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Cow chips, guns and rubber chickens


State Fair contests allow everyone a chance to participate. Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair.

State Fair contests allow everyone a chance to participate. Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair.

The oil is bubbling. The heat is rising. The kids are on leashes. That’s right, it’s time to brave the humidity and get out there for this year’s Iowa State Fair.

It is no different out at fairgrounds this year as an array of contests and activities take over the Midway. With many contests being on the first come, first served basis, money is no object to having fun. You simply have to show up early.

The Iowa Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) is back to show fairgoers what it really means to be a gunslinger. Contestants compete in a timed event using two .45-caliber single action revolvers, each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared blank ammunition. The first half of a course of fire can vary but usually requires the horse and rider to stop, turn, change leads or accelerate rapidly. The second half is a straight course at a full gallop and engages targets.

“The cowboy mounted shooting last year was a demonstration. This is the first year it is a contest,” said Megan Grandgeorge, marketing and tourism assistant for the Iowa State Fair.


Many of the contests at the fair might have a hard time falling into the category of sport.

“There are several (contests) that may be considered most ‘sport,’ ” says Lori Chappell, marketing director. “However, based on their competitive physical activity, the Bench Press/Deadlift Contest and Monster Arm Wrestling Championships fit the category best.”

No doubt either of these fit the bill — we even covered the arm wrestling in last year’s Iowa State Fair edition ( But like the great people who make it out to the fair, sports come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t always need a ball. Why not a rolling pin?

“For safety reasons, the Rubber Chicken Contest replaced the Rolling Pin Throw several years ago,” Chappell says.

Oh, well that makes sense. No matter, women are invited to come out and choke the chicken, hold it by its breast or flip the bird however they choose. Looking at the contest sheet (, one might notice that there are an awful lot of women-only events. The reason for this goes back to the early days of the fair when household roles were defined by gender. Many years ago, when most of the contests originated, men were typically at the barns and women with their children had time to take part in events and contests, Chappell says.

And lastly are all the animal calling contests. Youth and adults alike can muster up their best turkey, duck or chicken call so see if they’ve got a little Dr. Doolittle in them.

“Any calling contests with young children are very entertaining,” says Chappell. “The Hog and Chicken Calling Contests are entertaining with some participants getting creative with their props and clothing.”

“The contests are designed to offer all fairgoers the opportunity to participate and win a ribbon at the Iowa State Fair,” Chappell says. “We hope all involved — spectators and participants — have a memorable time.” CV     

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Various animal calling contests — Aug. 7, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Cowboy Mounted Shooting — Aug. 8, 9 a.m. at Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center
Monster Arm Wrestling Championships — Aug. 10, 1 p.m. at Penningroth Media Center ($20)
KRNT Cow Chip Throwing and Women’s Rubber Chicken Throwing — Aug. 13, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Farm Bureau Pioneer Hall.

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