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Lineup is loaded with world-class live music

The Iowa State Fair offers funnel cakes, butter cows, real cows, carnies, and 1-million-plus people who are watching people who are watching animals who are watching people. But the best place to put your eyeballs this August, and your ears, too, is squarely upon the Iowa State Fair’s world-class live concert music. 

Grandstand Entertainment at the Fair historically reels in big-time bands with national or even global appeal, and this year is no different. From the heavy metal onslaught of Five Finger Death Punch to the pop-Christian-Gospel songs of Casting Crowns, or from The Beach Boys to Boyz II Men, the gigs onstage at this year’s east-side super bash are sure to have onlookers of all varieties doing a little toe-tapping, hip shaking and maybe even a pinch of soul rattling. 

The 2021 Iowa State Fair offers a jam-packed slate of music offerings during its upcoming 11-day run, Aug. 12-22. The following pages include a sneak peak. 

Editor’s note: For tickets to Iowa State Fair music concerts, call 800.514.3849 or visit 

Mark Hall formed the band Casting Crowns in 1999 while serving as a youth pastor in Florida. The group is said to be the second-fastest Christian band in history to have its first two albums certified platinum. Hall and his bandmates will play their contemporary Christian rock at the Fair, Thursday, Aug. 12.

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Casting Crowns 

with special guest Jordan Feliz

Thursday, Aug. 12 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Contemporary Christian, Christian rock

You might know them for hits such as: “Who Am I,” “Voice of Truth,” “Praise You In This Storm,” “Until The Whole World Hears,” “Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me),” “Just Be Held,” “Oh My Soul,” “East to West,” “Lifesong,” “Courageous.”

With more than 11 million albums sold thanks to 13 No. 1 hits, Casting Crowns has been Billboard’s top Christian music act since 2007. Lead singer/songwriter Mark Hall and his crew kick off the Grandstand’s live music slate this year, showcasing the band’s impressive resume of mega-hits laced with searing guitar sounds and uplifting melodies. 

DID YOU KNOW? Casting Crowns is said to be the second-fastest Christian band in history to have its first two albums certified platinum. Mark Hall formed the group in 1999 while serving as a youth pastor in Florida. 

Blake Shelton brings his resume loaded with more than two dozen lifetime No. 1 hits to the Iowa State Fair, Friday, Aug. 13.

Blake Shelton 

with special guest Matt Stell

Friday, Aug. 13 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Country

You might know him for hits such as: “Happy Anywhere” (featuring Gwen Stefani), “God’s Country,” “Doin’ What She Likes,” “Honey Bee,” “Some Beach,” “Goodbye Time,” “God Gave Me You,” “Lonely Tonight,” “Austin,” “The Baby.”

Boasting more than two dozen No. 1 hits while charting 40 singles, Blake Shelton actually broke the record for the most consecutive No. 1 singles in the Country Airplay chart’s 24-year history.

FUN FACT: Blake Shelton competed in pageants as a child, rocked a mullet as a teen and owned a pet turkey as an adult. Incidentally, Shelton once admitted to accidentally feeding his turkey Thanksgiving leftovers that included… turkey. Yikes. 

Sam Hunt is earning high praise and receiving accolades from an array of critics. You can see the country star live at the Fair, Saturday, Aug. 14.

Sam Hunt 

with special guest Kip Moore

Saturday, Aug. 14 • 7:30 p.m.

Genre: Country

You might know him for hits such as: “Body Like a Back Road,” “Kinfolks,” “Take Your Time,” “Break Up In A Small Town,” “Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90’s.”

Dubbed “stylistically provocative” by The New York Times and “deceptively phenomenal” by The Washington Post, Sam Hunt is earning high praise and receiving accolades from an array of critics. 

DID YOU KNOW? In college, Hunt played quarterback for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for parts of two years. During that span, he passed for 12 touchdowns while rushing for three more.

The best-selling R&B group of all time, Boyz II Men, has sold 64 million albums. This legendary foursome plays the Fair, Sunday, Aug. 15, with special guest Bell Biv DeVoe.

Boyz II Men 

with special guest Bell Biv DeVoe

Sunday, Aug. 15 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: R&B

You might know them for hits such as: “End of the Road,” “I’ll Make Love to You,” “One Sweet Day,” “Motownphilly.” 

As the best-selling R&B group of all time, Boyz II Men has sold 64 million albums and earned nine American Music Awards, nine Soul Train Awards, three Billboard Awards and a 2011 MOBO Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. 

WHAT’S WITH THE NAME? Each member of Boyz II Men — Nathan Morris, Michael McCary, Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris — attended the Philadelphia High School for the Performing Arts and studied classical music and vocal arts. The foursome took inspiration for their band’s name from the 1988 New Edition song “Boys To Men.”

Cole Swindell plays the Fair, Monday, Aug. 16. The rising country crooner now boasts nine No. 1 singles.

Cole Swindell 

with special guest Dustin Lynch

Monday, Aug. 16 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Country

You might know them for hits such as: “You Should Be Here,” “Chillin’ It,” “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey,” “Let Me See Ya Girl,” “You Should Be Here,” “Middle of a Memory,” “Flatliner,” “Love You Too Late,” “Single Saturday Night.”

In 2013, Cole Swindell independently released his debut single, “Chillin’ It,” and it took off. That success led him to sign a record deal with Warner Music Nashville, and the rising mainstream country music superstar hasn’t looked back. Swindell now boasts nine No. 1 singles.

FUN FACT: Cole Swindell claims that he has never been dumped by a girlfriend. 

The Beach Boys are synonymous with living the California good life. The band has performed more concerts than any major rock group in history and sold more than 100 million records. The Beach Boys take the stage at the Fairgrounds, with special guest Hanson, Tuesday, Aug. 17.

The Beach Boys 

with special guest Hanson

Tuesday, Aug. 17 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Oldies Pop & Rock

You might know them for hits such as: “Surfin’,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfer Girl,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann,” “Good Vibrations,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Kokomo.”

After more than a half century of making music — that’s five-plus decades of top-notch pop — The Beach Boys are synonymous with living the California good life. The band has performed more concerts than any major rock group in history and sold more than 100 million records while hauling in more honors and accolades than we have room to mention. 

FUN FACT: The Beach Boys are still led by co-founder Mike Love. Love penned the lyrics to The Beach Boys’ first hit, “Surfin’” in 1961. The band also consists of longtime member Bruce Johnston, musical director Scott Totten, Brian Eichenberger, Christian Love, Tim Bonhomme, John Cowsill, Keith Hubacher and Randy Leago. The Rock And Roll Hall of Famers were honored at the 2001 Grammy Awards with the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Legendary rockers Styx show no signs of slowing down. The group joins Tesla, Wednesday, Aug. 18, at the Fair to promote the band’s highly anticipated 17th album, Crash Of The Crown.


with special guest Tesla

Wednesday, Aug. 18 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Rock

You might know them for hits such as: “The Grand Illusion,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Lady,” “Miss America,” “Man in the Wilderness,” “Crystal Ball,” “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade.” 

Legendary and multi-Platinum rockers STYX consists of Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitars), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass), along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo. The group’s publicist says the band members are rested, healthy, and ready to hit the road again in order to promote a new album. Their highly anticipated 17th album, “CRASH OF THE CROWN,” was released June 18. 

Styx became the first band to score four triple-platinum albums in a row: The Grand Illusion (1977), Pieces of Eight (1978), Cornerstone (1979), and Paradise Theater (1981), and even after four decades of chart-topping hits, the group shows no signs of slowing down. 

DID YOU KNOW? Styx, in ancient Greek mythology, is one of the rivers of the underworld and literally means “shuddering” and expresses loathing of death. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the gods swear by the water of the Styx as their binding oath. Source:

Chris Stapleton plays the Iowa State Fair, Thursday, Aug. 19. Stapleton is credited with writing or co-writing more than 170 songs, six of which made it to No. 1 on country music charts.

Chris Stapleton 

with special guest Nikki Lane

Thursday, Aug. 19 • 8 p.m. 

Genres: Country, Southern rock, bluegrass, outlaw country

You might know him for hits such as: “The Devil Named Music,” “Traveller,” “Sometimes I Cry,” “Might As Well Get Stoned,” “Fire Away,” “Broken Halos,” “Either Way,” “Tennessee Whiskey.” 

This prolific songwriter wrote numerous songs for top country artists before entering the limelight behind the microphone in 2015. By 2018, Stapleton was credited with writing or co-writing a total of 170 songs, six of which made it to No. 1 on country music charts. This knack for putting down just the right thoughts with just the right rhythm has fans flocking to see him in droves. 

FUN FACT: Chris Stapleton used to work at Papa John’s pizza.

Five Finger Death Punch, Friday, Aug. 20, heavy metal onslaught equipped with lyrics such as “The wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell.”

Five Finger Death Punch 

with special guest All That Remains

Friday, Aug. 20 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Heavy Metal

You might know them for albums such as: “American Capitalist,” “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell,” “And Justice for None,” “The Way of the Fist,” “F8.”

A mix of thrash and metal with volatile lyrics like, “I’m on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell…” Every record since the band’s 2007 debut album has been certified Gold or Platinum making Five Finger Death Punch one of the most successful heavy metal bands of the decade. 

WHAT’S WITH THE NAME? Guitarist Zoltan Bathory admits in a recent YouTube video posted by the band: “I mean, I don’t think you can beat Five Finger Death Punch. That’s probably the worst ******* name. In fact, we almost changed it, but then Ivan came in and said, ‘That’s the best name ever, they’re gonna ******* hate it! Keep it! That’s ******* ridiculous!’ ”

Dan + Shay will take the stage at the Fairgrounds, Saturday, Aug. 21.

Dan + Shay 

with special guest Russell Dickerson

Saturday, Aug. 21 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Country 

You might know them for hits such as: “Speechless,” “Tequila,” “From The Ground Up,” “10,000 Hours,” “19 You + Me,” “Nothin’ Like You,” “I Should Probably Go To Bed,” “All To Myself.”

Surpassing 6.5 billion career streams while winning a second consecutive GRAMMY for Best Country Duo/Group Performance — “Speechless” (2020), “Tequila” (2019) — with a “heavenly mix of vocal harmonies and sweeping strings” (Rolling Stone), Dan + Shay have left audiences weeping and wanting more. “…when I taste tequila…”

DID YOU KNOW? Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney make up Dan + Shay, an immensely popular country music duo. 

The Doobie Brothers’ 50th Anniversary Tour arrives at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Sunday, Aug. 22. The Doobies have sold more than 48 million albums through five decades…. “We got to let the music play… Umm-hmm.”

The Doobie Brothers’ 50th Anniversary Tour 

featuring Tom Johnston, Michael McDonald, Pat Simmons, John McFee

Sunday, Aug. 22 • 8 p.m. 

Genre: Rock 

You might know them for hits such as: “Black Water,” “What a Fool Believes,” “Listen to the Music,” “China Grove,” “Jesus Is Just All Right,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “Long Train Runnin’,” “Take Me In Your Arms,” “Takin’ it to the Streets,” “Minute by Minute,” “You Belong to Me,” “The Doctor.” 

“Whoa oh whoa… Listen to the music. Whoa oh whoa…” The Doobie Brothers have sold more than 48 million albums through five decades of guitar-driven, harmony-laden rock ’n’ roll. The band continues to write and record, and wow…. “We got to let the music play… Umm-hmm.” 

WHAT’S WITH THE NAME? While doing radio interviews in the band’s early years, questions arose regarding the source of their name. Instead of telling the truth — that it was a friend’s joking suggestion involving a slang term for a marijuana cigarette — the band would respond with a lie that it was from the children’s TV series Romper Room, which apparently boasted a hand-puppet bumblebee named Mr. Do-Bee. In the band’s beginning, The Doobie Brothers originally went by the name Pud. ♦

Free Onstage Entertainment

Aug. 12-22 • Iowa State Fairgrounds • East 30th and East University •

The following list of live entertainment — classic rock legends, indie, comedy, country crooners, ‘90s, pop, hip-hop, Christian, jazz, blues, and other fun offerings — is free with admittance to the Fair. Altogether, it’s billed as more than half million dollars’ worth of entertainment. The Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the nation’s oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions. Annually attracting more than a million people, the Fair is Iowa’s greatest celebration. 

Susan Knapp Amphitheater 
  • Aug. 12: Niko Moon
  • Aug. 13: Alex Hall
  • Aug. 14: Noah Guthrie
  • Aug. 15: HAIRBALL
  • Aug. 16: LIT
  • Aug. 17: Larry Fleet
  • Aug. 18: Hailey Whitters
  • Aug. 19: Blanco Brown
  • Aug. 20: Country Gold featuring LeRoy VanDyke, The Malpass Brothers and Dallas Wayne
  • Aug. 21: Broadway’s Rock of Ages Band
  • Aug. 22: Ross Ellis
Anne and Bill Riley Stage sponsored by Pepsi
  • Aug. 12-13: Renata the Band
  • Aug. 14: 2021 Iowa State Fair  Queen Coronation
  • Aug. 15: Latino Celebration with Andy William & Nebraska All Stars
  • Aug. 16-20: Ron Diamond
  • Aug. 21: Jake Hoot
  • Aug. 22: We The Kingdom
MidAmerican Energy Stage
  • Aug. 12-22: Vocal Trash
  • Aug. 12: The Nadas
  • Aug. 13: Josie Dunne
  • Aug. 14: The Lettermen
  • Aug. 15: Skid Row
  • Aug. 16: Tony! Toni! Toné!
  • Aug. 17: LA Guns
  • Aug. 18: Color Me Badd/Tag Team
  • Aug. 19: Colter Wall
  • Aug. 20: Filmore
  • Aug. 21: Bob Dorr’s Iowa Music Revue
  • Aug. 22: “I Am, He Said” Celebrating the Music of Neil Diamond
Fun Forest Stage sponsored by Community Choice Credit Union
  • Aug. 12-22: Allez OOPS!
  • Aug. 12-22: The Rubber Chicken Show with Greg Frisbee
Other Entertainment
  • Chainsaw Artists Gary Keenan and TJ Jenkins
  • Brian Sobaski’s Straw Art
  • Sandscapes
  • Bandaloni
  • Kachunga and the Alligator Show
  • Wool Riders Only Mutton Bustin’
  • Disc-Connected K-9’s sponsored by Mountain Valley Spring Water
  • Doc Snooker’s “To the Moon!”

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