President Eisenhower at the Iowa State Fair

I was nine years old when I saw President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first president to visit the Iowa State Fair, during its centennial year in 1954.

(He was, in fact, the second president I’d seen. The first one was President Harry S. Truman, at the 1948 National Plowing Match at Dexter, Iowa.)

What was also unique about Eisenhower’s visit in 1954 was that former President Herbert Hoover was with him.

“In recognition of the current and erstwhile president’s appearance, the fair’s organizers announced that they would eliminate the admission fee to the annual agricultural spectacle for the duration of the speech. But not everyone was elated at the idea that Iowans could suddenly attend the fair — and see two famous Republicans — for free.”

A horse caravan consisting of 509 people, 471 horses and 40 covered wagons traveled from Fairfield (the location of the first Iowa State Fair) to the Fairgrounds in Des Moines to officially open the Fair that year.

Iowa State Fair Trivia

According to Iowa State Fair Trivia, the presidents who’ve come to the Iowa State Fair were Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower in 1954, Gerald Ford in 1975, Jimmy Carter in 1976 (as a candidate), George W. Bush in 2002, Barack Obama in 2007 (as a candidate) and in 2012 as President, Donald Trump in 2015 (as a candidate); Joe Biden in 2019 (as a candidate), Ronald Reagan broadcasted from the Fair as sports director for WHO radio in the 1930s.

The 2021 Iowa State Fair runs from August 12-22. Since it wasn’t held last year because of the pandemic, people are certainly ready for this one. One “run up” to the fair has been the New Food Feud, with local media personalities involved in the voting.


  1. Growing up, I always looked forward to the Tennessee Valley A&I Fair every September. I enjoyed touring the animal sheds and pavilion, where they held all the 4H and FFA contests; the main building, where they had a crowd of exhibitors of everything from farm equipment to military recruiters (and I tried to collect as many brochures and “free stuff” as I could!); and the Jacobs Bldg., where they had all the home economics displays and contests. Years later, my own daughters entered contests there (and even won a few). Between the Jacobs Bldg and the main building they always had a tower where the 101st Airborne Division soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ken., demonstrated their Recondo teams’ rappelling skills. The only politician I recall seeing there was our U.S. representative John Duncan, who always had a trailer giving away free ice water! Fireworks ended every evening at 10:00 p.m. Fun times–even without presidents and presidential candidates!

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