DES MOINES — New unofficial, unscientific survey results are in, and pork chop on a stick, country singer Reba McEntire and the late actor John Wayne are the winners in the annual State Fair Straw Poll conducted by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office during the 11-day run that ended Sunday.
Also Monday, officials with the Iowa State Fair said this year’s event set an attendance record for the fair’s 164-year history.
The estimated attendance through Friday was lagging behind 2017 numbers just slightly, said Mindy Williamson, the fair’s marketing director, but nice weather over the weekend boosted the total attendance to an estimated 1,130,260 — which was 189 people over the 1,130,071 attendance record set in 2017.
Total attendance for the fair’s grandstand shows also hit a new record of 89,558 over the 11-day concert series. In 2017, the highest concert attendance was Pentatonix at 10,643, which was considered a sell-out before grandstand renovations this year opened up 4,000 additional seats.
A lot of the concertgoers traveled to the fair by car with a record 75,554 cars parked on the fairgrounds, topping a previous high of 71,226. Also, Williamson said renovations to the carnival ride areas netted a record one day of revenue totaling $344,000,
Of the more than 3,200 people attending the fair who cast their ballots in the Secretary of State’s straw poll, 27 percent selected the pork chop on a stick as their favorite State Fair food, with corn dogs garnering 20 percent, cookies in a cup 18 percent, turkey legs 6 percent and fried Twinkies 2 percent. The remaining 27 percent was spread among a variety of food offerings.
McEntire was voted the top grandstand act by 20 percent of fairgoers, followed by Earth, Wind & Fire with 14 percent, Jim Gaffigan with 13 percent, Casting Crowns and Florida Georgia Line at 12 percent each, and Sugarland with 11 percent.
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As far as the favorite Iowa celebrity in the eyes of fair attendees, Winterset native John Wayne topped the list at 26 percent, followed by actor Ashton Kutcher at 21 percent, gymnast Shawn Johnson at 11 percent and singer Maddie Poppe with 9 percent.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate noted the straw poll is unscientific and intended for entertainment purposes only.
On the political side, fairgoers favored Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds over Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell, 54 percent to 39 percent, with Libertarian Party candidate Jake Porter capturing 4 percent in the straw poll for the 2018 race for governor.
Iowa incumbents in Congress who are on the ballot this November carried the day in three of four races, with Republican Christopher Peters being the only challenger to forge a slight lead over U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s 2nd District straw poll.
As a political barometer, past Secretary of State straw polls have correctly forecast the outcomes of the 2016 presidential election, the 2014 gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in Iowa, but it split in predicting the outcomes of two congressional matchups by correctly picking Republican David Young over Democrat Staci Appel but incorrectly favoring Democrat Pat Murphy over eventual winner Republican Rod Blum.
Full results are available at the Secretary of State’s website.
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