Helpful tips from an Iowa State Fair expert

I don?t label myself as an expert of many things, but the Iowa State Fair is certainly one of the few exceptions.

As an avid ISF camper for almost 23 years, a former 4-H exhibitor, and a horse exhibitor, I know a thing or two about the fair. With this being the last weekend of the fair, there are likely many that will decide to make the trip to Des Moines to catch a day or two at America?s greatest state fair. This being the case, I decided to take a moment to impart some of my vast state fair knowledge to you.

Now, before I get into the nitty gritty, I will also point out that while many reading this will not be attending the fair this year, there is still something to be gleaned. After all, there might just be a few tips that can be applied to the upcoming Midwest Old Threshers or future festivals in the area.

That said, let?s get started.

Tip #1: Wear the proper footwear.

I chose this as your first tip because it is undoubtedly the most vital. In all my years at the fair, the thing that continually astonishes me are the things that people will choose to wear on their feet while they walk around the fairgrounds all day.

Ladies, keep in mind when you are choosing your fair-going shoes that comfort should always trump fashion. Trust me when I say, that you will not care how cute your high heels are when you are trudging up the massive hill towards Pioneer Hall or the Cultural Center.

And men before I forget, you are just as naive as women when you decide that open-toed sandals are the smart choice to wear to the fair. Do I really need to spell out to you what you are getting under your nails or between your toes when you walk through the sheep, horse, pig, cattle and rabbit barns?

Yeah. I bet those flip flops don?t sound so smart now.

Tip #2: Win that stuffed animal at the end of the day.

Whenever I see a couple walking towards the Midway hand-in-hand, I am almost always right in guessing that at some point, the guy will suggest he try his hand at some carnival game in an attempt to win his significant other a stuffed animal.

And while I can?t deny the odd cuteness in that, I will suggest to all the guys out there to wait until the end of the day to win her that giant stuffed dog. I mean, let?s face it men, you will inevitably be hauling that thing around for the rest of the time you are at the fair. Wouldn?t you rather hold it for one hour as opposed to six?

Trust me, you would.

Tip #3: Avoid the fried butter on a stick at all costs.

I know this might sound like an obvious tip to some, but this delicacy has been on the fair menu for a couple of years now, so there are obviously some people out there that still haven?t gotten the memo.

And while we are on the subject, take it easy on the fair food in general. I know you have a plethora of must-have fair foods to check off the list this year, but take it slow. Don?t try cramming cotton candy, a smoked turkey leg, two funnel cakes, one lemonade shake-up, three gyros and some jalapeno bites down the pipe in one day. Pace yourself.

Plus, if you ask me, your must-haves for ISF food should include a cup of warm Barksdale?s chocolate chip cookies, a pork chop on a stick, ice cream from the dairy barn and kettle corn from the Heritage Village- all of which are manageable to consume in one day.

On a side note, if you decide not to heed my warning on this point, the American Red Cross First Aid building is located near the Agriculture Building just in case you feel a heart attack coming on.

Tip #4: If you want to stay on the horse owners? good side and/or keep your fingers at the fair, do not try petting a horse in the horse barn if there is a sign on the stall door saying ?I bite? or something like that.

As a horse owner myself, I can tell you that sign is either meant to be taken literally or as a polite way of saying that the owners do not want a million germs passed on to their prized animal by people touching it all day long.

Remember, look but don?t touch.

Tip #5: If at any point you get tired, need to take a lunch break, or simply get lost and need a minute to get your bearings, find a park bench and just sit.

People-watching at the fair has the potential to bring you more joy than you can possibly imagine. From out of control children to extremely odd wardrobe choices- the fair never disappoints.

And who knows, you might even find yourself thankful that you read this column, while others (like the guy with a half-eaten slab of butter on a stick headed towards the First Aid building) did not.