With the rattle of rollercoasters and the scent of corn dogs, cotton candy and livestock, the Iowa State Fair starts its 11-day run today  with the theme “Nothing Compares.”

Fair manager Gary Slater says the fabled event has something to offer all visitors. “Every year we try to make it bigger and better than the year before,” Slater says. “Some of that is in construction and giving facilities a face-lift. Other parts of it are just new and exciting events that we are able to bring in or new exhibits.” Slater says there are also plenty of traditional exhibits that always pack in the crowds.

“The Butter Cow is something that everybody needs to see when they come to the Iowa State Fair,” Slater says, “but, along with it, 100 years of John Deere Corporation being in existence and what better way than to display that than the Waterloo Boy tractor in butter?” Several national magazines and newspapers, like the New York Times, list the Iowa State Fair as a top summer destination.

Slater says it’s a special event that’s much more than just livestock shows, carnival rides, and concerts. “Some fairs, people would say, ‘Well, that used to be a good fair when it was livestock-orientated, but now it’s too urban,’ but I don’t think that’s happened to the Iowa State Fair and it certainly won’t happen while I’m here,” Slater says. “We have to honor those rural roots we have and know that agriculture is the largest industry in Iowa and one that we want to celebrate.”

One goal, he says, it to “make sure our urban cousins, as they come through the front gate, understand where their food and fiber come from.” The state fair runs through Sunday, August 19th.

(By Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)