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Iowa State Fair Mixes Pleasure, Competition

Every August, the Midwestern U.S. state of Iowa holds a 10-day-long fair that celebrates agriculture and everything else Iowa has to offer. VOA's Jeffrey Young takes you to the Iowa State Fair.

Pulsing neon. Live entertainment. The aroma of foods. And the centerpiece is fierce competition among championship livestock.

"It's the Iowa State Fair!" declares a group of happy fair-goers.

Every August, more than a million people come to the fair from all over the Midwest. For many of them, it is their annual holiday. And everyone is having fun together.

"We have people from all walks of life,” says John Thompson of Webster City, Iowa. “There are people that can hardly pay their rent, and they're walking beside people that are worth millions of dollars. And you can't tell the difference, for everyone has got [is wearing] blue jeans."

The Iowa State Fair began in 1854, when Iowa had only been a state for six years. The fairgrounds are huge -- nearly 65 hectares. There is something going on in every square meter. And best of all, there is the camaraderie of friends from all over.

"Lots of times, you see people you only see once a year here. So you hang out [enjoy their company] with them. You just catch up on old news. It's a good time," says a repeat visitor.

Agriculture is the centerpiece. People bring their cattle, sheep and other farm animals to show them off and hopefully come home with a prize proving theirs are the best in Iowa.

"This is a show horse, so I compete on him,” says Jordanne Blair from Lake City, Iowa. “I ride in a ring with numerous other riders. It's a thrill. It's just so much fun. You're on this thousand pound animal controlling him in front of a judge."

And on the entertainment stage, the acts range all the way to the wild and silly. But it's all great fun! And you can take some of it home to remember your fling at the fair.

And it keeps going until midnight: the rides whizzing about, the midway attractions and food stands pulling in the crowds. And there's always something fun for people to watch and do at the Iowa State Fair.