Reflecting on History

January 19, 2021
drewnorton's picture

When flipping through the Iowa State Fair History Book, I came across a short article on the original State Fair roller coaster. With the last several months feeling like a roller coaster ride – it caught my eye.

The State Fair Roller Coaster

Some people somewhere in Des Moines are living in houses built from a wooden roller coaster.

The roller coaster was constructed in 1908 northeast of the Grandstand and was owned by Jimmie and Johnny Kenenan of Oklahoma City. Before the Fair resumed in 1946 after a four-year hiatus because of World War ll – the decision was made to tear down the coaster because it was rotting around the footings.  Materials were in short supply, so that spring, former Fair Secretary A.R. Corey’s two sons along with 12 other men, dismantled the coaster and sold the lumber to a carpenter for construction of houses.

According to an article in The Des Moines Register, “To the hardened roller coaster addict, the Fair ride was tamer than those at Arnolds Park or Riverview in Des Moines. But tens of thousands of others found it plenty exciting.”

What a neat piece of history that makes the Iowa State Fair unique. I’m sure at the time Fairgoers missed the roller coaster when it had to be removed. But just like today, the Iowa State Fair is continuing to evolve. It’s a balance of keeping the history/traditions but adjusting to the changes in technology and advancements.  The midway as a whole has changed since 1908 but the fun games and rides for all ages continue to get better year after year.

Another part of this story stood out to me – “Before the Fair resumed in 1946 after a four-year hiatus”. Don’t forget, the Fair was postponed because of World War ll. And 75 years ago, maintenance crews were making improvements to the Fairgrounds before the Iowa State Fair returned. Fast forward to now – that’s exactly what staff is doing today!

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is supporting small and much needed improvement projects across the Fairgrounds to prepare for when we can gather this August to celebrate the Iowa State Fair!

As I’ve said before, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I bet 75 years ago, there were Fair lovers that were excited to welcome back the event after the hiatus and stepped up to donate their time and resources to make sure the Fair came back better than ever.

You play an important role in fulfilling the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission of helping the Iowa State Fair thrive.  We look forward to seeing you, your friends, and your families at the Fair this summer.