Seven things not to miss at the 2017 Iowa State Fair

Annual event opens Thursday, runs through Aug. 20 in Des Moines

The butter cow, a tradition at the Iowa State Fair dating back to 1911, is shown during the 2015 fair. The butter cow returns for this year's fair, which takes place Thursday through Aug. 20 in Des Moines.
The butter cow, a tradition at the Iowa State Fair dating back to 1911, is shown during the 2015 fair. The butter cow returns for this year's fair, which takes place Thursday through Aug. 20 in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — The 2017 Iowa State Fair begins Thursday and continues through Aug. 20 at the fairgrounds in Des Moines.

The fairgrounds, located at East 30th Street and East University Avenue, 10 minutes east of downtown, are open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. during the run of the fair.

Buildings are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Thrill Ville and Thrill Zone open daily at 10 a.m. and Thrill Town opens at 9 a.m.

Admission is $12 for those ages 12 and older, $6 for children ages 6 to 11 and free for children 5 and younger.

Free parking is available at Center Street Park & Ride at Seventh and Center streets, Southeast Polk School at NE 80th Street and Highway 163 and at the State Capitol on East 12th Street. There are other options for parking that require a fee and options for shuttle service to the fairgrounds. For more information, go to

Before you head out, here are seven things not to miss at this year’s fair:

1. The Food — Be sure to check out three new food offerings — “Pork-Almighty” ($12), “Iowa’s Big Pork Leg” ($9) and “Mig’s Applewood Smoked Chicken Wrap” ($9). All three are finalists in the People’s Choice Best New Food Contest. Fairgoers can vote for their favorite through Tuesday with the winner being crowned Best New Fair Food.

2. Grandstand Acts — This year’s fair features all kinds of great national acts, including Paramore (Monday), Flo Rida (Tuesday), Alabama (Aug. 17), Little Big Town (Aug. 18), John Mellencamp (Aug. 19) and Kid Rock (Aug. 20). For a complete schedule and ticket prices, go to

3. Meet Iowa Heroes — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is joining forces with the Iowa League of Heroes to promote voter registration and civic engagement. Nine “Be a Voter” trading cards, featuring the Iowa League of Heroes at the State Capitol, will be available for free at the Secretary of State booth in the Varied Industries Building. A different card will be being issued each day. Fairgoers can have their pictures taken with the heroes during a voter-registration drive from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Visitors also will be invited to cast a vote in the State Fair Straw Poll, make an Honor a Veteran tribute and learn more about the Safe at Home program.


4. Fun With Nature — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is offering family friendly, educational and entertaining activities at its building located near the west end of the fairgrounds. DNR experts will be on hand daily to answer any questions related to Iowa’s natural resources. Visitors may browse the Hike, Bike and Paddle zone, Watch and Learn zone, Stay and Play zone, In Your Home zone, live fish and reptiles in the aquariums, view the mounted wildlife that are native to Iowa and meet DNR law enforcement officers. Educational programs, including tree planting, canoeing, hunting, fishing and farm pond management, will be presented daily.

5. Grow Your Business — To help Iowa small businesses expand their online presence, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office is partnering with Google and the Iowa Small Business Development Centers at the fair. Representatives from the SBDC will be at the Secretary of State’s booth in the Varied Industries Building to help business owners verify their information on Google and create a free website in less than 10 minutes. Business owners who cannot make it to the fair can find a link to the resources at or at

6. Thrill Parks — Get your wristband and enjoy all kinds of carnival rides and attractions in Thrill Ville, Thrill Town and the Thrill Zone. Thrill Ville — featuring rides like Centrifuge, Hang Glider and Hurricane — is for high-adventure seekers, while Thrill Town — with rides like Bumper Boats, Flying Elephants and the Grand Carousel — is designed for younger fairgoers. To to for information on wristband pricing.

7. Butter Cow — A fair tradition dating back to 1911, be sure to check out this year’s butter cow, sculpted by Sarah Pratt, in the John Deere Agriculture Building. Pratt also is planning to sculpt Laura Ingalls Wilder in honor of her 150th birthday and the Solheim Cup trophy in honor of that event coming to Iowa.

For more information, go to or call the information hotline at 1-800-545-3247.



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