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.
Story County Fair
The Story County Fair will run from July 19 - 24, 2013 in Nevada, which is about an hour away from Des Moines. This is a smaller fair with no rides or grand stand shows. Rather, it is focused on 4-H, FFA, and Open Class exhibits.
Polk County Fair
The Polk County Fair is held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in the 4-H Building and adjacent barns on July 17 - 21, 2013. This is a smaller fair, with 4-H and FFA Clubs as well as Open Class (general public) presenting exhibits.
Adair County fair
The Adair County Fair runs from July 17 - 21, 2013, and is a larger fair. Grandstand acts like the Demolition Derby are included in the admission price of $6/adult and $3/kids (ages 5 - 10); preschoolers are free. Wristbands give visitors a 4-day pass for $22.
Madison County Fair
The Madison County Fair is a mid-size fair with a traditional agriculture perspective. It runs from July 17 - 21, 2013. Admission tickets are cheaper when pre-purchased. For example, one adult costs $6 presale, $8 at the gate.