Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of State Fair figures in question 8.
1. The first Iowa State Fair in Des Moines was held in September: True. The 1879 fair was held Sept. 1-5.
2. Indie rock singer and noted whistler Andrew Bird won a blue ribbon in an Iowa State Fair whistling contest: False.
This rumor has circulated (at least locally) around the music scene for years, and Bird has family in Iowa (he lives just over the Mississippi River in Illinois) so it seemed plausible. So we asked the singer himself. “No, that’s totally not true,” Bird said. “I suspect that rumor began in Iowa, perhaps.”
3. Iowa City hosted the first fair: False.
Fairfield hosted the first fair, the last week of October in 1854.
4. The Iowa State Fair Grandstand has always featured a different show each night: False.
Johnny Cash, Sonny and Cher, The Oak Ridge Boys and others have played two nights. Tennessee Ernie Ford performed on the Grandstand for five straight nights in 1967.
5. Iowa-born Superman actor George Reeves is among the pop culture icons who have been sculpted from butter: False.
Fellow Superman and Iowa native Brandon Routh was sculpted in 2006. 2014 will mark 100 years since Reeves’ birth, we’re throwing his name into the butter hat now.
6. A giant turkey leg is worse for you than a fried Snickers: True.
With more than 400 calories and 29 grams of fat, a fried Snickers sounds bad, until you compare it to a giant turkey leg. The massive piece of poultry has almost 1,200 calories and 54 grams of fat.
7. The Band Perry is the first band to go from a free stage one year to headlining a Grandstand show the next: False.
The Band Perry played the Susan Knapp Amphitheater last year and headlines the Grandstand this year, but Trick Pony did the same thing in 2002. Other acts have gone from a free stage to opening a Grandstand show the next year, including Tenth Avenue North this year, Candy Coburn and Chuck Wicks in 2009, and Cross Canadian Ragweed in 2005.
8. There’s a family connection between two of the defining figures in the fair’s history: True.
Phil Stong, who wrote the novel “State Fair” (later turned into a musical by Rodgers & Hammerstein), was the uncle of butter sculptor Duffy Lyon.
9. Among the 50-plus foods on a stick this year are chocolate-covered frozen s’mores, chocolate-covered chocolate chip cannoli and breakfast lamb sausage: True.
Next year we’re hoping for pizza on stick (Available at the Tulsa State Fair. Yes, we’re aware Tulsa is not a state), zucchini weenie on a stick (Big Fresno Fair) and bacon cheddar mashed potatoes on a stick (South Plains Fair).
10. Corn dogs were created at the Iowa State Fair: False.
June and Bob Puckett introduced the Pronto Pup to the Iowa State Fair in 1948, but the nearly perfect food made its first appearance in the 1920s. Campbell’s Concessions (originally Little’s Concessions) has been serving its corn dogs (which debuted as Poncho Dogs) since 1954 when one cost 10 cents. Today one will cost you $4.
You’ll noticed we call corn dogs “the nearly perfect food.” That’s because Campbell’s Concessions perfected it this year with the double bacon corn dog. The entirely perfect food will cost you $5.
11. The popular butter cow, sculpted by Sarah Pratt, is the actual weight of an average cow, about 1,200 pounds: False.
The famous butter cow, which celebrates its 101st birthday this year, weighs a hefty 600 pounds. That’s enough to butter about 19,000 pieces of toast, which would take the average person two lifetimes to consume (and who likes toast that much, anyway?). The lifespan of the butter is long, too — most of it is recycled and reused for up to 10 years. Sculptor Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines became the fair’s fifth butter sculptor in 2006, after 15 years of apprenticing with her predecessor, Duffy Lyon.
12. The Octodog has been providing fairgoers with odd and out-of-this-world entertainment for the past two years. The animal, a dog with eight tiny legs, amazes fans with tricks during his performances around the world: False.
Come on, guys, an eight-legged dog? The Octodog is actually a quarter-pound beef hot dog that has been sliced to look like an octopus. It’s served on a stick and debuted at the fair, to children’s delight, in 2010.
13. You can prepare many of the fair’s ribbon-winning recipes yourself, since most are published in the fair’s cookbook: True.
If you want to bake a blue ribbon pie or whip up an award-winning vegetable dip, pick up the Iowa State Fair cookbook. It was first published in 1983 and is printed every other year. This year, the 16th edition will debut at the fair.
14. There are 20 places to purchase a corn dog at the fair: True.
Which means at almost every corner you turn, the deep-fried State Fair staple will be waiting. Vegetarian? There is also one veggie dog stand — The Veggie Table — located just north of the Varied Industries Building.
15. The biggest Super Bull in Iowa State Fair history weighed well over a ton, coming in at 2,768 pounds last year. The 6-year-old Charolais bull was named Bubba, and hailed from Stalcup Farms Charolais in southwest Iowa: False.
That’s a lot of bull. Bubba was huge, but the all-time record holder, Big Black, was even bigger. Big Black, an Angus bull, set a record in 2009, weighing 3,404 pounds. Big Black was also owned by Stalcup Farms Charolais. What are they feeding those things?
True: The hottest day on record at the fair was 108 degrees on Aug. 16, 1983.
And that’s one record we don’t care about beating, Mother Nature. We’ve had enough 100-degree heat to last us the rest of the summer.
17. Steve Pope, a freelance photographer, has won the VIP division of the cow chip throwing contest eight times: False.
Steve has won the VIP division of the cow chip throwing contest five times (he threw 131 feet last year). Winning the contest runs in the family — his cousin, former Des Moines TV broadcaster Scott Pope, has won eight times, and his son, Ian, won the men’s division in 2010, chucking the chip 134 feet.
18. Last year’s winner in the big pumpkin contest weighed 957 pounds: False.
It weighed even more — 1,295 pounds to be precise. Ten massive pumpkins were entered in last year’s contest, but the huge white pumpkin, grown by Team C and P (that’s Marc Petersen and Dan Carlson of Clinton, who have grown pumpkins together for seven years) squashed the competition. We’re not sure how many pies a 1,295 pumpkin would make, but it’s safe to say it would be several. Check out this year’s big pumpkin contestants outside the Agriculture Building. Judging takes place at 9 a.m. on Friday.
19. Last year, Fyfe Concessions sold approximately 50 of its newest — and very buzzed about — food on a stick every hour: fried butter: False.
Fyfe Concessions sold about 100 sticks of fried butter each hour to hoards of curious people, some of whom admitted to waiting an hour and 15 minutes to buy one. (Some people had to wait for the butter to freeze for it to fry properly.) The sweet concoction was a stick of butter cut diagonally into a wedge, put on a stick, dipped in batter made with cinnamon and honey, and deep fried. The result was a corn dog-looking, cinnamon bun-tasting, calorie-bombing treat. If you didn’t get to consume the estimated 1,036 calories and 105 grams of fat last year , you can find it at Fyfe Concessions again this year.
20. New, fresh butter is easier to sculpt with than old butter: False.
According to current sculptor Sarah Pratt, older is better. She told the Iowa State Fair that “new butter is crumbly” and “older butter is more workable, like clay.”