Our State Fair—Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story

(Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation)
With Designer Paul Micich

our state fairThe venerable Iowa State Fair celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2004 with the release of a coffee-table book tracing its humble origins in Fairfield, IA, to today’s event that draws more than1 million people annually. From that first fair—intended to develop Iowa’s wealth and increase its people in “the scale of intellectual being” —to today’s extravaganza, the book traces a fascinating evolution of Iowa and Iowans in six sections—A Grand Tradition; Chasing the Blue Ribbon; What an Entertainment Lineup!; The Ag Extravaganza of Iowa; Those Super Structures (they’re on the National Register); and Meet Me at the Fair. That final section serves up a potpourri of everything from the food to the campgrounds to the queens, to the book-the-movie-the-musical. With 500 visuals, this book is a treasure to treasure.


iowa state fair foundation    

This book is a compilation of people-stories. Here's a favorite.

LeGrande Pinckney of Des Moines was a mechanic, truck driver, auto racing fan and—eventually—a race car driver himself. In 1951, he won the State Fair Championship in his ’34 Ford coupe. His sons say winning that was a very big deal for him.

Eleven years later, he ended a race upside down in his car and retired. But Mr. Pinckney returned one last time.

It was that same year, after his funeral and cremation. One evening, four of his five sons were driving around trying to decide what to do with the ashes, when they came past the Fairgrounds. The turning gate just happened to be opened…

Parking the car, the men walked onto the track their father had loved for so long. And in the dusk of evening, they spread his cremains from the fourth corner past the flag stand. Beyond them, someone was grading the track, and although that person never knew it, he helped Mr. Pinckney on his final journey home.