The Iowa State Fair is a little more than a week away. Despite this summer's hot dry weather, organizers say the grounds are looking great and nearly ready for opening day. This year, you'll notice something new on Expo Hill. It's a place for entertainment and education.
An acrobatic group called The Red Trouser Show will perform in a new band shell on Expo Hill three times a day. Fair CEO and Manager Gary Slater says, “I guarantee you'll be amused."
The band shell is the second phase of the fair's eco-project on Expo Hill. Thin solar panels from an Ames based company called PowerFilm will go on top. The panels will produce energy from the sun that will be stored in batteries. Slater says, "And then the power is ready for whatever we need to plug into it, if you have an entertainer underneath it that has amps and sound and things like that."
Slater says crews added solar pavers last year. Those are solar powered lights embedded in the pavement of a walkway that leads up to Expo Hill. You'll also find two more cooling benches. Solar panels on top power the fans, allowing you to sit down and take a cool break.
The two year solar powered project cost about $1 million. Slater says a federal grant, MidAmerican Energy and the Iowa State Fair all contributed. He says the goal is to teach fairgoers about Iowa's potential for renewable energy. He says, "Get us all thinking about our options and renewable sources of power, how to save energy and how to produce energy that is clean."
Slater says signs will share information about the project. And, fairgoers can learn more inside MidAmerican Energy's education center. The building is powered by solar panels on top of the roof and located underneath the fair's wind turbine, which provides power to the east side of town.
Slater says, "MidAmerican says of the hundred wind turbines they have across Iowa, this is the most important because a million people get to see it when they come to the Iowa State Fair."
And, it helps them learn about the power of wind, and now sun, when it comes to providing renewable energy to the state.
The Iowa State Fair opens Thursday, August 9th. You can get in for free that day from 6 to 9 a.m. Just look for the free admission coupon in Sunday's Des Moines Register and in Wednesday's full page Hy-Vee ad.