I’ve lived in MN and have visited the fair. It’s one of the top fairs in the country, certainly in the midwest. It is NOT the top fair in the country, however. the MN state fair definitely has the most attendance in the midwest. With some 3 million people within an hour’s drive, that’s no surprise. The Minnesota fairgrounds are larger than Iowa’s when you subtract the campgrounds, 314 acres to Iowa’s 275 acres. Now, let’s take the average daily attendance into account. MN: 1.8 million/12 days = 150,000. IA: 1.0 million/11 days = 91,000 (approx.) Average people per acre per day ratio, MN: 150,000/314 = 478. IA: 91,000/275 = 331. Advantage: IOWA. It’s like Yogi Berra once said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” If you want to swap armpit sweat, go to the Minnesota fair. If you want a chance to actually SEE something, go to the Iowa fair. Speaking of campgrounds, Minnesota = 6 acres. Iowa = 160 acres. Shade trees per acre, when you count that big water tower shading half of the MN campground, it’s no contest. Advantage: MINNESOTA. Otherwise regarding campgrounds, Advantage: IOWA. Beauty of the grounds: yes, I’m biased, but it’s no contest: IOWA. Minnesota’s is flat. Iowa’s is not. There’s a nice hill where you can look out over the fairgrounds from Grandpa’s Barn. Best public wraparound front porch: IOWA. It’s at the fairgrounds headquarters building. If you don’t have a front porch at home, you have one at the Iowa fair. It is the literal heart and soul of the fair. Size of the animal barns: Iowa’s got more. Exhibit buildings in general, I’d have to say the buildings at the Iowa state fair are bigger and nicer. Tradition, food, media attention, both fairs rank equally high on that measure. But if you need to see the quintessential state fair, it’s in Iowa.
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