Blue Ribbon Blog

Welcome to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s blog!

We are a non-profit organization with a mission to raise funds for the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Since our inception in 1993, the Foundation has raised more than $150 million through individual contributions, state appropriations, in-kind services, and corporate, federal and state grants.

Please follow our blog to learn more about our organization.

Learning Along the Way

March 23, 2018
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As I finish up my second week on the job, I cannot help but feel excited for what lies ahead leading to the 2018 Iowa State Fair! I have jumped in, head first and started working on several projects that I will be organizing this summer.

This week I started organizing a gift card activity that will be featured at this year’s Corndog Kickoff. New for 2018, the Blue Ribbon Foundation is creating “Dining Delights” – a restaurant gift card activity. For a $20 donation, attendees will grab a mystery gift card as their prize. I'm seeking restaurant gift card donations with a value of $25 or higher to highlight restaurants across the state. Email me if you have an idea or would like to donate a gift card. For those of you that haven’t already, make sure to mark your calendars for this year’s Corndog Kickoff on Saturday, July 7. I can’t wait to see the items that will be auctioned off this year.

My main project throughout the entire summer will be to assemble the Iowan of the Day program. I am eager to meet Iowans across the state that exemplify the characteristics that make Iowa a uniquely special state. Do you have an outstanding volunteer in your community that deserves to be celebrated? Nominate them today!

I find myself learning something new every day. For the many of you Amazon shoppers, I have great news! Did you know you can donate to the Blue Ribbon Foundation just by shopping on Amazon? Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to a charitable organization of your choice, and you can choose the Blue Ribbon Foundation! For every new customer to make their first donation, Amazon is tripling the donation to 1.5%! Every penny helps continue the long-standing tradition of the great Iowa State Fair. Shop at to see for yourself.

As the Public Relations Intern - writing, posting and designing will keep me very busy! I am excited to keep learning and see where this journey will lead me as I challenge myself throughout the summer. 



Corndog Checkoff

March 20, 2018
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It’s tax time and that means it’s time for Iowans to consider supporting the Iowa State Fairgrounds with a donation through the Corndog CheckoffThe Corndog Tax Checkoff provides Iowans an easy opportunity to participate in the renovation and preservation of the historic Fairgrounds. 

The “State Fair” checkoff, nicknamed the Corndog Checkoff, can be found on line 57b of Iowa tax form 1040. According to Iowa law, tax filers may contribute $1(or more) to the Corndog Tax Checkoff. The amount specified is reduced from your refund or added to the amount owed. All donations are tax deductible.

In 2017, the Corndog Checkoff reached the milestone of raising more than $2 million to renovate and preserve the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The average donation has been nearly $10 per tax payer. There is still more work to do, more traditions to preserve, and additional buildings to save.

Iowans can join the Blue Ribbon Foundaton's mission by contributing to the Corndog Checkoff. With over 1.5 million tax returns filed each year in Iowa, every contribution counts.

The Iowa State Fair is a favorite destination a million visitors each year. The economic impact of the annual Fair is conservatively estimated at $100 million, with another $25 million generated from more than 200 interim events held on the Fairgrounds each year.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is charged with raising funds to renovate and preserve the historic 445-acre Iowa State Fairgrounds. To raise the required funds, the Foundation seeks support through corporate donations, grants, individual contributions, planned giving, in-kind services, and the annual Corndog Checkoff.


Meet the new Public Relations Intern!

March 13, 2018
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I am Macy Evans and I am excited to be serving as the 2018 Public Relations Intern for the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. I was born and raised on a generational family farm, which sparked my passion for agriculture. Currently, I am a freshman at Iowa State University double majoring in agriculture and life sciences education & agriculture and society.

At Iowa State University, I serve as the public relations co-chair for the 2018 Bacon Expo, as well as the philanthropy chair for Block and Bridle. I am a writer in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professional magazine, CALS Connections. I am a member of Chi Omega sorority and CALS ambassadors. Within my community, I organize and facilitate a 5K obstacle course run with all proceeds going towards the Union County Fairgrounds and their capital campaign, Building on Tradition.

I have never missed an Iowa State Fair. It continues to be my favorite part of the summer. Whether I am competing with my best friend in a sweetcorn eating contest, broadcasting live about my Fair experiences on our local radio show, exhibiting my livestock, enjoying concerts, free entertainment, shopping with my mom or sampling every snack possible with my dad, I can confidently say that those memories that I have made will last a lifetime.

As I begin this experience, my passion for agriculture and my pride for the great Iowa State Fair continues to grow. I look forward to being a part of the planning team and behind the scenes action as the 2018 Iowa State Fair is quickly approaching!


Make the Impossible Possible in One Sentence

March 7, 2018
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What if all you had to do to ensure that the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation can be successful for years to come is to write a simple sentence? Sound impossible?

Securing the future of those we serve really is as simple as one sentence. By including a gift to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation in your will, you can support our mission tomorrow without giving away any of your assets today.

If you are ready to include a gift to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation in your will, contact Robin Taylor at (515) 262-3111 x373 to get the suggested sentence to add to your will.

Including the Blue Ribbon Foundation in your will is a popular gift to give because it is:

  • Affordable. The actual giving of your gift occurs after your lifetime, so your current income is not affected.
  • Flexible. Until your will goes into effect, you are free to alter your plans or change your mind.
  • Versatile. You can give a specific item, a set amount of money or a percentage of your estate. You can also make your gift contingent upon certain events.

How a Gift in Your Will Works
Your estate planning attorney can help you structure a gift so your loved ones will be taken care of first after you’re gone. He or she will include this sentence in a new will or living trust, or add it to existing documents through an amendment called a codicil. A popular option is to leave a percentage of what is left of your estate after other beneficiaries have received their share. This way, your gift remains proportionate to the size of your estate, no matter how it fluctuates.

Is Including a Gift in Your Will Right for You?
If you answer “yes” to any of the statements below, you’re ready to write the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation into your life’s story through your will.

  • You want the opportunity to guide decisions about the future ownership of your possessions and the legacy you leave behind.
  • You want to make sure your support of our work is still available after your lifetime.
  • You want to balance your generosity to us with an assurance that loved ones are taken care of first.
  • You want the flexibility to change your mind about your gift at any time.

How You Can Make a Difference
Every gift begins with an important question: How can I make a difference? If you have any questions about leaving a gift in your will to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, please contact Robin Taylor at (515) 262-3111 x373.

Copyright © The Stelter Company, All rights reserved.


Top Notch Maintenance Staff

February 20, 2018
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Money raised by the Blue Ribbon Foundation goes to improvement projects all across the Fairgrounds. Crews work to improve the Fairgrounds facilities - even in the cold, icy winter months. This February I’ve decided to tackle a home improvement project at my house. One of the bedrooms had a half wall that overlooked the living room. I had that wall filled in to make a true bedroom. With this construction project comes new paint colors, new room décor and hopefully a more useable space.

I can paint and decorate myself, but the actual framing and drywall was done by a professional contractor. I was amazed at how quickly everything came together. I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start and I’ve been impressed with the contractor’s skills. It just so happens that my contractor works full time at the Iowa State Fair.

That’s right – the Iowa State Fair staff is full of top level professionals, especially in our maintenance department.  The Fair’s staff includes an architect, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and mechanics. Printing, custodial and construction departments have high quality staff working year round to operate the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Last week was the Iowa Beef Expo, a showcase and sale of several cattle breeds. The event used the Cattle Barn, Pavilion, Walnut Center, Gammon Barn, and Penningroth Media Center. The Fairgrounds was buzzing with trucks, trailers and cattle. In the upcoming weeks, the Fairgrounds will be host to an agribusiness conference, dog show, craft show, boat show, flea market, and an archery state tournament. The more events on the Fairgrounds, the busier the staff.

Your support of the Blue Ribbon Foundation keeps the Fairgrounds in top notch condition. The improvements allow the facilities to host a variety of events throughout the year. There will be plenty of projects that continue this winter into spring. A BIG thank you to the maintenance department that creates and maintains the beautiful Iowa State Fairgrounds all year long!

My Home Improvement Project:


The Grandstand was originally built in 1909 and was renovated in 1997. By this summer the Grandstand area will have a new look with a new restroom, 4,000 additional seats and the brand new Kum & Go Stage. Be sure to check out the 2018 Grandstand Line-Up


Have A Special Sweetheart? Put It In Writing!

February 14, 2018
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Any romantic will agree; Ye Old Mill is the perfect place for sweethearts to sneak off and escape the hustle and bustle of the Fair. Show your Valentine how much you love them and the Iowa State Fair with an engraved brick from the Blue Ribbon Foundation near Sweetheart Lane on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Sweetheart Lane, located in front of Ye Old Mill, provides the opportunity for lovers to leave a declaration for millions to see.

Sweetheart Lane is a perfect place for couples to leave a legacy of their love for one another, as well as for the Fair. A personal inscription in Sweetheart Lane will help to celebrate a couple’s fond Fair memories while preserving the Fairgrounds.

A contribution of $100 purchases a three-line inscription on a brick at Ye Old Mill, or at one of the other 14 brick locations throughout the Fairgrounds. For $125, a brick can be personalized with a heart-shaped graphic, or a logo of choice. 

For more information about purchasing a Sweetheart brick for Valentine’s Day, or for any other occasion, contact the Blue Ribbon Foundation at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371 or order online. All brick orders must be postmarked by March 31 to be placed prior to the 2018 Iowa State Fair.


The Butter Cow is Back!

February 7, 2018
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The Isabel Bloom Butter Cow Sculpture is back for a limited edition second run. For the past three years, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has collaborated with Isabel Bloom to create a unique, collectable item that highlights the Iowa State Fair. The Butter Cow sold out in August. Now is your chance to add the one-of-a-kind piece to your collection.

Each Butter Cow is $40. To reserve an Isabel Bloom Butter Cow, send in the order form (below) or call 515-262-3111 Ext. 371. Reservations can also be made online through the State Fair Store. The deadline to reserve your sculpture is March 1. Only the number reserved will be produced. Isabel Bloom Sculptures will be mailed in May.




Winter Newsletter: 1998, 2008 and 2018

January 31, 2018
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What’s happening at the Blue Ribbon Foundation?
Check out the Foundation’s winter newsletter. We are focused on sharing information on ways to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation through your Iowa taxes, the Endowment Fund or purchase Grandstand Concert tickets during a special presale. This winter newsletter highlights our Roll of Donor list featuring Fairgoers that have contributed $250 or more since 1993.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is also excited to announce a generous $1 million donation from Kyle and Sharon Krause, and Kum & Go. Over the next several months, the Grandstand will undergo a renovation to expand the seating area and create a larger stage. The new Kum & Go Stage will accommodate larger musical acts and is designed to provide an exceptional entertainment experience. The project will be completed for opening day of the 2018 Iowa State Fair.

Did you miss the chance to purchase an Isabel Bloom Butter Cow during the Fair? We have got you covered with our limited edition second run. Check out the website for more details.

What was the Blue Ribbon Foundation doing 10 years ago?
“The Big Dig” was the topic of conversation with the Outdoor Arena being relocated. Other sewer and utility work had several areas of the Fairgrounds tore up. The Iowa State Fair was starting some serious projects to keep the current facilities in top condition and continue to attract national livestock and other agriculturally-related shows, exhibitions and conventions.

In 2008, the Corndog Checkoff and Fan Fair programs were in full swing. The first ever Fairgrounds 5K was highlighted raising $12,000 the previous fall.  The newsletter also included 35 pages of donor names that contributed to the Foundation since 1993.

“Thank you for your support of the great Iowa State Fair, an important tradition for the state of Iowa. Our continued success would not be possible without your loyalty,” said John Putney, former Executive Director. This loyalty has only continued to grow in 10 years.

Featured in the Donor Profile was the Goodman Dairy Farm. The Goodman family hosted a dairy breakfast fundraiser for the Blue Ribbon Foundation at their farm. This event raised $1000 and equally important raised awareness to the Oskaloosa and Rose Hill communities about the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to improve the Fairgrounds.  Thank you Goodman Family for the support.

What was the Blue Ribbon Foundation doing 20 years ago?
In 1998, the Blue Ribbon Foundation was reaching goals and at the same time, setting new ones. The organization had raised $30 million in the first 5 years. As more donations came in, more items were added to the list of needed improvements. The goal “to make our Iowa State Fair an extreme source of pride for all of us” was in full swing.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s website and IoWeb’s services creating the website were highlighted in the Donor Profile. The father and son team of Kass and Kevin Duis donated their time and resources to make the Foundation part of the World Wide Web.

The creation of the Trees for the Fair program was just starting, the brick pad in front of Ye Old Mill was expanding with more engraved bricks, and two new employees joined the Foundation’s team: Pam Brocker and Emily Reis. The Rebuilding the Dream campaign was building momentum with new opportunities to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation.

To shape your future, you need to understand your past. The Blue Ribbon Foundation thanks the donors that helped shape our organization 20 and 10 years ago. We look forward to growing with our current and future supporters.




The Corndog Checkoff

January 24, 2018
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The Corndog Checkoff allows Iowans to make charitable contributions to the Blue Ribbon Foundation when filing state taxes. When completing an Iowa tax form, look for “State Fair” and simply fill in the desired donation amount. If receiving a refund, the amount of your donation will be automatically deducted. If taxes are owed, simply add the donation to the amount you send in to the Department of Revenue.

While fundraising efforts have been successful thus far, continued support from all Fairgoers is vital to keep momentum going. The Blue Ribbon Foundation needs your support to finish what has been started, as well as help preserve the past improvements made since 1993.

The summer and heat of August seem far away but in less than 200 days -  food on a stick,  entertainment, livestock events, art exhibits and a million people will make their way to the Fairgrounds! The Iowa State Fair has something to offer every member of the family to enjoy and showcases what Iowans love about their state. Express your love for the Iowa State Fair with a donation through your taxes.

The Corndog Checkoff has the potential to provide tremendous funding for future projects. Help the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts by sharing this opportunity. The more people aware of the Corndog Checkoff, the more people will donate. Visit the Corndog Checkoff page on the Blue Ribbon Foundation website for more information. 



It’s a Journey, not a Destination

January 17, 2018
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The Patty & Jim Cownie Cultural Center renovation, Oman Family Youth Inn updates, creation of the MidAmerican Energy Stage, development of Ruan Plaza, midway overhaul, building of Jacobson Plaza, construction of a new admission gate and countless other smaller projects. This impressive list of Iowa State Fairgrounds improvements has been completed since I became a full time staff member with the Blue Ribbon Foundation – just shy of 5 years. 

As I approach my fifth year as the Communications Manager, I reflect on Fairgrounds enhancements in a short period of time and my experience as a member of the team helping make those “wish list” items a reality.

I’ve grown professionally by learning from coworkers and leaders in the industry. It is a responsibility to plan, organize and execute a beloved tradition as the Iowa State Fair. Staff takes this responsibility seriously and works extremely hard to provide the best to attendees. I value what I’ve learned from fellow staff, donors and volunteers within our organization and take pride in the accomplishments.

The Iowa State Fair began in 1854 and the Blue Ribbon Foundation was created in 1993.  In the grand scheme of things – 5 years isn’t that long. Maybe you have donated since the very beginning or maybe you’ve just recently made a contribution. In my short time with the Foundation, I’ve gained a better understanding of why people choose to donate. 

Attending the Iowa State Fair is a tradition for families across the state. For some, it’s an annual get together with friends. For others, it’s the opportunity to showcase a ribbon worthy pie or exhibit Grand Champion livestock.  The Iowa State Fair is a celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. Iowans want to see this tradition grow and last a lifetime. Donors quickly realize that the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission is just that - renovating and improving the Fairgrounds to for future generations.

As work continues on current projects like the expansion of Grandstand seating to accommodate the new Kum & Go stage, staff also conducts need assessments and creates action plans for future developments. The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s goal to preserve the Fairgrounds is a journey, not a destination. Even with the last 25 years of success, our organization strives to make the Fairgrounds better.

The Iowa State Fair is part of so many Iowan’s lives and summer adventures. It is the type of event that will outlast all of us. You are invited to join the Blue Ribbon Foundation on the ongoing journey to provide top notch facilities for an unequaled and unduplicated celebration, the Iowa State Fair.

Old Construction Pictures: