Here’s a look at new or expanded features for the 2021 Iowa State Fair:
Barksdale’s State Fair Cookies
A new building housing Barksdale’s State Fair Cookies, originally planned to open in 2020, is prominently featured on the fairgrounds, southwest of the Grandstand and across the street from the Varied Industries Building.
Though the ovens inside have been fired up a few times already, this will be the first chance most people have had to grab a cup, or more likely a bucket, of the warm cookies. You get about a dozen cookies in a cup and about 60 in the bucket order.
“Joe has had a dream to have an industrial-sized kitchen instead of a small place where he was making cookies, so when he gifted (the company to the Iowa State Fair), we built the cookie business with his direction,” fair marketing director Mindy Williamson said. “Now we have lots of windows where people can get in line to get cookies and we also have the trailers this year as well.”
According to Williamson, the new building has the ability to serve “about 34,000 cookies in an hour.”
More on the 2021 Iowa State Fair:
The Educational Garden, located adjacent to the fair’s Animal Learning Center, was also supposed to make its debut in 2020. Instead, fairgoers this year will get their first glance at the new space created to provide information about and examples of food that most anyone in Iowa can grow.
“It’s just showing people that it’s simple and easy to plant plants together and grow food in your backyard,” said Williamson. “The produce that’s in there at the end of the fair will be donated to the (Food Bank of Iowa).”
The garden features corn, soybeans, alfalfa and more according to Emily Wynn, the State Fair’s agricultural coordinator.
Iowa Craft Beer Tent and events
Scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 17, Fair After Work 21-plus event is one geared to be educational in a different way than the aforementioned garden.
“It’s an ‘Amazing Race’-type event,” explained Wynn. “You get instructions and scurry across the fairgrounds and learn about beef at different locations.”
Sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council, the event takes place in part at the new Craft Beer Tent which will be three times the size of its predecessor and located at the west end of the Jacobson Exhibition Center lawn.
The passport-based program starts at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent with fair-themed bingo and free beer tickets. The program will also have participants stop at over half a dozen locations around the fair that have to do with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.
The already sold-out Moos and Brews is another new event, which will allow attendees get up close to dairy cows and calves at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20. Held in the North Annex of the Cattle Barn, the night consists of butter sculpting, selfies with calves, spiked milkshakes and more.
4-H Building renovations
Though not an entirely new construction, renovations to the aging 4-H building located on the fairgrounds represent efforts brough in part through a $6 million donation to bring it more into the modern-day.
The building now sports a new layout with a variety of fresh amenities, perhaps most notably new classrooms, bathrooms and garden beds.
“The building has been used for many different things over the years… most recently it was used for displaying 4-H projects that came from the county fair level to the state fair,” Williamson said. The renovations will make the 4-H building “better for displaying the caliber of projects that come in.”
BaconFest founder’s new restaurant
Brook Reynolds, co-founder of Des Moines’ Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, and his partners broke ground this spring on JR’s South Pork Ranch. The new pork-centric restaurant, located in the space previously occupied by Diamond Jacks, will be open for business at the start of the fair.
The menu includes a pork belly burnt ends sandwich ($14), Nashville hot chicken ($13) and pork ($15) sandwiches, with plenty of sides, drinks and desserts to please everyone. They’ll also have eating contests, live music and trivia throughout the fair.
Elwell Family Park
The Elwell Family Park, located in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds, was made possible thanks in part to a pledge of $2 million from Denny and Candy Elwell. Denny Elwell is chairman of an eponymous metro Des Moines commercial real estate and development company.
The new area features permanent seating for 2,100 people, with room to eventually expand to 6,000 seats, and ushers in the return of tractor pulls, demolition derbies and more.
Events will begin Aug. 14, the third day of the fair, with Monster Truck Thunder, followed Aug. 17 and 18 by the Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pull and, on Aug. 21, the Domination Motorsports Demolition Derby.
A concession trailer and temporary restrooms will be available at this year’s event. Work to add permanent restrooms and expanded concessions will continue after this year’s events.
More entertainment at the 2021 Iowa State Fair:
Cuddles and Snuggles Chore Time
Those lucky enough to get tickets to the now sold-out Cuddles and Snuggles Chore Time events will mix work (helping with chores) and play (snuggles with baby animals) at the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. Four chore times are on the fair’s schedule, 8-9 a.m. Aug. 13, Aug. 17, Aug. 19 and Aug. 21, and include interaction with everything from cows to ostriches.
“We have an entire center dedicated to mamas and babes,” Wynn said. “Families get to come in and do tours before and learn about all the animals.”
Also sold out already is Barnyard Yoga. The event, previously limited to goats, has been expanded to include llamas and bunnies this year. Goat Yoga is at 7 p.m. Aug. 18, while Llama Yoga is at 6 p.m. Aug. 20, and Bunny Yoga is at 9 a.m. Aug. 22.
While bunnies and goats will be mingling during their respective yoga events, Wynn noted that the llamas will be kept in pens given their larger size.
Reporter Elle Wignall contributed to this report.