Publisher’s Perspective – Volume 3, Issue 6

State Fair was good event for IHJ

Iowa History Journal had a large booth in the Agriculture Building at the Iowa State Fair in mid-August for 11 straight days. It was a heap of work, and some very long (and steamy) days. We drove back and forth from Newton every day, and the Ag Building was open 12 long hours – from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with no air conditioning!

The crowds were huge. There was hardly a moment when there was no traffic in front of the booth, and there were times in our area – we were on the balcony, just to the right of the Butter Cow – that it was almost impossible to move.

The reception for Iowa History Journal was tremendous. Frankly, it exceeded the expectations for my wife, Bev (IHJ office manager) and me. We were very pleased by the hundreds of new subscribers we picked up and equally gratified by the extremely nice comments our current subscribers had to say.

One gentleman in particular came to our booth with his daughter. He was probably in his 70s, but looked and acted younger. His daughter said he was looking for our booth because he had something he wanted to tell us.

“This is the best magazine I have ever seen,” he said softly. “I can’t wait for it to come. I read it cover to cover.”

When he moved away to look at our books for sale, his daughter leaned forward and said, “He’s never been much of a reader before, but he just loves this magazine. Thanks for publishing it – it’s become a big part of his life. He loves Iowa history.”

Wow, that was something. We received many more comments, all of them very nice and greatly appreciated. We also were given dozens of story ideas, and we were excited to hear them.

We know one thing for certain after working the Iowa State Fair – many people love Iowa history. There are other fine magazines available that have an Iowa flair to them, but we are the only one that devotes every story and every page to history!

Several of our writers volunteered to help Bev and me run the booth and it was really fun to see the reception some of them were getting. Arvid Huisman is not easy to miss as he stands six foot seven inches tall and has a booming voice. He writes a regular column for Iowa History Journal called “Country Roads”.

I first met Arvid when he was publisher of the Creston newspaper and I was publisher of the Newton newspaper, both part of the Shaw newspaper chain with headquarters in Dixon, Illinois. Several times a year we had to drive to Dixon for publisher meetings and we always rode together. He is now an executive with the Salvation Army in Des Moines and it seems half the people going by the booth knew him or recognized him.

Jessica Lowe worked one Saturday for us and was shocked when one of the people stopping at the booth asked her for her autograph. She has written many excellent articles for the magazine and won numerous awards during her years as a writer/reporter at the Newton Daily News.

“I couldn’t believe it, I was so flattered,” said Jessica afterwards. “I only wish you would have taken a photo, Bev, so people would believe it when I told them.”

Bill Sherman and Bill Duffy, two terrific writers for us, also put in several hours at the booth. The first Bill is a retired educator who lives in Des Moines, and the second Bill is retired from a newspaper career and a public relations position at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.

And then there is John McNeer. Like Arvid, he writes a regular column in IHJ, called “The Way We Were” and has built up a loyal following. He and his sister, Mary Ellen Juett, combined to give us a dynamic one-two punch the day they worked the booth. At 77, John is still going strong and has as much energy and enthusiasm as many half his age.

A loyal reader, Jane Hiemstra of Newton, came to help and Bev’s sister Audrey Young even drove over from Cedar Rapids to put in a very long day. She and Bev are two of the 15 children of Harold and Jackie Reiter, who farmed in the Eagle Center area all their lives. Audrey and Bev are cut from the same mold as their mother – which means they are as hard working as it gets!

All in all, it was a great 11 days for Iowa History Journal at the Iowa State Fair.

(Mike Chapman is the publisher of Iowa History Journal. Born and raised in Waterloo, he retired from a 35-year newspaper career in 2002. He is the author of 21 books and is a public speaker. He and his wife, Bev, live in Newton.)