Barn Raising at Iowa Sate Fair to Spark Interest in Preservation

(Radio Iowa) The Iowa Barn Foundation has hosted a barn raising on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, in hopes of raising fairgoers’ awareness of what it takes to preserve barns. A 16-foot-tall barn now stands in the center of the Ag Building on the fairgrounds. Iowa Barn Foundation board member Dwight Hughes says the project has several goals.

“We’re looking for memberships to spread the word and create sparks of interest,” Hughes says. The Iowa Barn Foundation has raised over two million dollars in the past 25 years, providing grants that have helped preserve nearly 300 Iowa barns — but Hughes says the number of grant applications far exceeds their current capacity to help.

“So this is in effect a way to try to bring awareness and locate that needle in the haystack which turns out to be people who are willing to part with their hard-earned money,” Hughes says, “to help foster the preservation and the saving of the heritage barns in Iowa.” In 1920, there were about 300-thousand barns in Iowa, but fewer than a third are still standing.

“The major element that was on every farmstead was a farm that housed the feed and the animals to support the family,” Hughes says. Half of the siding on the model barn at the State Fair is 140-year-old red barn boards.

“And half-covered with newly painted barn boards, with new windows and old windows,” Hughes says, “to show people the difference between restored and preserved and how important it might be on their farmstead or their grandpa’s or their great grandpas or whatever.” Hughes, who lives in Cedar Rapids, says barns were a critical element in all parts of his family’s history.

“As a matter of fact, my grandpa grew up in Wales in what was called a long barn,” Hughes says. “Half of it was for animals. Half of it was for family.” In addition to its first-ever barn raising at the Iowa State Fair, the Iowa Barn Foundation will host its annual barn tour next month. On the weekend of September 16th and 17th, 72 barns will be part of the All-State Barn Tour and open to visitors.

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