Massive crowd cheers Vanilla Ice and Tone Loc at 2010 Iowa State Fair In a bizarre turn of events, both the corn dog and the butter cow were overshadowed Sunday night at the Iowa State Fair by a novelty rapper whose signature hit song struck American suburbs 20 years ago. Vanilla Ice of "Ice Ice Baby" fame played to an audience on the free Anderson Erickson Dairy Stage as a "Legends of Hip-Hop" pairing with Tone Loc. (There might be a legend or two missing from that package – just to throw that out there.) I'd estimate the size of the adoring crowd to have been somewhere between the throng that greeted teen sensation Raven-Symone in 2006 for a free fair concert and 1969′s Woodstock festival. It easily could have rated the Iowa State Fair's largest free show to date. (Aug. 17 update: The fair estimates Sunday's Vanilla Ice crowd to have been as many as 10,000, short of the estimate of 17,000 for Raven-Symone at the Susan Knapp Amphitheater. ) But then "show" might be stretching it, considering that most of the fans didn't even have a clear view of the stage – to witness the shooting sparks, fog machine, the drummer sporting some sort of skull headgear whose real name, Ice swore from stage, was Clint Eastwood. (He's really Clint Barlow.) Ice, aka Rob Van Winkle, was born 41 years ago in Florida. But the reception he received Sunday made it seem as if he graduated down the street from East High School.
Vanilla Ice on the AE Stage at the Iowa State Fair. Steve Pope/Courtesy of Iowa State Fair I saw a woman standing on a baby stroller. A guy atop bags of mulch. Fans perched on playground equipment in the Hy-Vee Fun Forest. The porch of the Cultural Center could have been considered a luxury skybox – except there wasn't a sightline from there to the stage. "People are climbing trees – have you seen it?" Jason Walsmith of the Nadas said when I bumped into him on the street. He was booked to play a solo acoustic set at the AE Stage's bar after the Ice/Loc show and wondered how that would work out in the aftermath of the mayhem. The crowd stretched all the way back to the wind turbine at the top of Expo Hill.
Ice at the fair. Steve Pope/Courtesy of Iowa State Fair "This looks like the Des Moines version of Woodstock. This is ridiculous," Bill Slavens said. "They should've had $10 tickets and put this in the Grandstand," (You might also know Slavens as DJ DMS from Komodo Klub in downtown Des Moines.) Slavens was standing with Kira Barker, who explained the turnout as the result of fairgoers having heard " 'free' and 'Vanilla Ice' in the same sentence." (She's also a familiar face downtown, behind the counter at Fong's.) Linday Willemsen, 17, and Lauren Manecke, 16, both of Pella, tried to scurry over to the Ice show after catching Jason Brown at the Susan Knapp Amphitheater. "The 'doing both' thing didn't really work for us," Willemsen admitted as she and Manecke craned their necks, trying to catch a glimpse of the stage.
Is it 2010 or 1990 at the fair? Steve Pope/Courtesy of Iowa State Fair I was perplexed. Why such a turnout for Ice? I understood the fantastic weather. I got the novelty fun factor. Yes, free. But this many, really? For a reality-TV leftover from "The Surreal Life"? "I know what he looks like – I don't need to see him," Tina Bergmann of Urbandale told me as she sat on the steps of the Mid-American Energy building with her friends Tammy Proehl and Kahla Wier, both of Des Moines. At first I wondered why this threesome would sit through a show they couldn't see. Then I wondered why they attended in the first place.
From left: Old-school Ice fans Tammy Proehl (a bit blurry in the darkness of the shot), Tina Bergmann and Kahla Wier. Bergmann, 37, explained that she saw Ice with MC Hammer in concert about 20 years ago – the nostalgia thing. Wier, meanwhile, recalled giving a Vanilla Ice poster as a Christmas gift to "that guy I dated in sixth grade for four days." In other words, the Ice/Loc phenomenon Sunday sort of represented a generational shift. The defunct "Rock 'n' Roll Reunion" that used to fill the State Fair Grandstand with oldies rock one night each year now has transitioned to '90s rap on the free stages. I'm not sure how late KIOA Iowa radio legend Dic Youngs, a beloved former fair fixture, would have reacted to all this. The music? Tone Loc busted out "Wild Thing" around 9 p.m. and seemed to be trying to play as few songs as possible during his time on stage. (Stretched-out songs, long interludes.) Ice began his set around 9:20 sounding a lot like Cypress Hill, in his ill-advised gangster rap mode. He even aired his "Ninja Rap" tribute to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "I can't believe y'all remember that!" Ice enthused to his fans. I didn't really want to believe it. By the way, you can download that song free from VanillaIce.com, Ice noted from stage. He has a new album due in October. And according to Ice he can boast "the No. 1 record in the U.K. right now." (I couldn't verify that one despite some poking around online – let me know which chart.) No, none of it quite made sense Sunday night at the AE Stage, but that didn't seem to matter. Ice unleashed "Ice Ice Baby" by 9:25, and afterward many fans on the fringes of the stage began exiting to the tune of his new songs. Yet somehow it wouldn't surprise me if next year's butter sculpture turned out to be Vanilla Ice.
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