The motto for the 2012 Iowa State Fair is "Nothing Compares," and that's bound to be especially true when admission is free.
The unofficial "opening" of the fair begins with a parade to be held in Des Moines on Wednesday starting at 6:15 p.m.
Don Greiman, who served on the Iowa State Fair Board for 44 years -- twice as president -- will serve as Grand Marshal.
Greiman has never missed a day at the Iowa State Fair in the last 46 years, according to the Fair's official website.
The Fair will also pay tribute to the late Mark Pearson, who died on June 3. Pearson hosted Iowa Public Television's Market to Market program, as well as the channel's annual coverage of the Iowa State Fair.
Fair officials say that Mike Pearson, Mark’s son, will drive his dad’s tractor in the parade to honor the popular Iowa farm broadcaster.
On Thursday, admission is free with a coupon.
From the Fair's website:
Spectators will be able to watch an estimated 200 floats, animals, vehicles, novelty and performing units. Staging will take place at the State Capitol complex. Parade entrants will then travel west on Grand Avenue to 13th Street. Dispersion will take place between 13th and 18th streets. Highlights of the gala event will be re-broadcast on parade night throughout central Iowa on KDSM FOX 17 beginning at 10 p.m.
From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. fairgoers can take advantage of free admission with a coupon from the Iowa State Fair special section of the Aug. 5 Des Moines Sunday Register and in the full-page Hy-Vee ad in the Wednesday, Aug. 8 Des Moines Register. One coupon per person, parking not included. Gate admission is also half-price after 5 p.m. Monday through Thursdays. Valid at all gates.
Beginning at 6 a.m., join us on the Grand Concourse to take part in a morning of wellness and Healthiest State Initiative activities coordinated by Hy-Vee. Opening ceremonies will be at 8 a.m., followed by Iowa’s largest ZUMBA® class. ZUMBA® is a Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness program.
Fair fun continues all day with contests, food, games and entertainment including performances by The Nadas, J.J. Grey and Mofro, Bob Wootton and Steve Holy. Christian music stars TobyMac, Tenth Avenue North and Jamie Grace will perform on the Grandstand stage at 8 p.m. Tickets for the Grandstand show are $32 (plus convenience charges) and are available now through Ticketmaster outlets and the Iowa State Fair Box Office.