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New Iowa State Fair manager will continue fair traditionsNew Iowa State Fair manager will continue fair traditions

Slideshow: The Iowa State Fair hired Jeremy Parsons as the new CEO and manager in March, and he plans to continue providing fairgoers a great fair experience at the 2023 event.

Jennifer Carrico

July 14, 2023

8 Slides

The “Best Days Ever” theme describes the 2023 Iowa State Fair, being held Aug. 10-20, where many things are in store for fairgoers. A new leader at the fair wants to ensure the event continues to highlight Iowa’s agricultural heritage.

“I want to have stability in my transition in as the Iowa State Fair CEO and manager,” Jeremy Parsons says. “I started on March 6, and it has been very busy since then as it’s a lot more than just managing the state fair, but also all the events that are here throughout the year.” Parsons comes to the Iowa State Fair after serving as manager of the Clay County Fair in Spencer since 2011

“There are a lot of similarities between the Iowa State Fair and the Clay County Fair. Both are great events with passionate fairgoers, volunteers and exhibitors. Iowans love their fairs,” he says.

Parsons says his No. 1 goal is to continue to focus on agricultural education at the Iowa State Fair since the state is so strong in agriculture. People being so removed from where their food comes from has led to many additions at the state fair through the years. The Animal Learning Center provides an opportunity to see baby animals being born and educates fairgoers about the fundamentals of animal husbandry. Little Hands on the Farm teaches children the importance of agriculture and how it affects their daily lives. The Garden added in 2021 showcases a combination of rural and urban agriculture to teach how vegetables take root in Iowa soil and grow to feed the world.

Continued traditions

“We don’t need to make a lot of changes to the fair. It has lasted 175 years and is clearly not broken, but continues to evolve with the times,” Parsons adds. “Everybody has a connection to the fair. They may have showed here, gone to their first concert, look forward to the food, or attend each year. It’s always fun to hear each fairgoer’s stories.”

This year, new rides will debut at the fair, including the Lil’ Scrambler, Mega Bounce, Top Fun and Eclipse and the return of a fair favorite, the double Ferris wheel. Each year people like to find their favorite fair food classics — such as corn dogs, pork chop on a stick, funnel cakes or hot beef sundaes — but there will also be many new foods this year.

Entertainment will be available on many stages around the fair. Free shows include all genres of music, and the Grandstand ticketed concerts feature big-name artists. Fairgoers can enter contests at the fair or watch open, 4-H and FFA livestock shows. The “Bigs” are picked early on in the fair and will be on display, including the biggest bull, boar and ram.

Also new this year is the Choose Iowa Brunch, which will feature a farm-to-fork brunch highlighting season and local ingredients sourced from Iowa farmers and prepared by several of the state’s top chefs. The experience will feature a three-course plated meal served by FFA students. Tickets are available on the Iowa State Fair website.

Grounds renovations

“Those who frequent the livestock barns will see $25 million in improvements over the next few years. It started at the sheep barn this year with newly remodeled bathrooms, underground storm sewer piping, reroofing and restoring parts of the buildings,” he says. “The Blue Ribbon Foundation kicked off the Back the Barns campaign to get further donations and those donors will be honored.” In upcoming years projects will be undertaken in the cattle, swine and horse barns. Fairgoers will also notice the renovations done to Pioneer Hall.

Horse enthusiasts should note the six-horse hitches will be shown first for each of the draft horse shows. This allows exhibitors to start with the big hitches and work back to the smaller hitches — this was a change made by exhibitor input.

The Iowa State Fair has 70 full-time employees to keep the grounds running properly for the many events all year long. Seasonal employees are added in the spring and summer months — 150 in total— including nearly 20 college interns. During the fair there are an additional 1,600 employees and thousands of volunteers to keep the historic 11-day event successful.

“The Iowa State Fair will always be a showcase of Iowa’s agricultural industry, but we have to remember it has to continue to evolve with the times and be used as a teaching tool for the growing urban population,” Parsons says.

For more information about the Iowa State Fair, visit iowastatefair.org.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Carrico

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Jennifer lives on a farm near Redfield, Iowa, where she runs a small cow-calf operation with her family. A 20-plus year ag journalism veteran, Jennifer has covered a wide range of agriculture issues. A graduate of Iowa State University, she has worked for local daily papers and other agriculture publishers. She came to Wallaces Farmer from the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. She enjoys writing, managing cattle, and hearing and telling farmer stories.

Jennifer has two children. Kassidy, 21, attends Black Hawk East College, but will transfer in the fall to Oklahoma State University. Son, Klayton, attends Panorama High School where he excels in academics, sports, FFA and 4-H.

“My favorite part of being an ag journalist is to tell the story of the farmer and rancher,” she says. “The farmer and rancher do the work to make the food, fiber and fuel for everyone. I want to use our online presence to broaden that message to those off the farm.”

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