Scott Levine.jpg

Scott Levine

Associated Press

A lot has changed since the last time I visited the Iowa State Fair.

I rarely went to the annual event as a child, but when I started dating my wife, we traveled to the fairgrounds regularly for a few years before we went away to college.

So Monday was the first time I had been back to the fair in about seven years, and I could hardly recognize the place.

Everything seemed so much bigger. I don’t know if that’s because it actually was, or if it had something to do with my constant fear of my daughter running off with one of the thousands of attendees. I’m assuming it was a little bit of both.

The massive crowd made my afternoon a little more difficult than I’m used to. We weren’t planning on attending the fair, but once my dad offered up two free tickets, we figured it was something we should do. Without the advanced notice, though, we didn’t pack our stroller. And if you have a child, then you know how important the stroller is to a reduced-stress afternoon.

We weren’t too worried, since the fair rents strollers. When we approached the rentable strollers, we noticed a lack of storage space in the four-wheeled cart, another major requirement since that helps alleviate the amount of bags we have to carry. We balked on renting a stroller and instead grabbed a little red wagon, with plenty of space for excess bags.

I’ve been to plenty of festivals and I always see the brave parents pulling the wagon along. It always seems the kids have huge smiles across their faces and nothing could be better. That isn’t necessarily the case for my family.

The lack of restraint caused major problems since my daughter consistently tried to hone her daredevil skills and jump out of the moving wagon. Obviously I need to tone down the amount of action movies we watch.

Another problem occurred when she wanted to take over the driving. She has a wagon at home that she pulls for all her little dolls. She does a great job, considering there’s just green grass and a driveway, and no other obstruction.

The fair is a different story.

After a couple of near accidents, I grabbed the reins to show her how it was done; or at least that’s what I thought.

I don’t know how people consistently pull those wagons around at festivals without having a near heart attack. There wasn’t a moment that went by that I didn’t think I was going to run over someone’s foot or bump into a person’s shin.

With a stroller, I feel more comfortable driving because it’s in front of me and I can see where I’m steering. Since a wagon is pulled, it’s behind me at all times, and if you haven’t been at the fair in awhile, the grounds are packed and there are plenty of narrow spaces ripe for the opportunity of running over plenty of peoples’ toes.

Once I got over the fear of hurting other people, the fair was a success.

My daughter “mooed” at the cows and “oinked” at the pigs. She loves animals and trying new foods, and there’s plenty of that to go around. Exhibits also were all over the place, so she was able to learn a little and bask in an Iowa tradition.

There was so much to see that we missed some of my favorite sights, but I’m sure we’ll make it back within the next seven years — just as long as we pack our stroller.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at

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