Fare Days at the Iowa State Fair

On Friday, my little family went to the 2009 Iowa State Fair. If you are unfamiliar with the fair (which I was before I moved here), it is the biggest in the nation. It was showcased on the Today's Show on Thursday. I know this because my mom texted me to tell me (we don't have cable or bunny ears, even though that doesn't work anymore). We chose Friday as our fair day because next week is going to be a bit hectic and no one wants to go to the fair on the weekend.

Unfortunately, we probably chose the hottest day to go to the fair. This is probably not a problem for most people, but I am burning up in a 70 degree apartment so it wasn't the best situation for me and several times throughout our fair day I let me annoyance be known. It just happened to be at the expense of my dear husband. Usually, I am okay with large crowds, but for some reason the large amount of people wanting to sneak a peek at the butter cow and butter TV put me over the edge. That and the fact that the building we were in didn't have air conditioning, just fans blowing around. Was it that hot last year?

Besides me complaining about how hot I was, this blog is how to have a cheap fare fair day! We tried, but we definitely could have done better. Here's how:

Buy your tickets in advance. Tickets are sold in advance at HyVee, Dahl's, Fareway, participating True Value stores and online at www.iowastatefair.org. Advance tickets are sold until the day before the fair starts. You can save $3 on adult tickets ($7 instead of $10) and $1 on children's tickets ($3 instead of $4). We failed to pre-buy our tickets this year.

Look for free parking. This usually means you need to get to the fair before 8am. If you can't find free parking, look for those who allow you to park in their yard for a small fee. We found a steal for $3 in a yard behind an elementary school. Last year we got there early enough to park for free. That wasn't the case this year. Going anywhere with a 3 month old always takes longer than you think.

Once inside, look for vendors giving out free food. Yes, I said people are giving away free food. Right when we walked in we saw the "Free Ice Cream of the Day" vendor giving out M&M ice cream on a stick! So not only was it free, it was also on stick! Which is what the Iowa State Fair prides itself on. Stuff you can eat on a stick. They even have salad on a stick, but I don't know anyone who goes to a fair to eat salad. Pffft. We definitely got one. Okay, we got two. But we did wait until we were leaving to get the 2nd one. I wanted something "sweet" on a stick as we were leaving and said "Okay, I'll take another one." Why not?! We also saw a vendor giving away free pizza, but they had an empty tray when we saw them and we didn't want to wait.

Don't ride the rides. Ha. Impossible with a child over the age of 3, but until they are old enough to even care to look at the rides--you don't have to ride them. I'm not too sure how safe fair rides are so my kid may never ride them, however, if it was up to her father he'd say differently. I was rude this year and wouldn't even go look at the rides on the Midway. I know, how mean. It was hot! Remember?

Stock up your house with free junk from the Varied Industry building. Actually, this year they were giving away fans at most stands which was very much appreciated in the heat. We got two. Mainly because I lost the first one. I think it fell off the stroller which means I littered. That makes me feel bad, but that's what the fair clean up crew is paid for right?

Look for the free shows. There are many big name concerts during fair week. Stephen Curtis Chapman and Kelly Clarkson were here this year (to name a few, and no they didn't play together). But instead of paying for a show, find a stage where a band you've never heard of is playing. Hey, it's live music and it's free. And if it's good, it was worth it.

Split items of food with your loved ones. That way, you can still feel like you "ate good" at the fair. Who are you kidding? Anyway, nobody really needs a foot long corn dog, do they? But we don't eat corn dogs, so our first items besides the ice cream were a mozzarella Crescenti (fried bread with cheese in the middle) and a snow cone. We also had kettle corn and our priciest item was the fried cheese curds, but they were so worth it!

And if you're not big on fair food, you can always pack your own lunch which I saw several people do along the way. Most of these people had small children which makes me totally understand this concept. You'd be bankrupt before you left if every time someone was hungry you bought something.

Our total weighed in at appx. $37.00. $20 of that was to get in so I'd say $17 on food isn't half bad.

Vive la Iowa State Fair!