As the traditional state fair season starts across the Midwest, here are some ways to get a taste of the fair experience both in person and virtually.

Every Midwest state fair except South Dakota’s has been cancelled or significantly scaled back this year due to the pandemic. But you can still get a taste of fair food, watch butter carvings, see art competitions, visit with animals and have fun on rides—just in a different way than usual.

Eat it up Several fairs are sponsoring fair food drive-throughs or other events to feature food vendors. Want to make that food at home? Check out our recipes for Fair Food Favorites—including classics like Corn Dogs and Elephant Ears—or our collection of Blue-Ribbon State Fair Recipes.

Corn Dogs
Credit: Andy Lyons

Better with butter Butter carvings are a tradition at several state fairs. This year, Minnesota livestreamed sculptors carving the finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Iowa—famed for its butter cow—presented a “Nothing Could Be Butter Day” on Aug. 18 with virtual fair activities on dairy milking, butter sculpting and more.

Enjoy the animals A big part of any state fair is walking through the animal barns or watching youth competitions. For an in-person experience, consider visiting your local zoo or wildlife center (most have reopened). Or check your state fair’s website to see if competitions are being live-streamed or if in-person visits may be allowed.  

Take a ride Is the carnival your favorite part of the fair? Get your adventure fix at Midwest amusement parks that have reopened for the season, such as Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa; Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio; Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri; Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana; and Six Flags St. Louis.

Admire the art Some fairs are still holding fine arts competitions. Minnesota, for instance, will have both in-person and virtual gallery showings. Nebraska took an innovative approach to arts, encouraging residents statewide to join in a tree decorating (yarn bombing) experience.

Check with your local fair for updates!

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