Growing up as an Iowa native, I always struggled against friends who desperately wanted nothing more than to ditch their home state as soon as possible. There is a laundry list of reasons as to why I stay around, and here are just a few of them:
The Des Moines Art Festival This is a mainstay in the downtown area. The bridges that are usually part of the main thoroughfare for business types downtown are closed off and become foot paths for those interested in the arts. It’s a great place to see and be seen whether you’ve got an eye for colors or not. There is also plenty of entertainment and refreshments to be had, so even if you’re not an ardent art connoisseur, this event is a great way to spend a summer afternoon.
Celebrasian An annual event run by the Iowa Asian Alliance in celebration of the vast pool of Asian immigrants in our state, this one has become a personal tradition. I never miss it, and the vendors selling exotic wares from their homelands turn the back side of the capitol grounds into an open air bazaar of unique sights, smells, and experiences. It’s free to attend, and the incredible entertainers that perform traditional dances on the stage throughout the day alone make this worth your time. Make sure you bring plenty of cash and an open mind– challenge yourself to taste something from each nationality represented!
The Des Moines Renaissance Festival This one is another yearly staple for me, and I love the chance to get involved and break out my period costumes. Doesn’t everybody? There are tons of incredible crafts people with booths to sell their wares, and you can find anything from hand made jewelry and circlets to leather bound journals and Renaissance musical instruments. For the price of admission, there’s a whole weekend jam packed with performances ranging from the hilarious to the traditional (the story tellers are my personal favorite).
The World Food and Music Festival One thing that most Iowans can agree on is this: We really, really love to eat! This festival is an open air event in down town Des Moines with a great, adventurous vibe. There are more vendors and food tents to choose from than you can count, and a chance to sample traditional food from many different walks of life. A chance to go on a culinary journey is one that you should never turn down. The music is also just as diverse and totally worth the trip all by itself.
The Iowa State Fair The big one! The Iowa State Fair is world famous as the biggest and best and of course– it’s another chance for the foodies to come alive. Every year there’s some new deep fried concoction to sample, or a new food on a stick. The free entertainment stages are plentiful, and the famous Midway is sure to delight the kid in anyone. One day alone isn’t enough to see it all, so make sure you plan your excursion accordingly.
I continue my quest with this to prove that my home state is not boring! I hope that next time you’re in the area, you get to catch one of these great events.