Grease, Goats and Girth: The Iowa State Fair

state fair

After the two-hour drive to Des Moines, Iowa, my taste buds were ready for the greasy foods on a stick and ridiculous fair concoctions that only the Iowa State Fair could deliver. My goal was to attend the fair on an empty stomach so I could report back to you, dear ESer, about how the delicious fried things on a stick tasted. But I have a confession to make: I WAS NOT HUNGRY. After a sweet and greasy fried twinkie that got me all sticky, my body said “no way are you eating any more of this shit.” No, the wasp drowning in the sugary residue around a funnel cake was not appetizing. And last time I checked, hot beef sundaes would make any normal person want to vomit. About eight bottles of water and 500 pictures later, I was exhausted, smelly, tired and grossed out. I never did find those chicken lips on a stick. I feel somewhat cheated.

It was a twilight zone of meat: pork, steak, chicken, turkey, bacon, sausage, meatballs, 1/2 lb tenderloins, hamburgers. And it seemed that every other person I saw was a walking example of what happens if one eats state fair food as one’s daily diet. The people watching just got better and better and more alarming as we made our way around the fair. (Picture the humans in the movie Wall-E.) I couldn’t snap my camera fast enough. In speaking with one seemingly regular gentleman, he asked me what I was doing with the big camera. I told him that I was photographing state fair food. He asked me, “are you taking pictures of all the freaks?” Yes, yes, I was. I couldn’t keep my shutter shut.

We were also lucky enough to catch a few of the animals left in their pens, including a gigantic pig that looked like a hippopotamus, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks and cows. The smell, oh the smell, can only be described as hot and pungent. And most likely, very soon, these animals would be on a stick somewhere. Gross.

Pop a few antacids before you browse the selection of photos:

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Top 10 Food Finds at the Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair

This Sunday marked the conclusion of the 157th annual Iowa State Fair, known to downscale gourmands far and wide as the annual pinnacle of American eating. From cupcakes to astronauts, if it exists, you can bet the folks at the Iowa State Fair can grow it to an obscene size, deep-fry it and eat it off a stick, or of course, sculpt it out of butter.

10. The Butter Cow


A classic. Look at the detailed carving in that butter udder. Masterful work.

9. Frozen S’more on a Stick

frozen s'more on a stick

Mmmm…a new era for desserts on a stick. Genius.

8. Giant Gourds


Anyone else think there’s something really creepy about this photo?

7. Rodent Cake


Another creepy one! Who wants a rodent on top of their cake? And this was a blue ribbon winner! What did the losing cakes look like??

6. Mystery Cake


Oh right. This is what the losing cakes looked like. Can anyone even begin to explain what is going on here??? Are those jalapenos? Chocolate covered hot dogs? Deep fried garbage?

Next: Top 5 Food Finds at the Iowa State Fair