Historic Tour to Kickstart State Fair Opening Day

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa State Fair is kicking off opening day with a walking historic tour.

The tour walks people through the different buildings and history behind each wall.

Special Projects and Outreach Coordinator for the State Historical Museum of Iowa, Jessica Rundlett, said the fair found its permanent home in Des Moines, after testing other towns in 1854.

“This was an ideal place for the fair, because of the flats provided an excellent area for barns, and machinery and the hills to the east provided a beautiful campground and additional space for buildings,” Rundlett said.

Many buildings on the fairgrounds are over 100 years old. The Stock Pavillion was built in 1902 and is still used for stock shows today.

“This building [Stock Pavillion] was the first major brick and steel structure, constructed on these fair grounds,” Rundlett said.

Other historic buildings include: the agricultural building (1904), swine barn (1907), horse barn (1912) and sheep barn (1917).

Curator of the State Historical Museum of Iowa, Leo Landis said, “One of the features of the Iowa state fair are the features that were being exhibited. It was a way for farmers and farm families to show how good of animal producers they were.”

In addition to the buildings, both Rundlett and Landis talk about the environment within the state fair and how it has grown to what it is today.

“One of the greatest traditions of the Iowa State Fair, is that it started as an agricultural celebration and a way for farmers to share ideas and improve. Even with all the glitz, the lights and the fancy stands, what it comes down to is the fair is still a celebration of Iowa community,” Rundlett said.

The historic tour is Thursday morning 8:15 to 9:15. Anyone in the fairgrounds is welcome to attend.

Governor Kim Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg will be in attendance.

This is the fourth year a historic tour is given on opening day.