116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Fans can flock to this year’s Iowa State Fair in Des Moines to experience everything from the urban to the disturbed. As in country superstar Keith Urban on Aug. 20 and heavy metal rockers Disturbed on Aug. 19.
The grandstand lineup is as eclectic as in the before times, offering something for nearly every contemporary musical taste.
Skillet will be cooking up Christian sounds with a hard-rock edge on opening night Aug. 11, followed by country duo Brooks & Dunn on Aug. 12; hip-hop R&B from Nelly on Aug. 13; pop star Demi Lovato on Aug. 14; alt-rock singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette on Aug. 15; Texas blues rocking ZZ Top on Aug. 16; comedian John Crist on Aug. 17; country singer Kane Brown on Aug. 18; Disturbed on Aug. 19; Urban on Aug. 20; ending with “American Idol” winner-turned-country-superstar Carrie Underwood on Aug. 21.
Tickets vary with each act, ranging from $30 to $100, plus fair admission.
What: Iowa State Fair
Where: 3000 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines
When: Aug. 11 to 21
Admission: $9 ages 12 and up in advance, $14 at the gate; $5 ages 6 to 11 in advance, $8 at the gate; iowastatefair.org/visit/buy-tickets
Grandstand concerts, tickets: iowastatefair.org/entertainment/grandstand
Free entertainment: iowastatefair.org/entertainment/free-entertainment
State Fair trivia: iowastatefair.org/about/trivia
Most concerts also feature an opening act, with familiar names like Ginuwine, paired with Nelly; Heart’s Ann Wilson opening for ZZ Top; and Chevelle heating up the night before Disturbed.
Pandemic precautions set in place in 2021 will continue this year, with extra hand-washing opportunities and stepped up cleaning in restrooms and high-touch areas, noted Mindy Williamson, the fair’s marketing manager.
Last year also found all the backstage personnel masking up and taking extra precautions to safeguard themselves and the performers. This year, staff will take their cues from performer preferences as to COVID measures like temperature checks, Williamson added. The number of people backstage will be limited, and like last year, fans won’t have meet-and-greet options.
Masks will continue to be optional for audience members in the vast outdoor venue that seats about 10,500, with more standing-room-only options.
According to a trivia link on the fair’s website, iowastatefair.org/about/trivia, Sonny and Cher packed in 26,200 fans in two shows in 1972. Other top draws over the years have been the Beach Boys in 1975, with 25,400 attendees in one show; Johnny Cash with 25,300 fans in two shows in 1970; Chicago, with 24,700 fans in one show in 1974; and the Oak Ridge Boys, playing for 23,500 fans in two shows in 1982.
Last year’s biggest draw was country singer/songwriter Chris Stapleton, with 17,300 fans in the stands and standing-room zones.
This year, the pit standing-only spots are full for Nelly, Kane Brown, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood.
Last year also featured multiple artists slated to appear in 2020. Among that group, Urban wasn’t able to return in 2021, but was able to come this year, instead.
Gary Slater, the fair’s CEO/manager, works with the booking agents, and said that artists “were really excited” to return to the stage last year, “and are still excited this year,” since so many haven’t been able to perform in the wake of the pandemic.
The grandstand isn’t the only place to find music. Free concerts are scattered throughout the fairground’s 445 acres — excluding 160 acres of campgrounds.
Susan Knapp Amphitheater
Among the stars taking this free stage are country singer Sammy Kershaw at 8 p.m. Aug. 14; Country Gold, featuring Leroy Van Dyke (“Auctioneer” and “Walk on By”), T.G. Sheppard and Kelly Lang, at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15; Hairball at 8 p.m. Aug. 16 and 17; Wang Chung, riding Britain’s post-punk, New Wave scene with “Dance Hall Days” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” performing at 8 p.m. Aug. 18; and glam rocking Slaughter at 8 p.m. Aug. 20.
Anne and Bill Riley Stage
Ron Diamond will dazzle audiences twice daily from Aug. 15 to 20, with feats of magic, illusion and hypnosis.
This also is the stage where the 2022 State Fair Queen will be crowned at 7 p.m. Aug. 13. Several musical acts will be in the spotlight there, as well.
MidAmerican Energy Stage
This is the place to be for regional and national fan favorites, beginning with country artist Jason Brown at 7 and 9 p.m. Aug. 11, and continuing with Iowa’s own alt-rock-country band, The Nadas, at 7 and 9 p.m. Aug. 12. Others include Colt Ford at 8 p.m. Aug. 13; Stephen Pearcy, the voice of Ratt, at 8 p.m. Aug. 15; fair fixtures and former Blue Band buddies Bob Dorr and Jeff Petersen, who have performed at the fair for more than 30 years, and are returning with an all-star Iowa lineup at 7 and 9 p.m. Aug. 20; and on the fair’s final day, Quiet Riot (“Cum on Feel the Noize”) at 8 p.m. Aug. 21.
Another big star at the big show is the 600-pound cow sculpted out of butter annually since 1911.
This year’s bovine beauty will be sharing the spotlight with a replica of at least one of the 76 trombones leading the big parade on Broadway this year, in the Tony-nominated revival of “The Music Man.” Penned by Mason City native Meredith Willson, the River City musical premiered in New York in 1957, and the current cast features Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in the leading roles, with West Des Moines native Drew Minard also in the cast.
Butter sculptor Sarah Pratt is creating the homage to “The Music Man,” as well as a relief celebrating the 100th anniversary of Ye Old Mill, the fair’s popular “tunnel of love” ride. It’s also the fair’s oldest permanent ride, appropriately located at the corner of the Grand Concourse and East 33rd Street, east of Thrill Ville.
More thrills await fairgoers, from food on a stick and stomach-churning midway rides, to all the exhibits, demonstrations, animal and agriculture showcases, typically attracting more than a million visitors to the capital city. Or as Rodgers and Hammerstein declared in 1945: “Our state fair is a great state fair.”
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