Task at hand: Live from the Iowa State Fair. (Broadcasts live from the WOI Radio booth. Does the market reports, interviews kids and people.)

Years working the fair: 25

Cooper's favorite thing to do is visit the big boar contest on the first day because, "it draws a big crowd and it's a lot of fun."

One of his most memorable interviews was a retiring hog farmer who put his very last hog in the fair. "It was his way of going out of the hog business."

His not-so-favorite thing: "I try to avoid food on a stick. There's a lot of good food there, you just have to find it."

For Cooper, the fair is a love-hot relationship. "I look forward to it because sometimes it's the only time I see certain people, but it always seems like the hottest time of the year." He finds relief when he can in the air-conditioned media room.


Headed to the fair? Veteran fair workers offer their "must-dos."


"It doesn't matter if it's January or August. When my feet step onto the Iowa State Fairgrounds, it's magical."

James Romer