If families that desire a 'state fair' experience on a smaller scale or with a more rural approach, a county fair may be a good idea. Some are very low-key, like the Polk County Fair, and have no food vendors or rides. Other county fairs run on a larger scale like the Iowa State Fair, such as the Adair County Fair. A few area fairs are within one hour of drive time from the Des Moines metro area and begin this week.
For county fairs farther away, visit the Association of Iowa Fairs website.