CENTRAL CITY — At the main entrance to the Linn County Fairgrounds, people are greeted by a giant rock.
The fairgrounds have been selected as the permanent home of the Linn County Freedom Rock, a memorial to veterans.
Artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II has been painting a Freedom Rock in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, and the plan currently is to debut the completed Linn County one at the 2020 Linn County Fair. But for now, fairgoers will see the unfinished rock in its new home and can donate toward the artwork.
This year’s Linn County Fair began Wednesday and will end Sunday. Each day, the fair will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
The Benton County Fair in Vinton goes on at the same time, and fair season at nearby counties follows next month.
Heidi Steffen, marketing manager of the Linn County Fair, said about 50,000 people are expected to come to the fairgrounds this week. That attendance has grown since she started at the fair in 2006, when it was only about 7,000 people.
She credits this growth to the variety of entertainment offered during the fair, in addition to the livestock showings and buildings that draw crowds.
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“Linn County has the second-largest urban population in Iowa,” she said. “All of the entertainment helps bring in crowds that then can see some of the agriculture base that they might not normally see.”
A large section of the fair is devoted to buildings holding livestock, bringing in barnyard sounds and smells to the fairgrounds. Steffen said poultry have been a big attraction recently.
Another building holds projects from 4-H members, who also were lined up Wednesday afternoon to bring in their livestock.
Fairgoers also can see antique tractors, play and view animals in the kid-targeted “Cock-a-doodle Zoo” and take part in the fair’s AG-ucation Zone that offers different educational, agriculture themed activities for children.
Amy Schmitt D’Amico was working Wednesday in the AG-ucation Zone and she said the activities will rotate daily. Her favorite part of the fair each year is seeing all of the livestock shows.
“For the people who don’t have day-to-day experience with animals, they can come out and see and experience them at the fair instead of just driving by,” she said.
The barnyard smells give way to the sugar and cinnamon scent of funnel cakes that dominate one corner of the fair. Traditional fair foods, including corn dogs, cheese curds, burgers, walking tacos a fried Oreos, are usually devoured by fairgoers. But Steffen said the Marion Hy-Vee also is catering some healthier options for meals.
Overall, Steffen said her favorite fair food is a blooming potato, which involves lots of cheese, sour cream and bacon on a spiraled potato.
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The carnival, which was brought back several years ago, is also popular place for families, Steffen said.
Some of the entertainment this year includes concerts both at the grandstand and free, local performers at the Farm Bureau Pavilion.
All of the Linn County Fair’s entertainment — including the tractor pull, which brings in the biggest crowd of the week — help to fund the 4-H and FFA parts of the fair, Steffen said.
Gate admissions is $2 each day, or $5 for all days. Grandstand events include: CRBA Bulls and Barrels at 7 p.m. Thursday; a concert featuring Joe Diffie with Brandon Lay and Beau Timmerman at 7 p.m. Friday, with fireworks to follow; the Linn County Fair Classic Truck and Tractor Pull at noon Saturday and the ECIPA Truck and Tractor Pull at 7 p.m. Saturday with fireworks to follow; and the Tough Trucks show at 6 p.m. Sunday. For a full schedule of events, go to thelinncountyfair.com.
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NEARBY COUNTY FAIRS
• Benton County Fair: Now-Sunday in Vinton
• Buchanan County Fair: Monday-July 7 in Independence
• Delaware County Fair: July 8-14 in Manchester
• Iowa County Fair: July 10-14 in Marengo
• Cedar County Fair: July 10-14 in Tipton
• Great Jones County Fair: July 17-21 in Monticello
• Johnson County Fair: July 21-24 in Iowa City