The lyrics “Our state fair is a great state fair!” might resonate with travelers familiar with the classic 1962 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical-turned-movie, “State Fair.” And when it comes to the Midwest’s state fairs, every state can boast the same about their own. While state fairs all have similar features in agricultural showcases, entertainment, rides, and fried foods, each is also unique.
The Minnesota State Fair is known as the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” and is always held the 12 days leading up to and through Labor Day. Located in St. Paul, the Minnesota State Fair is the largest fair in the United States and is best known for its headliner entertainment, featuring big-name artists such as the Jonas Brothers, Keith Urban, The Chicks, Duran Duran, and more.
At the neighboring Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, dairy is king. The fair hosts milking demonstrations and even a Milk House where people can buy cups of milk in different flavors. The fair is known for its original cream puffs, which have been served there since 1924. Visitors can also enjoy the Sporkies (and Drinkies) food competition, where food vendors create new and exciting treats.
Fairs are all about family, and no fair embraces this more than the Ohio State Fair. Held in Columbus, it offers many interactive experiences, including the NaturalResources Park, which spans 8 acres and offers wildlife andfishing for kids, as well as a meet and greet with Smokey Bear.
When it comes to food creations, the Iowa State Fair is a must-see, with over 70 different food-on-a-stick items to sample. This fair is known as “The Best Days Ever,” and is actually the fair that inspired the original “State Fair” movie. Located in Des Moines, the Iowa State Fair is one of the largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. The fair was included in the New York Times bestseller “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” and is the home of the world-renowned butter cow at nearly 6 feet tall and weighing 600 pounds.
Fairgoers can have an all-around great fair experience at the Indiana State Fair. This is one of the longest fairs, running 18 days from the end of July to mid-August. Held in Indianapolis, the fair focuses on a special theme each year, like basketball or Indiana’s bicentennial. The fair has several different stages and offers exciting musical performances and free, family-friendly specials.
If there’s one fair breaking some of the traditional fair molds, it’s the Michigan State Fair in Novi. While this fair took a break for a few years, it now strives to honor the traditions of the past while showcasing the new agricultural movement in Michigan. It pays homage to cottage industry food and beverages, the farm-to-table movement, and other similar ventures. The Michigan State Fair is known for its competitions like watermelon seed spitting, pie eating, and homebrewing.
Another fair with top-notch entertainment is the Illinois State Fair, with a grandstand that has seen the likes of Kenny Chesney and Chris Young. Food vendors compete in Golden Abe’s Fantastic Fair Food Contest in categories such as “Best Taste” and “Most Creative.” The fair features a unique 30-acre Conservation World where visitors can have a hands-on Illinois agricultural experience. Also unique to the Illinois State Fair is the Village of Cultures, a special area sharing entertainment and food from different countries and cultures.
Written by Danielle Devota
Main Image: Indiana State Fair, Credit: Indiana State Fair