Iowa Fairs and Festivals to Enjoy Before Summer Ends


Summer's not quite over and fall's not quite here. But don't worry, there's still plenty of fun and quirky festivals going on around Iowa to provide inspiration for a great weekend road trip. All of these towns are within a few hours' drive from Des Moines.

Midwest Old Threshers Reunion: Sept. 1-5
Head east to Mount Pleasant for this throwback festival. You don't have to be interested in old farm equipment to have a good time. Draft horses and other equines participate in many of the historic displays and events. There's also a huge flea market and concerts, too. Country superstars Tracy Lawrence and Kellie Pickler are a few of the headliners.

Beaux Arts Fair: Sept. 10-11
Enjoy Davenport's views of the Mississippi River during this art lovers' celebration. Second Street near the Figge Art Museum will host dozens of artists showcasing and selling their creations. Mediums range from pottery to paintings, furniture, stained glass and more. There'll be live music, food and special activities just for children.

Clay County Fair: Sept. 10-18
This festival in Spencer is so big it follows August's Iowa State Fair, rather than being held before it like all of the other county fairs in the state. It's one of the last chances to get funnel cake, corndogs and other summer fair food. Martina McBride and Lynyrd Skynyrd are among the top names performing at the grandstand.

Maximum Ames Music Festival: Sept. 15-18
Ames rolls out the welcome mat for more than 100 acts to perform at venues in its downtown area during this four-day event. This is great chance to discover new favorites among several genres, from rock to roots. See the website for a full roster of concerts.

Tri City BBQ Fest: Sept. 16-17
Come hungry to this two-day celebration in Denison. There's a chef's competition for bragging rights, craft beers to sample and of course, all the smoked dishes you can manage to sample. There's music, too, with bands including the 80's tribute group Hairball, the Verve Pipe and Fuel. Kids can get in on the action with a petting zoo and carnival rides.

Oktemberfest: Sept. 22-25

Marshalltown has something for everyone at its annual festival. Enjoy the classic car cruise, a motorcycle rodeo and lots of live music. Family friendly activities are a big focus here, with a kids' fun run and the crowning of Little Miss & Mr. Oktemberfest. Of course, there's a big parade on Saturday and a flea market, too.

Melanie Lageschulte is a freelance writer and editor. She is an Iowa native and has lived in Des Moines for 15 years.