Frugalfish Goes to the Fair

We were visiting with friends and they were raving over the fun they had at the Iowa State Fair. They asked me if I was going and I replied,

“I’ve never been to the fair, because I married a St. Louis Cardinals fan.”

They are huge St. Louis Cardinal fans and didn’t want their favorite team maligned. They harassed Mr. Frugalfish for not taking me to the fair.

In his defense, a large portion of our budget went to medical expenses while we were raising our children and we didn’t have many funds for entertainment. He does not have a farming background and just thought the fair consisted of rides. He also felt it would not be a good idea because of my allergies and the struggles I have with Ragweed during the end of summer and fall.

After we discussed it, we realized we could use vacation money and I could go on a round of Prednisone for protection against the allergens.

Then his uncle passed away. We would be 45 minutes away from the fair for the funeral. He decided to get an inexpensive room for that night and then go on up to the Iowa State Fair. (We wanted to spend as much time with his family while they were all in town.)

I called the doctor, and after promising not to hang out in the animal barns, he prescribed a short regimen of Prednisone.

Top 20 Ways I Saved Time and Money at the Iowa State Fair

1. Advance Tickets: Fareway, HyVee, and HyVee Drug Stores sold advance tickets at a discount. We did not decide to go until the fair had already started, but we ordered tickets online and print them at home, see

2. Free Parking: There are three sites that offer free parking; and then you ride a city bus in to the fair for $2.00. The bus fair is half price if you have a fair ticket, see here.

3. Go early: My mother arrived at one of the free parking lots at 10 am on Senior’s Day. She waited an hour for the bus both ways. We arrived at 8:30 am when the buses first started and did not have to wait. The traffic was also thinner and the trip took only a third of the time compared to Mom’s ride.

4. Go with friends: We met up with two couples that were camping at the fair. They asked me what I wanted to do and I replied, “Butter cow and eat something on a stick.” Then I saw the “Deep-Fat Fried Oreos” and wanted to try them. They came with 6 and we each tried one. I got the taste without making my self sick.

Deep-Fat Fried Oreo

Deep-Fat Fried Oreo

5, Drink Refills: There are stands that sell drinks in a sturdy cup that you could refill for a reduced price.

6. Keep the Cup: Ken & Jill still had a cup with a handle that they used at the fair the year before. They were able to get reduced refills all day long.

Fair glasses in which you could get reduced price drinks.

Fair glasses in which you could get reduced price drinks.

7. Share the drinks: It was so hot that the ice melted quickly and the pop went flat before you could drink it all. Ken & Jill shared every drink.

8. Share the meals: Twice we ordered one meal plus a sandwich. We shared the fries.

Share the fries.

Ken, Me, Mr. Frugalfish, Paula, and Mike share the fries.

9. Ride only one ride: I had not ridden in a fair ride for years and I really wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel. I let Mr. Frugalfish pick which one…he chose the double Ferris Wheel. Every time we came down off of the peak, the seat rocked back and I felt like we were free-falling. I screamed like a little girl. When I screamed, my friend Jill, screamed from the bench on the ground where she was sitting. They ran that ride twice as long because I was drawing a crowd. Ken took pictures of us and you can see the crowd laughing at me in some of them. Next year, I am going to ride a ride at the county fair to leave time to explore more at the state fair.

Riding Double Ferris Wheel and holding on to my hat!

Riding the Double Ferris Wheel and holding on to my hat!

10. Free entertainment: One thing Jill really wanted to see was the Llama Costume Contest. They had Llamas dressed as: a bride, soldier, cheerleader, Pocahontas’s raccoon, Olaf from “Frozen,” and a “One-eyed, One-eared, Flying, Purple People Eater!”

Cheerleader and Bride.

Cheerleader and Bride.

11. Be the entertainment: Another Llama attraction was the “Llama Limbo.” They had a few celebrities, like the Fair Queen, and volunteers from the audience who would limbo with a Llama. The Fair Queen’s crown was several inches tall and she was also tall, that put her at a definite disadvantage!

12. Join the choir: At 11:30 am every day they had a hymn sing in a replica of a church built in Dubuque in 1834. It was a good time remembering the songs my grandmother sang and practicing my sight-reading! Those harmonies are rarely heard anymore.

Hymn singing in the old church.

Hymn singing in the old church.

13. Find the liquidation sale: There were two tents full of merchandise from previous years at the fair. I picked up a Christmas present there. Souvenirs are half price on the last day.

Cup my friends got me from the State Fair.

Cup my friends got me from the State Fair.

14. Free concerts: We enjoyed watching a line dancing troupe while we ate lunch.

15. Check out the nooks and crannies: Our friends wanted us to see the telephone display. There was an old switchboard and an old telephone booth in the room. I walked through the door marked “exit” and found two more rooms. They had telephone equipment from every decade. Paula, who has camped at the fair for years, did not know about the two rooms in the back.

Off the beaten path.

Mr. Frugalfish leading Paula and I off the beaten path.

16. Free Samples: Be sure to pick up a free backpack from one of the booths at the Varied Industries building because there are free samples everywhere. We picked up ground corn at the threshing display that we will put out for bird feed this winter.

Sample of threshed corn that I will use as bird feed.

Sample of threshed corn that I will use as bird feed.

17. Free experiences: By the middle of the afternoon, we tired of walking around. Jill wanted to go to the massage chairs. They were amazing! The chair massaged your feet, back, legs, and arms for 5 minutes. They even had light therapy, but I missed that because I closed my eyes!

Enjoying the Massage chairs.

Ken & Mr. Frugalfish enjoying the Massage chairs.

18. Relive your youth: My daughter-in-law, who has shown cattle at the fair for years, told me not to miss the “Old Mill Ride.” It was like the tunnel of love. Between our three couples we were over 75 years. It might seem funny to want to ride that particular ride; but as Mike put it, “I always wanted to ride this ride with someone special.”

19. Skip the grandstand show: Some people walk through the fair only to attend a show. You can see a concert anytime, the fair only comes once a year.

20. Leave early: You want to leave before the grandstand show is over. We left during the time the show was on and there were buses waiting.

Ken, Jill, Mike, Paula, Frugalfish and Mr. Frugalfish enjoying a piece of homemade pie from the Methodist Church booth at the end of the day.

Ken, Jill, Mike, Paula, Frugalfish and Mr. Frugalfish enjoying a piece of homemade pie from the Methodist Church booth at the end of the day.

Ken put it best, “A thorough study of that days fair schedule will list many free events, concerts, performances, educational talks & displays, hands on instructions, and contests a person can participate in.  The fair is much more than just entertainment, it is a place to share with friends and learn.”

Why am I sharing this with you now?

If you want to go to the fair, you need to set back a few dollars every week starting now. If you skip one cup of gourmet coffee each week, and save that money, you will have enough to go next year.

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