Story County resident Stephanie Adair of Gilbert is scheduled to give birth to her second child — a daughter already named Luella — this Friday.
It will not be the first time she’s had a baby while the Iowa State Fair is going on. Her son, Junuh, was born during fair-time two years ago.
And with both impending births, Adair hasn’t missed attending the Iowa State Fair because of pregnancy.
“(Junuh) was in my belly at over 40 weeks (during the 2017 state fair),” she said, adding “Uffda!” And this year, Luella has been in her belly during the first days of the 2019 fair, because Adair didn’t want to miss it.
“It’s not the body aching that you think would be the most problematic for walking around the fair nine months pregnant,” she said. “It’s the fact that you simply do not have the space to eat all the food you want. You actually have to select your top items and make a whole day out of consuming them, or you won’t even be able to eat those.
“I don’t care about my feet or swelling or that my back aches, because I just love being at the fair so much.”
More than having both her babies born during the State Fair time, Adair said her connection to the Iowa State Fair has deep childhood roots that were put in place by her grandfather, Jim Stecker, now living in Ocala, Fla. He and his nine siblings grew up on an Iowa family farm and were big lovers of the Iowa State Fair.
Stecker, co-owner of Stecker-Harmsen Inc. in Ames, started a tradition of taking his grandchildren to the state fair on what is called “Papa Day at the fair.”
“The only rule,” Adair said, “(is that) none of our parents were allowed… That’s our special day we have with him.” And it continues to this day, as Stecker returns to Iowa to take the 13 grandchildren and their spouses, and nine great-grandchildren so far, to the fair.
Adair said they have a route they take through the fair every year with Papa. “We make sure that we get to everything,” she said. And everything doesn’t include rides. “Even as kids ourselves, we never really spent any time in the carnival section with games and rides.” Stecker wanted his grandchildren to value the things he loved about the Iowa State Fair. “He makes sure we see all the historical exhibits, artist galleries and of course, the animal barns,” she said. “Last year, even as young as my son was at almost 1, he was absolutely fascinated by the big bull, so we will definitely make sure that stays at the top of the list for a key stop.”
As she’s become an adult herself, Adair said she appreciates, even more, the displays and showmanship of the animals and projects at the fair. “Now that I’m older, I can understand the dedication that goes into these presenting artists and agricultural teams. The animals are always fun to see and experience, especially now with small children.” She also loves seeing woodworking projects and dollhouses.
There’s another thing she has a great appreciation for at the State Fair, and that’s the pork chops on a stick. It’s her “absolutely favorite thing to indulge in… I can’t leave the fair without a box,” she said. She also admits that she rarely touches pork chops outside the ones at the Iowa State Fair, “because they just do not satisfy the same.”
The State Fair is so much a part of her life, that even in small ways it shows itself in the home that she and her husband, Quentin, bought from her grandparents when they retired. “We actually have a collectible set of mugs on display in our kitchen year-round that shows all of the buildings on the fairgrounds on each individual mug. I think half our drinking glasses are those I collect at the fair each year by buying lemonade.”
And while other families may budget to spend a week-long vacation somewhere warm in the winter or somewhere else in the summer, she said she and her husband spend the rest of their year preparing for their next trip to the Iowa State Fair, and preparing, she noted, so they don’t miss out on anything they want to see at next fair.
When asked if there’s anything else she’d like to add about her love of the Iowa State Fair, Adair does have one more thing to share, and that’s about the feeling she gets when they play the national anthem every morning. “My husband, three of my brothers, four in-laws, countless friends and generations way back in my family have served in the military. And if anyone else other than my entire family has attended the Memorial Day service and festivities in McCallsburg, Iowa, every year, they would understand my family’s appreciation and dedication to thanking those who have served in the military.
“When the national anthem starts playing on those fairgrounds, and all of the thousands of people who are already there for the day just stop at attention to our flag, it moves me to tears every time. I feel there is no other place like the Iowa State Fair that you can get that many people to show true patriotism and just stop for our anthem and our flag all at once, without being asked.”
It’s moments like this, Adair said, that remind her why she not only loves the Iowa State Fair, but why she loves Iowa so much. “(It’s why) we will choose to stay here, raise our family and teach our kids the same values that all the fair presenters, competitors, artists, performers show by example each year. People from all over the Midwest and extending states come to our fair, and we all clearly see why. I’m so proud to call it my state fair, my people and the place my family calls home!”