The Iowa State Fair Has Changed. Here’s How

Kimberly Ritter

The Iowa State Fair is back after a break in 2020 due to the pandemic. While fair goers and exhibitors alike are excited to see the fair return to Des Moines, there are quite a few changes to this year’s experience. Here’s what you need to know if you’re headed to the fair.

Headed to the Iowa State Fair? Most of the things about this popular annual attraction are remaining the same, however you may notice a few changes this year. Here are some of the changes you will see at the 2021 Iowa State Fair.

Security and Metal Detectors

Those attending the Iowa State Fair will encounter one major change even before they enter the gates of the fairgrounds this year. The Iowa State Fair now has metal detectors and will be performing bag checks at all nine entrances of the fairgrounds.

Metal detectors and park security personnel will be looking for items that could be a possible safety risk to other attendees at the event such as knives, guns, ammunition or tasers. These items are not permitted. To find a list of what is allowed and what isn’t allowed inside the Des Moines Iowa State Fairgrounds, visit

The Iowa State Fair has asked that fairgoers allow for additional time when entering the park to allow for the bag checks and the metal detectors. Additional bag checks may also be required for those attending events at the fair grandstand.

Masks and COVID-19
Iowa does not have a mask mandate and the organizers of the Iowa State Fair are not requiring masks for the entrance to the event. However, the fair organizers are following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent guidelines and recommend that attendees wear masks in indoor areas. The final decision on mask use is up to the fair goer. A limited supply of masks will be available for those who want them at the Iowa State Fair information booths.

For those planning on using the Des Moines area DART Park & Ride, TSA guidelines do require masks be worn at all times while riding the bus. More information can be found here.

For those who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, the Iowa State Fair has partnered with Hy-vee to provide vaccinations at the fairgrounds. Look for this vaccination event inside the fairgrounds main gate (gate 11). Hand sanitizing and washing stations will also be available throughout the fairgrounds.

New Foods To Enjoy
A major attraction of the Iowa State Fair, the food is always popular with attendees and there are over 60 new menu items that fair goers can enjoy at this year’s event. Some of the new additions for 2021 include Chicken Bacon Ranch Ball On A Stick and Peanut Butter and Fluff Cookie Dough. Find a list of the new Iowa State Fair food menu items here.

No Trams Within the Fairgrounds
One service that attendees may miss at this state fair are the normal trams that transport visitors around the fairgrounds. Due to public safety concerns, these are not being offered this year. Shuttles from the state fair campgrounds will still be offered to Pioneer Hall.

Giant Slide Has Moved
If you’re looking for the state fair favorite to ride with your family, you may notice that it has a new location. The Giant Slide has been repainted, refurbished and moved to a new location that is near the straw sculpture.

Other State Fair Changes
Iowa State Fair goers will notice a few other major changes including a newly renovated 4-H Exhibit Building, the expansion of Barksdale Cookies to a new location that is on the Grand Concourse near the Grandstand, and the return of the tractor pull. There are also some amazing new Iowa State Fair murals that you'll want to check out and that make for amazing new photo opps.

For more information and ongoing updates about this Des Moines, Iowa event visit

Making your plans to visit the Iowa State Fair? Check out our fun things to do at the Iowa State Fair for Teens and Tweens. You can also find out how kids can stay involved with the Iowa State Fair, even from home! Find coloring pages, a lesson plan and more that kids can do here.

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