Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Iowa State Fair

Another year has gone by and the Iowa State Fair is back. Last year I spent quite a few days sketching at the fair and this year I plan on doing even more. There are opportunities for interesting compositions and subjects virtually everywhere you look. Opening Day was August 9, and all of the usual attractions were in place: the butter cow, the Avenue of Breeds, the pork-chops-on-a-stick (and who-knows what else?).

Early in the morning the crowd wasn't too big, the air was cool a bit breezy. After a farm breakfast in one of the concessions a ride around the grounds allows good reconnaissance without walking miles across the more than 400 acres of grounds. The trams are pulled by enormous farm tractors, manned by volunteers, lifesavers on a broiling August day. I rode up the hill from the Grand Concourse to Pioneer Hall, my first stop of the morning.

Pioneer Hall was built in 1886 as one of the original buildings constructed at the current fairgrounds, and it's the last one standing. Today it houses a working blacksmith, an old-time letter press, a stage that hosts various contests and musical acts, and a vintage flea market, as well as exhibits of prize-winning antiques. This year a group is rebuilding a tractor.

Steve the Blacksmith, hammering iron
It's great fun to visit and see someone spinning wool, making horseshoes, or fiddling up a storm. The blacksmith runs the smith everyday, thankfully next to a wide-open door, which provides breezes most of the time. Still, he's often bathed in sweat as he hammers hot iron on a huge anvil in the middle of the space. This morning he wasn't too busy with fairgoers which gave me time to sketch him and the wall of his smithy. Afterward I went over and showed him the sketch, which he kindly signed for me, although he said his scrawl wouldn't be recognizable. Still, a working smithy is fun, and might become food for a painting some day.

This first week the fair is going to be a daily visit for me, and I'll probably post something most days.
From last year's fair:
Two Tractors
State Fair Sketchbook

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