Jackie Gingrich Cushman
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It's vast, it's crowded, it's fattening and it's fun. "Nothing Compares to the Iowa State Fair." The slogan is aptly deserved.

The fair is held in Des Moines, Iowa, on a 400-acre tract of land situated next to 160 acres of campgrounds. While more than 100,000 people attended the fair this past Friday, the crowds were manageable.

The first Iowa State Fair was held in 1854 in Fairfield. These days, more than a million people per year attend during its 10-day run. It began this year on Aug. 21, the same day as the first Iowa Republican presidential debate, which was held last Thursday in nearby Ames.

Last weekend, the Republican contenders visited the fair, which even attracted ever-perennial and ever-potential candidate Sarah Palin.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the butter cow. Unless you've seen it, it's hard to imagine the life-sized, 600-pound sculpture of a cow made of Iowa butter. Literally a "butter cow." According to the Iowa State Fair's website, the cow "would butter 19,200 slices of toast and take an average person two lifetimes to consume."

Wow.

For those concerned about sustainability, "much of the butter is recycled and reused for up to 10 years." Here's hoping there's no toast being spread with this butter. The close-up view and picture of our family in front of the world-famous butter cow made the 15-minute wait worthwhile.

Other fair attractions included pumpkins so large that a forklift was used to move them around. Numerous animals were present: cows, pigs, chickens, goats, ostriches and more. There were agricultural pavilions and exhibits, but what captured my eye and appetite were the numerous food trucks and stalls that sold a plethora of fair food. The stock fair items were present -- funnel cakes, lemonade and cotton candy.

But the Iowa State Fair is known for its remarkable fried foods, most often eaten on a stick. This year's new attraction was fried butter on a stick, which I did without. I did, however, try the pork chop on a stick, chicken lips on a stick (fried chicken breast covered with hot sauce) and fried Oreos.

The pork chop was my favorite, but then it was homegrown Iowa pork.

On occasion, Republican presidential contenders could be spotted walking through the fairground. They were most often surrounded by a gaggle of reporters.

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Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.