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.

Meet the Donor Relations Intern

May 9, 2017

Hi everyone! My name is Kennedy Plowman and I am the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Donor Relations Intern for this summer. I reign from the small town of Adair in Southwest Iowa. I will be a sophomore at Iowa State University this fall majoring in Speech Communications with a minor in Public Relations. My involvement with the Iowa FFA Association is what sparked my interest for working with the public and developed my social bug personality. I can’t wait to meet many of you throughout this summer!

Singing at the Parade of Champions. Photo credit Steve Pope Photography.

(Singing at the Iowa State Fair Parade of Champions. Photo credit Steve Pope Photography.)

I have always attended and been active with the Iowa State Fair in multiple ways. In fact, the Iowa State Fair is the reason my third grade self scored a brand new cell phone. If you know me, you would know that I love the stage and performing, however, when I was younger, singing in front of any type audience greater than my vocal instructor was terrifying. The Bill Riley Show was the incentive to receive that cell phone. My dad promised me that if I sang in one talent show, he would buy me a cell phone. I jumped on that opportunity and fell in love with the stage while I was at it. My involvement with the Iowa State Fair also includes being a Grandstand Usher, singing at the Parade of Champions, singing for the WHO Radio Iowa State Fair stand, and working with the Iowa FFA Foundation in the agriculture building.

The youngest Future Farmer of America to swing by the Iowa FFA Foundation Booth.  

(The youngest Future Farmer of America to swing by the Iowa FFA Foundation Booth.)

I am thrilled to continue my involvement with this GREAT State Fair. I am so excited to begin my work with the Blue Ribbon Foundation. I hope to see you at the Corndog Kickoff and back again at the Iowa State Fair.

Enjoy your summer!

-Kennedy

In Progress

May 8, 2017

Driving around the Fairgrounds is not an easy task with all of the wonderful projects that are underway. Here are some of the projects that are in progress.

Construction on the new midway Thrill Park area continues with the placement of pavers to form a walkway at the entrance. These permeable pavers will also help with rain water management. With the expanded midway footprint, the area will be able to accommodate larger attractions. This will help in creating a family-friendly experience in the midway.

The West Plaza expansion advances with upgraded landscaping, lighting and additional parking. Fairgoers will easily be able to navigate from the southwest corner of the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building to the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center

Pre-construction meetings are in motion for updates along East 33rd Street. Strategic plans to reconfigure the admissions gate and restroom facilities in this area are starting to take shape. The updated gate will be able to accommodate more Fairgoers and will be handicapped accessible. Sidewalks will be added to both sides of East 33rd Street and the open concept design will allow for better traffic flow around Little Hands on the Farm.

Maintenance has been busy creating new displays in the Agriculture Building and replacing windows on the south and east sides of Pioneer Hall. The floor in the Stalling Barn will be re-textured making the surface safer by adding friction to prevent slipping.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation appreciates all of the support from donors as we work to improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds. 

 

Meet the Volunteer Relations Intern

May 4, 2017

Hello everyone! I’m Abbi Gilson and I am the 2017 Blue Ribbon Foundation Volunteer Relations Intern. Next year, I will be a senior at Northwest Missouri State University. I am on the Northwest softball team which takes up the majority of the time. I am also involved in Lambda Pi Eta, which is an honor society for communication students. I love being a Bearcat! I am majoring in Organizational Communication and I would love to get a job with a Non-Profit Organization after graduation.

I grew up just south of Prairie City, Iowa. My memories of the Fair unfortunately are not in the show ring. Growing up, I was thoroughly involved in athletics and apparently I chose softball over animals. My memories of the Fair include going through all of the barns and begging my mom and dad to get me a horse or whatever animal I liked on that particular day. Aside from my bitterness towards my parents during Fair time, I always enjoyed watching my friends show their animals, seeing how much fair food I could consume, and going to different concerts.

This year, I will be working with the volunteers for all the different events the Blue Ribbon Foundation puts on including the Corndog Kickoff and the Iowa State Fair. I started working during the fair for the Blue Ribbon Foundation after my senior year of high school. I’m glad I have some background knowledge of everything the Foundation does and provides for Fairgoers. If you would like to get involved in volunteering throughout the fair, feel free to reach out to me at Volunteer@BlueRibbonFoundation.org.

For my first few days in the office, I have realized the amount of work that everyone puts into make the Fair successful. I can’t wait to meet all of the volunteers and continue learning about our great Iowa State Fair! I will see you in 97 days!

-Abbi

My brothers and me after a game

My brothers and me after a game

Working in Fair Squares

Working in Fair Squares

Birdies for Charity

May 3, 2017

We are officially down to double digits until the Fair! Only 98 more days until the Fairgrounds fill with people and endless things to do! That also means there are many tasks to complete in preparation for the Fair. Have you marked your calendars for the upcoming events the Blue Ribbon Foundation has?

Join us and the Principal Charity Classic for the “Birdies for Charity” fundraiser during their annual golf tournament June 6-11 at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines.  Supporters are encouraged to make a pledge for every birdie made by champion tour players.  There are two ways you can donate; a one-time flat donation or a per-birdie amount made during the tournament. For those who are unfamiliar with golf, a birdie is one stroke less than par, with par being the average amount of strokes per hole. The Foundation receives 100% of all donations and 10% match for all the pledges made. Only 34 days away from the Principal Charity Classic!

Be sure to mark your calendar for the Corndog Kickoff Auction on July 8! Come out and purchase an item or package that you can’t find anywhere else and enjoy endless amounts of corndogs! We will have a wide arrange of vendors to also enjoy!

And last but not least, mark your calendars for August 10-20, and come help the Foundation celebrate 25 years during the 2017 Iowa State Fair! I am so excited to meet everyone that participates in the Fair fun! 

-Emily

Celebrate our 25th Anniversary!

April 26, 2017
The Blue Ribbon Foundation is celebrating 25 years! The Foundation, its donors and volunteers have been a key asset to the improvements and renovations that have made your Fair experience one you won’t forget. Join the Foundation’s 25th anniversary campaign by making a donation of $25, $250 or $2,500 to Our Fair’s Future, the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s endowment fund. Be a part of the renovations and enhancements around the Fairgrounds to better the experience for years to come. 
 
Over the past 25 years, the Foundation has contributed to some of the major renovations on the Fairgrounds, including the Administrative Building in 1998, the Agriculture building in 1995, the Grandstands in 1997 and the Robert G. Horner and Sheri Avis Horner Service Center. The service center was the first new building added to the Fairgrounds by the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  
 
Another building that the Foundation contributed to was the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center, and I personally have enjoyed spending time in this building because of my agriculture background. Even though I grew up on a farm, I didn’t get to experience the birth of livestock because we didn’t raise breeding animals. I love this building because it brings the real-world livestock experience to the Fair that not many fairgoers get to see! 
 
Join the celebration of our 25th anniversary by marking your calendars and purchasing a ticket for the Corndog Kickoff Auction on Saturday, July 8! You won’t want to miss out on our biggest event yet!  
 
-Emily 
 

Spring Brings New Beginnings

April 19, 2017
Spring is my favorite season of the year because the grass turns green, flowers are blooming, planters are out in the field and summer is just around the corner! Spring is a time when everything starts to come together. Farmers are able to plant their crop for the upcoming growing season, summer sports and activities begin and the Iowa State Fairgrounds start to fill up as events are happening and people are preparing for the Fair. 
 
Things are also coming together at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, as we continue to receive donations for the Corndog Kickoff Auction and I have been sending out information for the Iowan of the Day. Nominate an outstanding Iowan in your community who deserves a fun filled day at the Iowa State Fair! You can find a nomination form on our website. We are taking nominations until July 1
 
There is a lot to look forward to as we are already half way through April. In just a short couple weeks I will be working full time for the Foundation along with the other three interns. I have already been sent out on various errands to do around the fairgrounds, and I can’t wait to see everything come together for the Fair! Various renovation projects are in full swing, such as the Midway project and the project near the VI Building and the sky glider station. It’s rewarding to see all the efforts put forth by the Foundation, its donors and the volunteers come together to make the Fair an even better experience for all the fairgoers! 
 
Just 112 more days until the Fair! See you there! 
 
-Emily 

Spring Newsletter: 1997, 2007 and 2017

April 17, 2017

As the spring newsletter hits mailboxes, here is a brief flashback to what the Blue Ribbon Foundation was doing 10 and 20 years ago.

The 1997 spring newsletter announced the beginning of an amazing relationship. William Knapp gave his first donation to the Blue Ribbon Foundation, a $1 million gift to renovate the Varied Industries Building. Knapp wanted to give back in a way that the entire state of Iowa could benefit. “His gesture is invaluable and precious in the context in which it is given – a spirit of genuine appreciate for his state and her people,” said John Putney, Executive Director at the time of the donation.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation also received a $470,000 gift from the Penningroth Family from their willed estate. In the spring of 1997, construction projects included updates on the east side of the Horse Barn, Grandstand seating area and the interior of the Administration Building.

The first Corndog Kickoff was promoted for a Friday night in Pioneer Hall. The top item in the auction: the privilege of being first in line at the Iowa Pork Producers Tent! The 1997 donor profile highlighted Joyce Lock and Dee Witmack as co-chairs for the Corndog Kickoff. Readers got a sneak peek of the new campgrounds lapel pin and the pie dish pottery piece.

Jennifer Cannon, the Sponsorship Director at the time, wrote the editorial in the 2007 spring newsletter. She wrote about her personal experience with livestock. She went from living in an apartment in the city to a farm in the country. With the 2007 construction of the Animal Learning Center, kids from across the state would have the opportunity to experience the birth of baby animals and have a taste of living on a farm.

The State Fair museum was in the process of being updated with a new basement, an addition, new roof and windows. The building continues to hold Fair artifacts and memorabilia. Four interns were announced to join the staff in the summer months. The 2007 donor profile featured Barksdale’s Concessions. Joe Barksdale was the creator of the warm chocolate chip cookies in a cup. Equally important, Barksdale’s was a loyal contributor to the Foundation and still is today.

In the 2017 spring newsletter, Robin reflects on the Foundation’s 25 years of improvements across the Fairgrounds. Included is information about volunteering for the Corndog Kickoff and the Iowa State Fair. And as in previous years, we are excited to welcome summer interns to our team.

Donation opportunities include becoming a Corndog Kickoff patron, donating an auction item or participating in the Principal Charity Classic’s Birdies for Charity program. There is a update of current projects underway – the midway, west plaza expansion, east 33rd street, stalling barn… the list goes on and on.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is successful because of its supporters – the donors, volunteers, and the Iowans that love the State Fair.  This 2017 spring newsletter highlights some of those people - Governor Branstad, the Iowan of the Day program and the donor profile: the Bohling family.

Check out the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s spring newsletter. You can also join our E-News mailing list to get the inside scoop on Blue Ribbon Foundation activities delivered right to your inbox every month.

  

 

Nominate an Outstanding Iowan!

April 12, 2017
The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, the grass is turning green and we are another week closer to the Fair! Each day that passes comes with more jobs to complete in preparation for the Corndog Kickoff and the Fair. 
 
This week I started sending out information about the Iowan of the Day program! If you know of someone in your community who does an outstanding job with volunteering, community and youth involvement, nominate them to be an Iowan of the Day for one day during the Fair! They will receive $200 cash, four admission tickets for one day at the Fair, four grandstand tickets, hotel accommodations and more! We are taking nominations until July 1. Nominate here
 
Donations for the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction continue to roll in and I can assure you there are some exciting donations you can have the chance to bid on! Plan to attend the Kickoff on July 8 for a fun filled evening of corndogs and excitement. 
 
Only two more full weeks of classes at ISU until finals week, and then the fun starts with all interns aboard for the summer! I can’t wait for the adventures we will go on while preparing for the Fair! Mark your calendars for August 10-20 and I will see you there! 

Signs of Spring

April 5, 2017

They say April showers bring May flowers, and with all the recent rainfall, I hope that is the case!

Signs of Spring are all around us and along with those come the preparation for the summer ahead. Every day that passes is another day closer to the Corndog Kickoff and then the Fair! That means the days are getting busier every day. With only three full weeks until finals week, my schedule is jam packed with final projects and studying to do! Donations are rolling in for the Corndog Kickoff and I am excited for the auction because there are some cool donations! Get excited for some great experiences ahead! I am starting to prepare for the Iowan of the Day so be thinking of an outstanding Iowan in your community that deserves to be the Iowan of the Day and put together their nomination packets.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for the 97th Annual Block and Bridle Convention. While on the plane ride there, I sat by a gentleman from Maryland who attended the Iowa State Fair last summer. I was fascinated and so excited to hear him say how much he loved it! That only got me more excited for the Fair and to meet all the people that attend from all around the country!

From writing nomination letters to organizing donations, I am keeping busy! I am anxious for summer to be here and to see the preparation for the Corndog Kickoff and Fair come together. Just about four more weeks until the rest of the interns are in the office and we will be off to the races! 

-Emily 

Jumping in Full Swing

March 29, 2017
It’s my second week in the office and I am starting to get the hang of things. I have jumped right in working on the projects I will be in charge of this summer. I am excited to see all of my hard work come together at the end. 
 
One of the main projects of mine this summer is to conduct the Iowan of the Day program. I am proud of the state I grew up in, and I’m looking forward to learning about other Iowans across the state and how they get involved in their communities. Along with the Iowan of the Day, I will be helping coordinate the Corndog Kickoff, keeping track of all the exciting donations we receive. And speaking of donations, we have starting receiving them in the mail! It is so exciting to see the generosity of those who donate! But don’t worry, there is plenty of time for you to send in your donations for the Corndog Kickoff, held on July 8! 
 
As the public relations intern, writing, organizing donations and nominations and designing various projects is what much of my summer will consist of. I am excited to get to know many new people this summer, from them stopping in the office to me interviewing them for a story. Every person is so different and unique and that is what makes the Blue Ribbon Foundation so special! 
 
I have a busy summer ahead, but my coworkers and the busy Fair atmosphere will make the journey an exciting one! As March comes to an end, we are one month closer to the Corndog Kickoff and the Fair! Hope everyone is as excited as I am!  
 
-Emily 

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