4-H Focus: History of the Iowa State Fair

The India Cultural Association performs at the Iowa State Fair.
The India Cultural Association performs at the Iowa State Fair.

Does your family travel to Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair as a tradition every year? It is for many 4-H families. During the county fair, many 4-H’ers will bring static projects to judges who will critique their project. The youth’s project may receive a blue, red, or white ribbon and possibly a State Fair consideration ribbon. This State Fair Consideration ribbon means the project will be set aside for more judging.

The project will be judged along with the other projects that were set aside for the State Fair. The judges will make a final section of State Fair worthy projects, which will then be sent to Des Moines in August for the fair. It is an honor to have one of your projects selected to be exhibited in Des Moines.

Every county has a limited number of projects they can send to the State Fair. Choosing which individuals will represent Jefferson County can be difficult as many youths have great projects. In years past, youth have exhibited photography, baking, sewing, and many other projects. The first documentation of Jefferson County at the Iowa State Fair was 1928 with a home furnishing project.

Many people have thought that the Iowa State Fair location has always been in Des Moines, but they didn’t call the location home until 1879.

The first-ever site for the Iowa State Fair was right here in Fairfield, Iowa! It sat on just 6 acres of land in 1954 and then 10 acres in 1955 on 4th street and Grimes Avenue. You can visit the location to see a historical marker in its place. Before traveling with easily accessible, they brought the fair to Iowans; therefore, the State fair didn’t make a permanent home until 1879; it traveled around southeast Iowa for several years.

In today’s location of the Iowa State Fair, you can find the 4-H exhibit building located in the southwest corner of the grounds. This building is where you will find projects from all 100 4-H counties in Iowa. Not only will you find hundreds of outstanding projects, but you will also see 4-H’ers doing communication events such as extemporaneous speaking, educational presentations, or Share-The-Fun presentations on the 4-H stage.

These events are all excellent leadership skills 4-H’ers can continue to use to build themselves up as young adults. Not only is this a perfect opportunity for 4-H’ers, but as State Fair goers yourself, you can watch them perform these skills every day at the 4-H Exhibits Building. Next time you go to the Iowa State Fair, we urge you to check out all these 4-H’ers hard work!