At Iowa State Fair, food to nosh on or package for charity

"Shrimp Corndog" is one of the culinary confections offered at the Iowa State Fair.


Fairgoers can devour deep-fried Twinkies on a stick and other culinary novelties at the Iowa State Fair, but opening day also provides an opportunity to do something more charitable with food.

On Thursday, volunteers will package food in the Varied Industries Building on the fairgrounds in Des Moines. It's part of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions' Dream Big food drive.

The idea is that “all the fairs and all the fairgoers can really have an impact on world hunger,” said Lori Chappell, marketing director for the fair.

If you go

Dates: Thursday through Aug. 18

Admission: Adult tickets, $8 in advance, $11 at gate; children ages 6 to 11, $4 in advance, $5 at gate; ages 5 and under, free

State Fair Express: The fair is running several charter coach buses around the state.

The fairgrounds are open 7 a.m. until 1 a.m. each day of the fair. No entry or re-entry after 9 p.m. on Aug. 18, the fair’s last day.

The venerable 11-day fair, which dates to 1854, kicks off Thursday.

The State Fair always gives fairgoers an opportunity to dine on the fried and tasty, but this year there's a new twist.

The Des Moines nonprofit Meals From the Heartland will have several tables set up. In an assembly line process, with teams of eight people, organizers hope to package 250,000 meals to be sent around the world.

Meals From the Heartland has already reached its allotment of volunteers, but fairgoers can stop by and donate to the effort and get information about volunteering in Des Moines and elsewhere.

“We do these events all over the state of Iowa. Earlier this year, in Audubon, (we) raised enough funds to package 120,000 meals,” said Dave Bradley, executive director of Meals From the Heartland.

On Aug. 13, visitors who bring two or more cans of food will get $3 off the price of a ticket. Cans will be accepted at the entrance gates.

As is tradition, there also will be a plethora of opportunities to eat. New food concoctions — 18 of them — will be available, including:

» Shrimp corn dog — three large shrimp dipped in corn dog batter, deep fried and topped with a sweet chili sauce

» Deep-fried brownie, topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar

» Bacon-wrapped riblet on a stick

» And the Rib Shack Cowboy, which is a spice-flavored waffle cone filled with beans, brisket or pork, cole slaw, chips and barbecue sauce

Not all options are artery-clogging. Salad on a stick, for example, will make a return appearance this year.

Another draw in the Varied Industries Building will be a farming scene built from Legos.

The fair will feature numerous live acts as well, including Toby Keith, Train and comedians Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon and Dennis Miller from “Saturday Night Live.”

Away from the Grandstand, venues such as the Budweiser Stage will feature Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult, L.A. Guns and other titans of '70s and '80s rock. For those shows, there is no cost beyond the fair admission.

The fair is continuing its outreach to eastern Nebraskans by extending its fair shuttle service to Lincoln. On Saturday, charter coach stops will be made in Lincoln, Omaha and Council Bluffs. On Aug. 13, there will be stops in western Iowa in Sioux City, Onawa, Missouri Valley and Avoca. On Aug. 15, buses will stop in Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Storm Lake and Carroll.

People are asked to sign up a week in advance, but later registrations will be taken if space allows. For more information on shuttle schedules, go to iowastatefair.org/for-visitors/state-fair-express/.

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