A History Lesson
Recently our staff had a field trip. We visited the State Historical Society for a tour of its collections and library. Knowing that we were from the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, Becki Plunkett, the special collections archivist, pulled several files of old Iowa State Fair photos. We excitedly poured over the images, trying to place where these photos were taken as we visualized the Fairgrounds today. Some had landmarks we know, but others made us wonder...where?
A little digging found that the grounds we know today played host to the Iowa State Fair beginning in 1886. A building and improvement committee consisting of an engineer, an architect and a superintendent were appointed to guide the construction of 67 buildings in a six-month period. We are fortunate that one of those buildings, Pioneer Hall, is still in use today.
In regard to future building, the architect Mr. Hackney reported, "A thorough plan should be adopted for the parking and the planting of the grounds, and the work of planting commenced as soon as possible. A building can be built in a very short time—an elegant elm requires years to reach maturity." Already there was a vision for our Fair's future. In the late 1890s, a master plan for the Fairgrounds was developed from which the buildings we currently use were planned.
While much on our Fairgrounds has changed, that master plan of the 1890s is still very much alive today. Grand Avenue and Rock Island, the location of the barns, the Grandstand and Campgrounds—all were part of the vision to build Fairgrounds that would stand the test of time. The many trees that were planted and the ones we continue to plant guarantee our park-like nature remains.
After 160 years, people still look to the Iowa State Fair as a celebration of not only the best Iowa has to offer, but also our nation. While many fairs are struggling, the Iowa State Fair continues to get bigger and better. We are envied and looked to from around the world as a venue where people, products and purpose are celebrated. It is only because of everyone's efforts—volunteers, visitors, exhibitors, concessionaires and staff—that we have achieved this status.
Now I invite you to visit the Fairgrounds on a normal day—to truly appreciate the foresight our Fair forefathers had in building a facility to house the Fair, and grounds that are truly a beautiful entity, even without the Fair.
Thank you for your support of the Blue Ribbon Foundation over the years. We hope you will continue to help us preserve and build upon the vision of that original building and improvement committee. Our Fair's future depends on it.
Protect the Fair's Future
Learn how you can help ensure the Iowa State Fair can continue to provide joy and beauty for future generations by planning a gift to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. Contact Robin Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 262-3111 x373 today.