116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Traditionally used as an escape from the heat, the Varied Industries building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds is home to booths galore, selling bathtubs or outdoor gear to fairgoers cooling off with a paper fan on a Popsicle stick.
Three booths, however, are selling experiences and the promise of a successful future on top of merchandise. The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, while rivals, have neighboring booths at the state fair each year.
Without a fair last year due to the pandemic, universities are pulling out all the stops to ensure a successful state fair presence this year.
Ihle is founder of We Build U, which specializes in life-size Lego sculptures. In collaboration with Chris Rau, who designed the sculpture, it will require 44,000 Lego pieces to complete.
“I know that Chris and I both wanted to do something for Iowa State so he reached out to them to see what they might want,” said Rau. “I think the timing really worked out with the fair to gain interest and show off one of ISU's historical figures.”
Once completed, the statue will reside on Iowa State’s campus, at a location yet to be determined.
It has been 125 years since George Washington Carver received his degree at ISU. Carver was the first Black student and faculty member at the secondary institution. One of the most renowned scientists in the 20th century, Carver was a trailblazer within agricultural science.
Using Legos to educate fairgoers on George Washington Carver’s long-lasting legacy is the goal for We Build U.
“I think about it as the Legos themselves draws the initial attention of ‘Wow, that's pretty cool,’ and generates an interest of what's going on,’’ Rau said. ”They then will see that we're building a person, and hopefully, will get them wondering ‘Why this guy? What did he do to get a unique statue built?’ From this interest comes an openness to learn about just who George Washington Carver is, his connection to ISU and his historical contributions.“
The team of builders will spend 11 hours each day of the fair constructing the statue.
University of Northern Iowa
The University of Northern Iowa focuses on “Achieve Beyond,” which focuses on the untapped potential students have. By attending the four-year institution, UNI students are able to fulfill their potential and take it beyond what they were expecting.
“After years of research it was really that we help students come and realize their unrealized potential,” said Sara Kies, assistant director of marketing and brand strategy at the University of Northern Iowa. …“They come to UNI with fears, and hopes and dreams just like everyone else. But what we found in our research is people saying ‘I never thought I could do as much as what I’m doing now and that is because of my experience at UNI.’ So we’re really trying to embrace that in our brand at UNI and that is really going to be our theme of this year.”
UNI also will be promoting a new partnership with Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), that will make it easier for DMACC students to transfer to UNI or be enrolled in online classes through UNI.
After last year’s hiatus, Kies hopes to bring purple back to the 515.
“They have to look forward to seeing a lot of purple,” Kies said. “The opportunity to really celebrate UNI and know what UNI brings to Iowa as a whole. I think that’s what we’re trying to do with our presence at the state fair is that Iowa and Iowa State, they’re household names, but you get into some areas of the state and they don’t know what UNI is, who UNI is, so this is really our opportunity to be proud of who we are and connect with not only the residents of Des Moines, but all over the state and out of the state as well.’’
University of Iowa
University of Iowa plans to incorporate a lot of the same exhibits and activities from years past. Herky and members of the Iowa Spirit Squad will be present, as well as volunteers from UI’s various departments and organizations, including Dance Marathon, STEM, UI Health Care and Athletics will be promoting events.
Admissions counselors also will be present at the booth to answer questions about enrollment and the upcoming school year.
The Iowa State Fair will take place Thursday to Aug. 22 at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines.
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