Is Iowa the Fairest?

On the day the Iowa State Fair opens each year, my mind drifts a few cubicles away where its chief defender in these parts — MPR’s Nikki Tundel — sits. In 2005, she acquitted herself well in a Buckley v. Vidal-style debate with All Things Considered host Tom Crann, who insisted Minnesota has a better state fair.

Sure, there are probably Norman Rockwellesque scenes like these at the Minnesota State Fair as well. But too often they’re obscured by the crowds of women in high heels complaining about the smell of the horse barn or overshadowed by the countless men in American-flag T-shirts gobbling down alligator on a stick.

The Iowa State Fair isn’t hip. It’s not flashy. But it’s genuine and sincere and unpretentious. The cattle barns are filled with dairy farmers who never leave the side of their prized cows. They set up cots and card tables and crock pots and simply make themselves at home under the wooden rafters of the 85-year-old building. At night, some even curl up on the hay next to their cows and fall asleep. You can’t get much more real than that.

Find the segments, which unfortunately are preserved in the dreadful RealPlayer format, here.

The big news out of Iowa this year is deep-fried butter.

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