Can you show an Iowa cow at the Illinois State Fair?
February 6, 2022 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I saw The Bridges of Madison County for the first time, and this has been bothering me ever since. At the start of the story, the daughter leaves her Iowa farm, with father and brother, to exhibit her cow at the Illinois State Fair. Towards the end, she returns with a blue ribbon for the cow. (In between, the mother has some adventures.) I keep ruminating on this: how can she exhibit an out-of-state cow at the state fair?

I think I must be missing something. IMDB does not list this as a goof. Nothing on TV Tropes. Amazon reviews of film and book? No one seems to mention this cow crossing state lines.

I've never raised livestock, and only seen youths demonstrating livestock at county fairs in New York. Is there some commonly-known cross-state 4-H cooperation I'm not aware of? Is this explained in the book, or perhaps the musical? Or is this a bovine-sized plot hole?

Really I just need some assurance: no, this is easily explained; or yes, this is a contrivance to get the rest of the family far away so the main plot can happen, don't look too closely at the cow.
posted by Ishbadiddle to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You need an entry permit.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:19 PM on February 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

Just looked at a maps: someone is southeastern Iowa might be closer to the Illinois State Fair than to the Iowa one.
posted by mareli at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

This Chicago Tribune writer agrees with you.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Also, the Illinois state fairgrounds are in Springfield, and Madison County, Iowa is closer to the other end of Iowa. Surely the Iowa State Fair, which was held in Des Moines in 1965, would have been closer? (Yes, it is 39 miles away.)

Now this is going to bother me so much if I ever actually read this book or see this movie.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:44 PM on February 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My partner has experience with entering county fairs in Illinois and says that there was often a higher rate to enter as a non-resident, but it is possible (and not uncommon) to do so.

Of course, there's no guarantee that the same applies to the Illinois state fair, or did at the time of the setting, but it seems plausible, and in general, I don't view this as a plot hole or even as particularly odd.
posted by likedoomsday at 12:45 PM on February 6, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I am not a farmer but the Illinois state fair livestock exhibition/competition rules cover entry requirements for out of state animals. Assuming the rules have not changed much, I don't think she could participate in the Junior division as that is limited to Illinois 4-H or FFA only. However she could compete in the Open Livestock division:
The Open Livestock Division of the Illinois State Fair is open to all regardless of age or residency. Parental discretion is encouraged when considering the most appropriate age for young children to be caring for and exhibiting livestock in the Open Division of the State Fair. Further, parents should be aware of conditions on the Fairgrounds and make provisions for adequate care and supervision of young children.
As for why they would travel farther, maybe the prizes were better at the Illinois fair, or they thought there would be more opportunities for selling the cow afterward. Or as you say it is a plot contrivance.
posted by muddgirl at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2022 [7 favorites]

Concur with @muddgirl, as I was thinking the same thing. I was browsing the 2022 draft rules for Illinois state fair competitions including livestock, and under "Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI)" (pg 10) it referred multiple times to "out of state animals". So I'd imagine they do accept out of state animals for exhibition and competition as long as they meet the posted rules, even back then.
posted by kschang at 1:26 PM on February 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

OK another theory, since the Iowa state fairgrounds were so close to their house, maybe economically it made sense to enter both fairs? And if you're going to enter the farther away fair then you're going to make a trip of it.

I don't know the exact dates of the livestock shows but in 1965 it looks like the Illinois state Fair ran from Aug 13-22 while the Iowa State Fair ran from the 20-29.
posted by muddgirl at 2:10 PM on February 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

I used to show horses at the NC State fair, but not "livestock" so the rules may not apply, but only the 4H classes were restricted to in-State competitors/owners (sometimes the owner isn't the person showing the animal.)
posted by mightshould at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So she could have shown the cow, just not in the 4H division. I can rest easy now! Thanks everyone!
posted by Ishbadiddle at 5:45 PM on February 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is pretty much answered, but (as someone who has shown livestock in the past) I wanted to add a little tiny tidbit... 4-H & FFA is state-specific everywhere, as far as I'm aware, but it used to be REALLY common for livestock breeders of purebred animals to travel to various states to show open class. (I presume it still is, but I haven't been active in quite a few years now.)

It would be rather unusual for an individual to simply take ONE animal, but it would be possible, if it's a purebred and there's a show for that breed. (For crossbreeds, the only time I think I've seen that has been pens of meat rabbits - or perhaps poultry. I'd be surprised to hear of it with large livestock.)
posted by stormyteal at 7:27 PM on February 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

(In between, the mother has some adventures.)

posted by Thorzdad at 7:00 AM on February 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

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