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Nancy Dean, of Ackworth, demonstrates how to wash a chicken at the Iowa State Fair.

Angie Bicker/Clinton Herald
Lifestyle Editor

One hundred thousand is a big number. That was the official count of visitors who passed through the gates Saturday at the Iowa State Fair.

Everywhere you went it was wall-to-wall people eating everything and anything that could be fried and stuck on a stick.

I don’t know what it is about the Iowa State Fair that brings me back again and again.

Could it be the huge chicken in the John Deere agriculture building that I could saddle and ride like a horse or the free hard-boiled egg I get from the Iowa Egg Council?

Could it be the artistic statues made out of butter? Or could it just be that my favorite actress and Iowa native Donna Reed once walked the fairgrounds and won a blue ribbon for a pan of biscuits at the fair?

If you get right down to it, there are a lot of reasons I enjoy traveling to the state fair in Des Moines.

For me, going to the fair is the highlight of the year and this year made it even more special since my boyfriend, Mike, came along with me. We were on our feet almost the entire day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Before embarking on our trip, Mike’s friend, Scott, happened to look up online what events were slated for Saturday. To my surprise and delight, he found the perfect demonstration for me to attend.

At 1 p.m., Mike and I, plus about 50 other people, clamored to get a bird’s eye view of the chicken washing and grooming demonstration in the pidgeon, poultry and rabbit building.

I don’t think I ever enjoyed anything more; it was absolutely fascinating. Since I love raising my girls, I was enthralled with the demonstration.

Three tubs of water were wheeled out to a make-shift stage. One tub had dish soap in it, another tub contained white vinegar and the last one contained blueing.

Nancy Dean, an Ackworth native, started the process by dunking a hen in the soapy water, with her head up, and started scrubbing all the dirt and bugs off her skin and feathers. To my surprise, the chicken took it pretty well. The hen was then dunked in the vinegar bath to remove the soap and finally the tub of blueing to enhance her colors.

After she was clean, the hen was wrapped up in a bath towel so she wouldn’t get cold. I was enthralled. I was making mental note after mental note so I could try the process at home on my own girls.

Not only was the demonstration a real eye opener, but I was even more stunned that the announcer for it was the Iowa State Fair poultry queen, Mariah Miller of Hinton, who was donned in a crown and sash. Wow, if I had only known this honor existed when I was a teenager I would have started raising chickens a long time ago.

The fair’s slogan, “Nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair,” definitely rings true for me. I can hardly wait until the fair rolls around again next year.

Angie Bicker has been employed with the Clinton Herald since 2001. She can be reached at