Nothing To Do In Iowa

Summer here is on its last leg, and autumn is knocking on our doors. Yet we are still trying to squeeze out the fun of what’s left of this summer.

Like the summers before, we again had a few friends and relatives from out-of-state who visited and stayed with us here in Iowa. They came from New York, from Florida, and even from out of the country like Taiwan and the Philippines.

One friend who came from Florida, was told by her office mates when they learned that she was flying to Iowa, that there’s nothing to see and do in Iowa. Except if you’re a Presidential candidate and you’re campaigning.

True, Iowa is not a tourist destination, like California or Florida. There may not be much to see here. But for our friends, seeing us, maybe is reason enough for them to visit Iowa.

Yet we tried our best to show our visitors what is here to see. We toured them around the city of Des Moines, the covered bridges of Madison County, and the farm fields of Iowa. Some of them even had the chance to go to the annual Iowa State Fair.

They said that our state fair is truly part of Americana. For where else can you go around the fair grounds while chomping on a whole turkey leg or a pork chop on a stick? Or munch deep-fried Oreos or deep-fried Sneakers? Or see the biggest cow, or the biggest pumpkin? Or see the famed butter cow sculpture?

This summer, we also had the chance to visit other states, like Montana and California. We have a few relatives in California, including my mother-in-law, who sadly to say, got awfully sick and eventually passed away during our visit there. Thus our vacation had a sudden turn of sad events.

She was hospitalized in a small hospital in Hollywood. In fact, the hospital was a couple of blocks from Sunset Boulevard and all the touristy spots in Hollywood. But driving back and forth to the hospital and where we’re staying was not a pleasant trip, as we were most of the time stuck in terrible traffic in the Los Angeles area.

photo taken after we visited my mother-in-law at the hospital

My mother-in-law stayed in the ICU for a few days, and I had the chance to talk to her physician. I introduced myself as an ICU doctor as well, so we can have a direct talk about the nitty-gritty details involved, as well as management, and of course prognosis.

The ICU physician was nice to me. Though he was in a bit of disbelief that I am practicing in Iowa. Perhaps he, like many others, have the impression that there’s nothing but corn and cows in Iowa.

He even asked my kids what do they do for “fun” in Iowa. My kids just politely said “a lot” without giving much details. I’m sure the good doctor was expecting answers like going to Disney, or visiting a theme park (which we also have though not as famous), or going to the beach.

My kids could have answered, how about catching fireflies. Or riding ATV in the cornfields with our friends. Or riding bike in dirt trails. Or perhaps just watching the sunset, or counting the stars.

As he was leaving, my mother-in-law’s doctor told me that he felt “sorry” that I live in Iowa. I just smiled and did not answer. It was past eight in the evening, and I knew he was not even on-call that night for he told me so, and yet he was still making rounds and seeing patients.

Me in Iowa? If I’m not on-call, I’m done with work by five in the afternoon, and I’m doing something “fun” by that time. Or maybe I’m just home spending time with my family.

In reality, it was me, who felt sorry for him.

For somebody who have lived in Manila, New Jersey, New York City, California, and Florida, I know what I’m talking about. And that’s why I chose to live where I’m living now.

Yes, there’s nothing to do in Iowa.

me and the bike trail in the middle of cornfiels


 

Fair and Flair

Recently we had guests again from out-of-state who came to visit us here in Iowa. And where did we take them? Bridges of Madison County? Iowa State Capitol? Wind turbines of Iowa? Lots and lots of Iowa cornfields? Seen that. Done that.

This time we brought them to the biggest Iowa attraction. No, not the Iowa Caucuses. But something similar with that flair of craziness. We brought them to the Iowa State Fair.

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25-foot sculpture depicting Grant Wood’s famous “American Gothic.”

The Iowa State Fair is an 11-day event every August that attracts millions of visitors each year. There is something for all your fancies and interest in the fair.

Of course, since we are an agricultural state, it is hard to miss the sights and sounds of farming.

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Farming equipment and tractors

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More tractors

There’s also livestocks and produce that are showcased in the fair, like the heaviest pig or the biggest pumpkin. Below is the 1st price pumpkin.

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How much pumpkin pie can you make out of this?

If you want to experience to milk a cow, you can do it at the milking parlor. And speaking of cow, one of the most iconic piece of the Iowa State Fair is the sculpted butter cow.

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butter cow inside the refrigerated showroom

That cow is 600 pounds of butter. That can butter 19,200 slices of toast!

Do you know that the first sculpted fair’s cow was done in 1911? Since then every year a new butter cow is sculpted and graces the fair.

But do you know that since 1911, only 5 persons so far have done the sculpting? The latest butter cow sculptor apprenticed for 15 years to the previous sculptor, before she became the official sculptor starting in 2006. What a tradition!

There are also different shows and contests. From hog calling contest, to yodeling contest, to rooster crowing contest, to beard growing contest. You name it, it’s here.

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There’s even a contest trying to get your votes,  as you can see political candidates – from presidential aspirants to local government candidates, especially if it is an election year – mingling with the crowds, among other clowns that can be seen in the fair. Did I just call them clowns?

There’s also concerts that are more “mainstream” if you will. The Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Lady Antebellum, Foreigner, and Styx are some of the big names that are performing this year at the state fair.

If it is the thrill of rides that you’re looking for, we have it as well.

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riding the sky glider

From sky glider which is like a riding a ski lift, to ziplines, to giant slides, to roller coasters, to several storey-high slingshot. We have it here.

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Lastly, the food at the fair is a different class of its own. They have everything on a stick. Corn-on-the-cob on a stick or hotdog on a stick? That’s too common. How about pork chop on a stick? Or funnel cake on a stick? Yes, they do have it.

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And everything deep-fried. Like deep-fried Twinkies, or deep-fried Milky Way, or even deep-fried butter! You read it right. Deep-fried stick of butter on a stick! They might as well call it heart attack on a stick!

For me though, the most interesting show in the fair, are the people themselves.  With their different strangeness and idiosyncrasies, just watching the people is entertaining enough for me. I may be one of those bizarre ones. It’s way more than fun.

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Come for a visit and see it for yourself. And bring your weirdness with you. It’s accepted here.

(*all photos taken with my iPhone)