2018 Iowa State Fair officially underway

The 2018 Iowa State Fair kicks off in Des Moines Thursday. (Photo: Caroline Cummings)

The 164th annual Iowa State Fair officially kicked off in Des Moines Thursday.

Fair officials hope the 11 day event this year draw larger crowds than the record-breaking 1.1 million visitors that came through the state fairgrounds on the capital city's east side last year.

“Nothing compares to us when it comes to a classic American state fair," said Gary Slater, CEO of the Iowa State Fair, the state's largest annual event.

Even though it's only day one of the multi-day affair, planning never really stops.

“We start planning this truly from one fair to the next. We’re already looking things we’ll do differently next year," Slater said.

Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, Slate, and American Idol winner and Iowa native Maddie Poppe all addressed the crowd at the fair's grandstand to kick off the event. Poppe also sang the national anthem and greeted fans for pictures and autographs afterwards.

The grandstand is newly renovated this year, Slater says, expanding by 4,000 seats to increase opportunities to see top talent perform there this year, like country star Thomas Rhett and comedian Jim Gaffigan.

There are also 50 new fair foods this year, including a slice of deep fried pecan pie and chicken in a waffle on a stick. You can find the full list here.

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