A Great State Fair

October 24, 2017

By the 1960s, the luster had worn off the once grand Iowa State Fairgrounds, and the aging facility seemed to be on life support. Efforts to address its problems and stem the deterioration came to naught, and the decline continued. Some wondered if the fair was a relic of the past that had outlived its usefulness.

Author William Friedricks gives Fairgoers the opportunity to read about the history of the Iowa State Fairgrounds – the good, bad and the ugly. The book: A Great State Fair, The Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Revival of the Iowa State Fair outlines how years of neglect almost destroyed the Fairgrounds. Friedricks does an excellent job describing how after a number of efforts to save the facility failed, the Iowa State Fair Board created the Blue Ribbon Foundation, hoping it could raise millions of dollars needed to restore the grounds.

The chapters not only give readers a history of the Iowa State Fair but also explain the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s journey the last 25 years. A sneak peek at the contents…

1. Prelude to a Permanent Fairgrounds
2. Something Worth Saving
3. Coming of the Blue Ribbon Foundation
4. Shot Out of a Cannon
5. “Our State Fair is a Great State Fair” Redux
6. Bigger and Better

Key donations, renovation projects and the critical leadership are described. Photographs are included to paint a picture of how Iowans across the state came together to support the Foundation’s mission. Any State Fair enthusiast is sure to learn something new about the Iowa State Fairgrounds and specifically the Blue Ribbon Foundation.

Get your copy of A Great State Fair, The Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Revival of the Iowa State Fair through the online State Fair Store or Amazon.  You can also stop by the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s office on the Fairgrounds. We are located in the Earth Home (under the wind turbine, by the Cultural Center and Fun Forest). We are open Monday – Friday from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.

Here at their fairgrounds, people from all across the state and all walks of life will continue to convene, as they have for generations, at their annual summer reunion, where, as the Des Moines Register once explained, “We are not Cyclone or Hawk, urban or rural, newcomer or lifer. We are Iowans.”

Some will eat corndogs, watch livestock competitions, learn of the latest agricultural equipment, or see a Grandstand show. Others might stroll through the animal barns, listen to barkers hawking gadgets in the Varied Industries Building, try a Midway ride, view the Butter Cow, marvel at the Big Boar, or just gawk at other fairgoers. And thanks to the Blue Ribbon Foundation, here they will celebrate all that is Iowa for generations to come.