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 $128 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.

Iowa State Fair Painting Class

July 12, 2016

The office took a sigh of relief after the close of the Corndog Kickoff. It was amazing to see the success of an event after spending so many hours of preparation.

With the Corndog Kickoff behind us, we now look ahead to the Iowa State Fair! This year, Fairgoers can participate in a painting class that is taking place daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m on Expo Hill, with a rain location at the Oman Family Youth Inn.

Missy Pieters of Messy Missy’s in Marshalltown, Iowa, will be teaching the class every day during the fair except for Tuesday, August 16 and the morning of Thursday, August 18.  The $35 registration fee includes the canvas, brushes and paints for the hour and a half class where you will learn to paint an aspect of the Iowa State Fair.

Classes hold up to 40 participants and on-site registration is available 30 minutes before each class. Fairgoers can also register for a class at the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s merchandise trailer located on Grand Avenue on the northwest corner of the Administration Building.

With so much to look forward to at the Fair, I am becoming more anxious to announce our Iowan of the Day winners! There is still so much to prepare for them and I appreciate each application I have received.

Thank you for all of your support and I’ll see you August 11-21 at the Iowa State Fair!


Exceeding Expectations

July 11, 2016
After many months of prep, planning and hard work, it is sad to say the 20th Annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party has come to a close. Beyond the eight staff members that worked countless hours to make the event a success, it was the volunteers and the patrons that truly made this year’s Corndog Kickoff the best yet!
With over 2,000 people in attendance, and some of our most dedicated donors, this year’s Corndog Kickoff will be known for breaking records. Last year’s Kickoff set a new standard, and this year’s shattered the mold. While the final tally is still being figured, we know that the Kickoff raised over $600,000. Being involved in the organization, planning and the behind the scenes work, it was great to see the auction conclude with such great enthusiasm!  
As we are putting our follow-up lists and things to look for next year together, the staff here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation wants to thank everyone for their contributions at this year’s Corndog Kickoff. Whether you volunteered, attended, donated items, bidded and/or enjoyed the great Fair foods available, the 20th Annual Corndog Kickoff could not have been the success that it was without your help! THANK YOU!!!!
Rags to Riches 2016!!!

The Story Behind a Hometown Tradition

July 5, 2016

I hope everyone enjoyed Independence Day and ate their fair share of hot dogs. This Saturday you can enjoy a corndog by attending the Corndog Kickoff! The office has been much busier this morning preparing for the event after the long weekend.

As I continue highlighting past Iowans of the Day, I am amazed by how many Iowans have impacted their communities. One couple, Richard and Juanita Schillig from Bettendorf, Iowa, started a tradition that has continued since 1994.

The Schilligs started the 5K fundraiser “Run with Carl,” to honor their son’s life and his love of running. The race grew to include a 5 mile run, 5K walk/run, a one mile run and a half mile fun run. The money raised at the event goes to the Carl D. Schillig memorial fund that provides scholarships to Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf High School graduates. Through the memorial, over 30 students have benefitted from the $4000 raised.

The couple is also involved in numerous community organizations including S.U.M.M.I.T., a program to help troubled youth by exposing them to possible career opportunities, and their local church through cooking meals for various events. The couple was also awarded the Humanitarian Award from the Cornbelt Running Club for their volunteer work and community mindedness.

The deadline to choose Iowans of the Day has passed, but I can’t wait to see which ten Iowans will be recognized at the 2016 Iowa State Fair! Now the fourth of July has passed, the Iowa State Fair is right around the corner and I have so much work to do to prepare for our winners. But first, we have to get through the Kickoff. See you July 9!


Good Times and Good Guys!

June 30, 2016

As I sit and reflect on the week that we have had here in the office, I can’t help but realize how great this place truly is. The Iowa State Fair had an all staff meeting where we got to learn the ins and outs of the Fair before it starts. We talked about the value of each employee, volunteer, and individual that walks through the gates of the Fairgrounds. Without one piece of the puzzle, the State Fair wouldn’t be complete.

One thing I really enjoy about working on the Fairgrounds this summer is seeing the different events that utilize this beautiful piece of land. We are in the office working on Corndog Kickoff items while hundreds of other people are working all across the Fairgrounds to prepare for the Goodguys 25th Heartland Nationals car show that starts tomorrow. This is an event where over 4,000 Rods, Customs, Classics, Muscle Cars and Trucks built before 1972 will be showcased for 3 days. While we take pride in the State Fair, these people take pride in their cars!

The Sky Glider is put together, various vendors are in place and the security is running this week at the Fairgrounds. With that combination, there is only one thing I think of, the great Iowa State Fair! While there are only 41 days left until the Fair, we are getting a sneak peak of the craziness. Thousands of people will flood the gates of the Fairgrounds starting tomorrow, July 1 through Sunday, July 3. Stop out to see some of the coolest cars around. Also, Corndog Kickoff tickets go up to $100 each tomorrow so be sure to purchase them today at the discounted price.


Investing in Our Volunteers

June 29, 2016
While the weather has cooled off a little the last couple of days, summer is most definitely upon us!  With the all Fair staff meeting already a day behind us, plans are well underway for the Fair's busiest season. 
With only 10 days left until the Corndog Kickoff, the Foundation is hard at work finalizing everything.  This week we started moving some items into the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building, and the intern to-do list got much longer.  Luckily Audra and I got a jumpstart on the Spin Wheel.  It is ready to go, and so are the great prizes.  For only $5 you can spin the Wheel, and to prepare you for the Midway, everyone’s a winner! When you spin, the wheel will stop and you win whatever you land on.  Up for grabs this year are It’s a Fair Life games, Sticks plaques, a poster print set of the buildings around the Fairgrounds, and many more fun prizes!
Being the Volunteer Relations intern however, much of my job for the Kickoff is completed once all of the volunteers are scheduled.  Of course I’ll be doing more the week and day of, but if the Kickoff is 10 days away, the Volunteer Reception is only 15 days away!  July 14th at 6:00 pm in the Elwell Family Food Center all of our volunteers will come together to enjoy a meal, and learn more about their important roles during the Fair.  Amidst a flurry of Corndog Kickoff activity, I’m busy putting this event together for our volunteers.  
Campbell’s catering has a menu ready, the trams are reserved for the Fair tour, and very soon we will have t-shirts!  This reception is meant not only to inform or “train” our volunteers, but to thank them.  I have had the pleasure of speaking to a few on the phone or through email, and I look forward to meeting even more of the volunteers in person!
If you are a volunteer and have not yet RSVP’d for the Volunteer Reception, you can either email Kelsey or call (515)262-3111 ext. 379.  You won’t want to miss it!
Water Booth Volunteers in 2008
A few of our Water Booth Volunteers in 2008

It's OUR State Fair

June 28, 2016

This morning, the entire Iowa State Fair staff attended a planning meeting for the 2016 Iowa State Fair. At this meeting, we talked about everything from the new Fair foods to the safety plan for the Iowa State Fair. One of the main points that stuck with me was the impact that each individual has on the Iowa State Fair. Not only the many employees that work at the Fair throughout the year, but the hundreds of thousands attendees each day of the Fair.

I think I can apply that to the Corndog Kickoff as well. The idea that each one of the staff here, the volunteers, the donors and the patrons of the event all have an individual role to make the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party one of the Des Moines Register’s Top Things to do in July.

It is hard to think that the Corndog Kickoff is only 10 days away with how much we have yet to do. This Thursday, June 30th is the last day to buy the reduced price tickets for the Kickoff, starting July 1st, ticket prices increase to $100, so make sure you get your tickets now. Along with the tickets, make sure to pick up one or two of the Winner’s Choice Raffle tickets to have a chance to win one of the first five Live Auction packages for only $100! See you all at the Corndog Kickoff.



Crossing Off Tasks on the Checklist

June 27, 2016

It’s hard to believe that even though the Corndog Kickoff is under two weeks away, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has already started preparing for the event!

The first task we crossed off our checklist is organizing the garage to take items to the Varied Industries building. Many hands truly do make light work, the task, with over 200 auction packages to prepare for, flew by.

Throughout this, we were able to see the Fairgrounds a little more full as other people prepare for the GoodGuy’s car show this Friday.

Plus we got to see all of our awesome auction packages available for bid! One live auction package is a visit to the North Caroline State Fair October 13-23. A box of state fair merchandise came in the mail today that even got me excited to go to their fair! The auction package includes four gate admission tickets, an on-grounds parking pass, two plane tickets and a four night stay at the Summit Hospitality hotel.

The trip also has $200 worth of food certificates and passes to several museums near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Another vacation available through the silent auction is a trip to the Wonderful World of Disney! The package includes four one-day passes to Walt Disney World in Florida as well as Disney souvenirs.

If traveling isn’t your cup of tea, come to the Corndog Kickoff to bid on a package that is! Tickets are still available, so order yours today. Even though my first Corndog Kickoff will be as an employee, I can’t wait to see everything the event has to offer. See you July 9 at the Varied Industries Building!


Are You Feeling Lucky?

June 23, 2016

The Corndog Kickoff is only 15 days away. Can you believe it?! Everyone in the office, including myself, has been busy bees working to get everything prepared for the big event. It is incredible the amount of support the Blue Ribbon Foundation has received in auction donations. They are phenomenal and you won’t want to miss the opportunity to land one of the amazing packages available at the Corndog Kickoff.

New at the Corndog Kickoff this year is the Winner’s Choice raffle and it’s as good as it sounds. This is your chance to claim a live auction package before the bidding even begins. There are five spectacular live auction packages that the lucky winner will get to choose from.

#1 An ironic feature of the Iowa State Fair, take home one of the Sky Glider’s chairs. This chair is a cheerful red. Donated by the Blue Ribbon Foundation

#2 Release your creative side with a painting class for 10 at the Iowa State Fair. Top of the Vine will provide the location and 20 drink tickets. Donated by Messy Missy’s and Top of the Vine

#3 Roam the countryside in a 24’ Class C motorhome for a week with 500 miles and $200 in Casey’s gift cards included in the package. Donated by Ed Garner’s Autorama RV Center, Inc and Casey’s General Stores

#4 This vibrant quilt was made using the Jack and Jill pattern. Long-arm quilted, this piece of art is perfect for a queensized bed as it is 86”x 95”. Donated by Ginny Freyermuth

#5 A handcrafted table with narrow, but taller center support, holding a shorter, cantilevered top. The top is locally cut Walnut, with Oak and Canary wood in the base. Donated by Schwartzkopf Fine Woodworking

Winner’s Choice raffle tickets are $100 each and only 100 tickets will be sold! This is your chance to take home an auction package at an unbelievable value. What a deal! Winner’s Choice Raffle tickets can be purchased by calling the Blue Ribbon Foundation at (800) 450-3732 or at the event. You must be present to claim your package. What are you waiting for, call today to reserve your ticket!


Blue Ribbon Recipes

June 22, 2016
Driving past the Grandstand to get to work this morning was different than usual.  There was a food vendor set up, getting ready for the Goodguys car show.  While the Fair is so much more than food, the two have become synonimous.  The first food stand is exciting, and now I want a tenderloin for lunch, but the Food Competition at the Iowa State Fair has been going on much longer than our obsession with deep fat fryers.  
In 1983 the Iowa State Fair published the first prize winning recipe cookbook.  The purpose has remained the same, to showcase the Iowa State Fair Food Department and the talent that makes it the largest competitive food department of any state fair.  This year's competition will feature 203 divisions and 809 classes.
As a college junior with no cooking skills, I can honestly say I’ve never studied a cookbook before today.  Looking through the best of the prize winning recipes from 2014 and 2015 though has spiked my interest.  There are options for everyone. The recipes range from appetizers, salads, main dishes, breads, and desserts.  Personally I’m most interested in the Chocolate Fried Chicken.  The carb lover in me also wants to try all 63 pages of breads.  If you’re looking to stay on a diet before pigging out at the Fair though, healthy choices are included.  Such as the cleverly named “Kale, Caesar!” salad that won 1st place in 2014 in the Healthy Creations (Featuring Kale) division.  
The 18th Edition Iowa State Fair Cookbook can now be ordered on our website, and purchased at the Fair. Cookbooks are $15 a piece.  If you’d like even more prize winning recipes, the 18th and 17th editions can be purchased together for $25.  
Purchase your Iowa State Fair Cookbook now to give yourself a headstart on your Fair food experience! 

Two Weeks Left to Nominate an Iowan of the Day

June 21, 2016

Yesterday was the first day of summer and we sure felt it at the Blue Ribbon Foundation! Now that summer has started, people are getting prepared for the Iowa State Fair and our office saw more visitors than it has since I’ve been an intern.

As summer progresses, the deadline to submit Iowan of the Day nominations is approaching fast! Nominations are due a week from Friday and I can’t wait to read all about Iowa’s local Olympians.

One gold medalist was last year’s Iowan of the Day, Bret Mace, from Estherville, Iowa. Mace is known as a family man, dedicated employee, church member, 4H supporter and volunteer.

Mace has been a lifelong member of his church and expanded his role by becoming an usher, greeter and volunteer where he works on the church’s garage sale. Mace also serves on the church’s board of trustees.

Also active in the community, Mace is a member of the Kiwanis and Elk’s Club and supports education through serving on the scholarship selection committee. Mace works as a foreman for the Estherville Power Plant and is said to just be one call away. As if this wasn’t enough, Mace also served as a volunteer firefighter for 25 years.

Mace is heavily involved in 4H as the president of the 4H Youth Committee and vice president of the Emmet County Fair Board. Through these positions, Mace contributes his skills as grounds maintenance and off-season events volunteer.  

There are countless Iowans who go above and beyond to make their communities a better place. If you know someone who exemplifies a strong work ethic, dedication to their hometown and a strong sense of Iowa pride, nominate them today for Iowan of the Day!