The Best Days Ever

State Auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat, pictured with Bonnie Swalwell Eilert, 94, of Newton. Bonnie won the Iowa State Fair Husband-Calling Contest, where Auditor Sand was a judge. SUBMITTED PHOTO

One of the things I love about the Iowa State Fair is that you always run into someone you didn’t expect to meet. This year was no different: while refilling drinks for folks at the Iowa Pork Tent, I encountered an organ donor wearing a t-shirt promoting the importance of this selfless act.

Two people whom I care about very much have undergone organ transplants this year, so as you can imagine, I was very excited to meet someone who shared my enthusiasm for the cause! In some places, we might’ve passed each other without chatting at all–but in Iowa, we’re just neighborly like that.

As I’ve done each year since I was elected to serve Iowans, I hit up the butter cow (also: butter Caitlin Clark, butter Jack Trice, and butter Kurt Warner), spent some time on the grill at the Iowa Pork Producers’ Pork Tent, handed out eggs on a stick with the Iowa Egg Council, and stopped in for a hot beef sundae at the Iowa Cattlemen’s Quarters. You may have even noticed that our office had a booth in the Varied Industries Building.

I’d seen videos online and knew the Iowa State Fair Husband-Calling Contest was a viral event that happened every year. But being in the room and seeing record turnout for this decades-old tradition was something entirely different: the camaraderie among the contestants, the unique stories each of them shared with us, and most of all their unabashed love for Iowa.

I also judged the Best Beard Contest, Children’s Joke-Telling, and emceed the Big Wheel Races on the Grand Concourse. Each of these events add to the novelty of the fair and showcase the best of Iowa: Neighbors who come together to celebrate our shared values and community spirit.

At the Iowa State Fair, our staff and I spoke with Iowans about the work of our office, answered their questions, and provided them with the tools they need to identify and report waste, fraud, and abuse in state government. We even metone service dog who wanted to be a watchdog along the way!

What you may not know, though, is that the Auditor of State’s office has always been at the Iowa State Fair, albeit behind-the-scenes. Because the Iowa State Fair is a public entity, our auditors conduct oversight of fair admission ticket sales, grandstand concert ticket sales and concession receipts. This helps to ensure that public monies are being properly accounted for, safeguarding taxpayers’ stake in the 169-year tradition.

Last month, I encouraged Iowans to “be a watchdog” and join me in helping to safeguard taxpayer dollars, starting with learning more about the State Appeal Board on which I serve in my capacity as Auditor. I’ve truly enjoyed the response from Iowans–especially the increased participation in our Public Innovations and Efficiencies (PIE) program (stay tuned for an announcement on that soon)!

By the way, did you know the first state fair budget was $323, and the butter sculptures use about 14,000 pounds of (salted) butter? Everybody’s got their own Iowa State Fair fact to share. My favorite this year is that the giant pumpkin weighed in at 200 pounds heavier than the giant boar! How’s that for some perspective?

The theme of this year’s Iowa State Fair was, “Best Days Ever.” This is true– and it’s all thanks to the countless volunteers, workers, vendors, participants, and attendees who make it happen. It was excellent to run into so many of you this year. And if we missed each other–there’s always next year!

Rob Sand is State Auditor of Iowa.