Those Super Structures

November 7, 2017
drewnorton's picture

“Those Super Structures” is just one section of the book: Our State Fair – Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story. This history book describes the Iowa State Fair from the very beginning in 1854 through 2000 (The year the book was published). Each time I flip through the pages, I learn something new.  Today’s lesson: the State Fair museum.

“Sometime, you really ought to walk around the fairgrounds when there’s nothing going on out there. No State Fair. No livestock shows. No arts and crafts festivals. Nothing.  And then what?

And then, you can take time to notice the buildings – how unique each one is and how beautifully they all blend together. It was no accident that this happened, but rather careful planning for more than a century. While you’re ambling around on the grounds, think, too, about the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. Without it, our fairgrounds could, by now, look much different.”

Mary Kay Shanley writes about the Fairground’s structures and the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to keep the historical buildings as beautiful as the day they were constructed. Built in the 1800s, the State Fair Museum was once the Polk County Building. Eventually it was used as State Fair storage and opened as the museum in 1982.

In 2007, the exterior and interior of the museum were updated. These improvements included a new basement, an addition to the original structure containing an elevator, a restroom, storage room, work room and exhibit rooms on both the first and second levels. 

The State Fair’s museum superintendent does an excellent job of maintaining the artifacts and adding new displays each year.  Once of my favorite displays is on the Grandstand artists. It's fun to see how so many musicians made the Iowa State Fair a pit stop on their journey to becoming famous. Any Fairgoer should be able to learn some fun facts about Alabama - especially since the band has performed on the Fairgrounds a dozen times!

The entire museum complex continues to receive improvements with the help of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 1854 Society. The money raised through this membership program has allowed the museum to work on cataloguing the Fair history, while building upon the collection as a whole. The museum can now create a digital inventory of all artifacts at the Iowa State Fair - including photographs, movies, and even large physical collections. This makes it possible for the public to have better access to the history.

Read more about the history of the Iowa State Fair and the Blue Ribbon Foundation in the book: Our State Fair – Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story available in the online State Fair Store.

In addition to supporting the future of the Iowa State Fair, 1854 Society members receive some special benefits.

  • Gate admission for two each day of the Iowa State Fair and special on-grounds parking.
  • Opportunity to purchase four priority seats to a Grandstand concert.
  • Limited Edition Commemorative Pin denoting year of renewal.
  • Access to a hospitality suite and exclusive shuttle during the Iowa State Fair.
  • Recognition in Blue Ribbon Foundation publications and a special reception during the Fair.

For more than 160 years the Iowa State Fair has grown, reflecting the development and growth of our great state. What will the next 160 years hold?  With your continued support, the Fair will remain a true reflection of what is best about Iowa.