Iowa State Fair 2023

Iowa State Fair 2023

AUGUST 10-20, 2023


Come for the fried Oreos, stay for the carnival rides, and stay longer for musical performances by The Black Keys and The Chicks.

You might’ve seen the TikToks: middle-aged Iowan women shouting their husbands’ names into a fairground microphone, an American flag raised in the background. This Husband Calling contest — an homage to women shouting to alert their farmer husbands to come back home for dinner — is an annual fixture at the Iowa State Fair, alongside hog calling, competitions for the largest boar, fried Oreos, and surprisingly huge main stage music performers. Artists this year include The Chicks, Ludacris, and The Black Keys. (I know.) This 11-day fair welcomes over a million visitors annually from around the world, and is one of the country’s largest state fairs.

“Nothing compares” is the fair’s motto and that’s certainly one way to put it. Unglamorous, sprawling, hot, weird — a visit to the Iowa State Fair will confuse and charm you. The real shining spot of this midwestern hullabaloo — aside from the agricultural contests so silly you’ll stand there thinking, this can’t be for real — is the fair food. Two hundred food vendors set up shop around the fairgrounds, selling deep-fried everything: corndogs, Twinkies, chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick. They’ve introduced some non-carnivore options like veggie corndogs, and have compiled a list of their laughably healthy options: shrimp corndogs, turkey tenderloin, caramel apple slices.  

It’s not just about the food, the camping or the rides — separated into three sections of increasing intensity, from family-friendly Thrill Ville up to roller coaster-level Thrill Zone — but, shockingly, the music. With your entry ticket, fairgoers can watch free festival entertainment, including tribute bands for Tom Petty, Elton John, and Billy Joel; hypnotist Ron Diamond; and Christian pop group Cain. Nightly shows at the Grandstand stage are ticketed separately, and have some knockout musicians so different from each other it’s hard to remember you’re at a festival. Country icons like Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line and Maren Morris will tickle the cowboy hat-wearing country lovers; or you can relish the throwback energy of Jessie McCartney and Sean Kingston.

Pick the musician you’re most pumped up about, buy a ticket for that night, and spend the day before (and, if you’re up for it, after) on the fairgrounds. The theme this year is “Best Days Ever”: go have some. 

The Specs

  • Around one million people attend the State Fair each year ( approximately 100,000 people per day).
  • Day passes are $11 for adults, $7 for anyone below age 12 when bought in advance; at the door, they cost $16 for adults, $10 for kids.
  • Grandstand Entertainment tickets vary in price from $25 to $125, depending on the artist and where you sit,
  • Check out our Des Moines City Guide for other things to do while you’re in town.


Where is the Iowa State Fair located?

The Iowa State Fairgrounds are located at East 30th Street and East University Avenue and it’s just 10 minutes from downtown Des Moines. If you need an address for Google Maps, use 3000 East Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50317.

How much are the admission tickets?

Advance adult admission for ages 12 and up costs $11. That’s the advance price which is $5 off.  The advance child admission, ages 6-11, is $7 (a $3 discount). An admission ticket is valid for one admission to the Iowa State Fair for any one day, August 10-20, 2023. Check for tickets.

How much are tickets for the giant slide?

$3 each.

What is the closest airport to the Iowa State Fair?

Des Moines International Airport is a 20-minute drive from the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

 Is the Iowa State Fair accessible?

The fair complies with ADA requirements and offers wheelchair and scooter rentals. Contact the ADA coordinator with specific questions.

 Is there parking?

Yes — parking costs $10 per day, and there are free golf cart rides between the parking lot and the fairgrounds.

Where can I stay? Can I camp?

The fairground, which has hosted the fair since 1886, is a 10 minutes’ drive from Des Moines, where you can stay overnight in affordable hotels; or you can camp on the fairground campsite, but beware: there’s a years-long waitlist for permanent annual camping spots, and non-permanent spots are first-come, first-serve.

How do I get to the Grand Concourse at the fair?

You’ll find the Grand Concourse between the Grandstand and the Varied Industries Building. If you enter via Gate 11 on East 30th, that is closest to the concourse.

When is the Iowa State Fair Parade?

The Iowa State Fair Parade kicks off the Iowa State Fair. It is held the night before the Iowa State Fair begins each year. This year, the parade will begin at 6:15 p.m. in downtown Des Moines on Wednesday, August 9, 2023. The parade route starts at the State Capitol Complex, marches west on Grand to 15th Street.

How do I find the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building?

The Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building is located between Logan Ave and Dean Ave.

Where is the fair’s animal learning center?

The Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center is located at E 33rd St, Des Moines, IA 50317.

Where is the exhibition center?

The Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center will host some of the fair’s biggest events including the Cowgirl Queen Contest. You can find the building on East Walnut Street, near Thrill Town.

Where is the livestock pavilion? 

The livestock pavilion is located on Rock Island Ave, near the exhibition center.

How do I get to the campgrounds?

You’ll easily find the 160-acre Iowa State Fair Campgrounds just off Interstates 80 and 35.

Which performances are on the Iowa State Fair lineup?

For King + Country, We the Kingdom, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line,  Parmalee, New Kids on the Block, Jesse McCartney, Eric Church, Jackson Dean, The Black Keys, The Velveteers, Jeff Dunham: Still Not Canceled Tour, Lindsey Stirling, Walk Off the Earth, Maren Morris, Lindsay Ell, Ludacris, Sean Kingston, The Chicks, Jason Aldean, Corey Kent, Priscilla Block, Blake Guyre (Tribute to Elton John/Billy Joel), Shane Profitt, Nate Smith, Hairball, Ned Ledoux, Megan Moroney, Ingrid Andress, Claire Rosinkranz, Asleep at the Wheel, Rockland Road, 2023 Iowa State Fair Queen Coronation, Latino Celebration with Son Peruchos, Hypnotist Ron Diamond, Country Gold with Leroy Van Dyke, Mandy Barnett, and David Frizzell; Cain, Jason Brown, The Nadas, Good to be King (A Tribute to Tom Petty), Renata the Band, Autograph, Vixen, Great White, Graham Barham, Paradise Kitty, Bob Dorr’s Iowa Music Revue, Junior Marvin & The Legendary Wailers.

Where do the performances take place?

Artists perform at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand, which can hold 14,500 people. The address is 3000 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50317.

What is the theme of the butter cow companion sculptures this year? 

This year, iconic Iowa athletes — Jack Trice, Kurt Warner and Caitlin Clark — will be celebrated with butter cow companions.

Who is the butter cow’s sculptor?

In 2006, Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines became the Fair’s fifth butter sculptor. Besides the Fair’s famed butter cow, Pratt also sculpted Superman of “Superman Returns” and “Mr. State Fair” Bill Riley, in honor of his 60th fair. (Fun fact: Bill Riley and wife Anne have stage named after them at the fair.)

What is the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation?

The Blue Ribbon Foundation raises money for renovation and preservation work to the fairgrounds. According its website, its raised almost $200 million since 1993.

When did the first fair take place?

The first Iowa State Fair was happened in Fairfield, Iowa on October 25–27, 1854.


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BY Sara Luzuriaga