Dates:  July 12-17, 2023

2023 Bill Riley Talent Show

Thursday, July 13th

Bill Riley Talent Show

Location: Henry County Fairgrounds

Start time: 7:00pm

Generations of talented youth from across Iowa have been proudly showcased at the Iowa State Fair on the namesake Anne and Bill Riley stage. Register below for your chance to showcase your talents at the upcoming Bill Riley Talent Show at the Henry County Fair. 

History of the Bill Riley Talent Search

In 1946, Iowa Falls native Bill Riley emceed variety shows held at the Iowa State Fair by KRNT radio. In 1957, Bill approached Fair secretary Lloyd Cunningham about showcasing talented kids during the State Fair. Two years’ later, Bill Riley’s first Iowa State Fair Talent Search was held. By August of 1959, Bill had crisscrossed the state holding numerous talent shows. During the Fair, the state’s brightest young stars performed for delighted Fairgoers.

“Our daily shows started at 2 o’clock,” Bill recalled. “They were so popular that people weren’t attending the afternoon shows in the Grandstand, so the Fair Board asked us to move our start time to 1 o’clock. Finally, we started our shows at Noon.”

Affectionately known as “Mr. State Fair,” Bill retired from the Talent Search in 1996. That same year, the Plaza Stage was renamed the Bill Riley Stage. In 2006, Bill celebrated his 60th Fair and passed away in December of that same year.

Bill Riley Jr. took over the reins of the Bill Riley Talent Search from his father, Bill Riley, Sr. in 1997, but his involvement in the show started much earlier. Riley Jr. said he started driving his dad around the state to talent shows when he was 14 and 15 years old, thanks to his driving permit. 

Nearly 100 local qualifying shows are held across the state with seven days of preliminary competition for Sprouts (ages 2-12) and Seniors (ages 13-21), followed by the semi-finals and, ultimately, the selection of six Sprout champions and one Senior champion at the Iowa State Fair. The Sprouts do not compete beyond the semi-finals, but are chosen as champions to be showcased in the Championship Show.

Camping Registration

Be sure to register for your camping spot for this year's Henry County Fair!

2023 Fair Book

Click below for the digital copy of the 2023 Henry County Fair Book. 

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