Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Iowa is known by two nicknames in particular, the Hawkeye State and the Corn State. Surely, a place that devotes most of its land to agriculture can’t be that interesting. Well, prepare to be amazed:
Motto: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” – I wouldn’t want to mess with an Iowan.
Food: The Maid-Rite Sandwich is comprised of ground beef on a steamed bun and topped with whatever the eater desires. First served in 1926 by Fred Angell, this Iowa institution has more than 30 franchised locations across the state and beyond. Some folks may remember loose meat sandwiches being served on the TV show Roseanne, when Roseanne buys a restaurant called the Lanford Lunch Box (based on real-life Iowa diner Canteen Lunch in the Alley).
Drink: Templeton Rye was made in Templeton during prohibition times and became gangster Al Capone’s favourite libation. A modern version of the product, advertised to be using the traditional recipe, has returned to Templeton, with products set to be released in 2022.
Site to See: The Field of Dreams Movie Site has become one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions. The baseball diamond was constructed on the Lansing Family Farm, in Dyersville, after a site for filming was scouted. The field remains there to this day and this summer, will host a MLB contest between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees.
Street: Located in Burlington, Snake Alley was called the Crookedest Street in the World by Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It, Or Not! The winding one-way road can only be used in the downhill direction by vehicles, but an annual bike race challenges riders to tackle the street going uphill.
TV Show: The most recognizable Iowa-set series is not a sitcom or drama, but the reality show American Pickers. Premiering on January 18, 2010, 301 episodes have been broadcast, featuring antique collectors, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, travelling the country in search of items. Spinoffs of the series, in Canada and Australia, have since also aired.
Movie: Based on the novel Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella, Field of Dreams stars Kevin Costner as a baseball fan, who builds a baseball diamond for legends of the game, who have passed on, to be able to play again. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture.
Book/Author: The Bridges of Madison County by Iowan Robert James Waller, is about an affair between a lonely housewife and a National Geographic photographer, who is on assignment to document the covered bridges of the area. The novel has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide and been adapted into the movie (starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood) and musical.
Fictional Character: According to puppeteer Frank Oz, Miss Piggy of The Muppets, was born in Iowa (possibly Keystone), gaining her diva-like attitude from a mother who was mean to her and toughened her up. It has served her fairly well over a 40-plus year career. So as not to attract the ire of Trekkies, I should also note that James T. Kirk of Star Trek lore was born in Riverside, in the year 2233.
Fictional City: River City from The Music Man, is based on Mason City, hometown to writer and composer of the musical, Meredith Willson. The story of the Broadway hit-turned-film involves a con man selling band instruments and uniforms to the people of River City, with the promise of music lessons for those that buy. His plans to skip town are disrupted when he falls for a local librarian and piano teacher.
Actor/Actress: Legendary western actor, John Wayne, was born in Winterset. Nicknamed The Duke, Wayne appeared in 142 films over his long career, winning a Best Actor Oscar for True Grit. Wayne died on June 11, 1979 from stomach cancer and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom a year later. The John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California is named in his honour.
Song: The Song of Iowa has to be mentioned here, as writer S.H.M. Byers took the Christmas tune O Tannenbaum and put new lyrics to it. Written in 1867, the song was adopted as Iowa’s State Song in 1911.
Band/Musician: Known for their disturbing masks and wild live shows, heavy metal band Slipknot, was formed in Des Moines. Known for songs such as Wait and Bleed and Duality, the band is still performing and releasing music, albeit with an altered lineup from the original ensemble.
People: Iconic talk show host, Johnny Carson, was born in Corning. Known as the King of Late Night, Carson hosted The Tonight Show for 30 years, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Upon retiring in 1992 and up until his death in 2005, Carson largely disappeared from the entertainment world.
Animal: Capone, a rescued stray dog, from Des Moines, became a hero when he woke up his owner late one night, alerting her to a fire that had started in the kitchen. Although their home was destroyed, Capone’s action saved the family, including nine children, from further tragedy.
Invention: As much as the Sip Advisor loves trampolines (designed and first sold commercially by George Nissen and Larry Griswold, gymnastics teammates at the University of Iowa), sliced bread is the invention that all other inventions are compared to. The world’s first Automatic Bread Slicer was created by Otto Rohwedder, in Davenport. His original machine is part of the Smithsonian Institution collection.
Crime: The Villisca Axe Murders happened in June 1912. The Moore family (two parents and four children), along with two houseguests were all bludgeoned with axe wounds to the head. One suspect, Rev. George Kelly, was tried two separate times, resulting in a hung jury and later an acquittal. Although Kelly confessed to committing the crime, he later recanted and was also known to suffer from mental illness. Today, you book an overnight stay at the home of the unsolved massacre.
Law: It is illegal to kiss for longer than five minutes. Makes you wonder what precipitated this law. Also, is there a similar length requirement to be acknowledged for sex?
Sports Team: Devoid of professional teams, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes are the top game in town, with popular football and basketball programs. Given the baseball lineage of the state, thanks to a film like Field of Dreams, it’s a little surprising that a MLB team has never called Iowa home.
Athlete: Amateur wrestling is huge in Iowa, with noted grappler Dan Gable being born in Waterloo and having wrestled for Iowa State University. His collegiate record was 117-1, losing only his final match. The two-time NCAA National Champion was also a gold medalist at the 1971 World Championships and 1972 Olympics. Following his career, Gable coached his alma mater for more than 20 years, bringing much success to the program.
Famous Home: Since we haven’t mentioned one of Iowa’s most famous citizens yet, we’ll make Herbert Hoover’s birth home our choice for this category. The 31st President of the U.S. was born here, in West Branch, in 1874. Today, the historic site includes a museum, Hoover’s presidential library and even the graves of Hoover and his wife.
Urban Legend: Iowa is home to two Black Angel statues, one at Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City and another at Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs. The eerie statues were originally bronze in colour, having turned black since being erected in 1913 and 1920, respectively. Folklore says anyone who touches or kisses the Iowa City statue, unless a virgin, will die and pregnant women who walk under the outstretched angel wing will miscarry. The Council Bluffs statue is said to follow people with its eyes and if you return the glance, doom is on the horizon.
Museum: The Hobo Museum, located in Britt, is the only museum in the world that documents and celebrates the hobo (defined as a travelling worker) way of life. There’s even a National Hobo Convention, hosted by the museum, highlighted by contests, meals and a parade.
Firsts: Iowa can be credited with two major moments in the Women’s Rights Movement, both occurring in 1869. Arabella Mansfield became the first female lawyer in the U.S., while Julia Addington was the first woman elected to a public office, serving as the Superintendent of Schools for Mitchell County.
Company: Winnebago, makers of motorhomes, is headquartered in Forest City. The company recently expanded into motorboat manufacturing. Also of note for professional wrestling fans, the celebrated National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was founded, in Waterloo, in 1948. After many lean years, the NWA is still surviving today, owned by Smashing Pumpkins singer and diehard wrestling fan, Billy Corgan.
Events: The Iowa Caucuses have been integral to each presidential race, since the 1970s, when both the Democrats and Republicans moved their gatherings to January, becoming the first major event on the election campaign. The results of these caucuses can cause some hopefuls to drop out and others to receive a boost in the race. As a result, many candidates spend a fair bit of time campaigning in Iowa.
Miscellaneous: The airplane crash that killed musicians the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, occurred near Clear Lake. The artists were part of the Winter Dance Party tour and had performed there that night. So, Iowa can indirectly be credited with causing The Day the Music Died.
- 2 oz Spiced Rum
- 0.5 oz Strawberry Liqueur
- Top with Club Soda
- Splash of Orange Juice
- Splash of Pineapple Juice
- Garnish with an Orange Wheel
This drink called for Strawberry Simple Syrup, so I just subbed in Strawberry Liqueur instead (the more booze, the better!). The strawberry in this cocktail is likely a nod to Iowa being home to the world’s largest strawberry at Strawberry Point.