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 $135 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.

Those Super Structures

November 7, 2017
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“Those Super Structures” is just one section of the book: Our State Fair – Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story. This history book describes the Iowa State Fair from the very beginning in 1854 through 2000 (The year the book was published). Each time I flip through the pages, I learn something new.  Today’s lesson: the State Fair museum.

“Sometime, you really ought to walk around the fairgrounds when there’s nothing going on out there. No State Fair. No livestock shows. No arts and crafts festivals. Nothing.  And then what?

And then, you can take time to notice the buildings – how unique each one is and how beautifully they all blend together. It was no accident that this happened, but rather careful planning for more than a century. While you’re ambling around on the grounds, think, too, about the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. Without it, our fairgrounds could, by now, look much different.”

Mary Kay Shanley writes about the Fairground’s structures and the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to keep the historical buildings as beautiful as the day they were constructed. Built in the 1800s, the State Fair Museum was once the Polk County Building. Eventually it was used as State Fair storage and opened as the museum in 1982.

In 2007, the exterior and interior of the museum were updated. These improvements included a new basement, an addition to the original structure containing an elevator, a restroom, storage room, work room and exhibit rooms on both the first and second levels. 

The State Fair’s museum superintendent does an excellent job of maintaining the artifacts and adding new displays each year.  Once of my favorite displays is on the Grandstand artists. It's fun to see how so many musicians made the Iowa State Fair a pit stop on their journey to becoming famous. Any Fairgoer should be able to learn some fun facts about Alabama - especially since the band has performed on the Fairgrounds a dozen times!

The entire museum complex continues to receive improvements with the help of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 1854 Society. The money raised through this membership program has allowed the museum to work on cataloguing the Fair history, while building upon the collection as a whole. The museum can now create a digital inventory of all artifacts at the Iowa State Fair - including photographs, movies, and even large physical collections. This makes it possible for the public to have better access to the history.

Read more about the history of the Iowa State Fair and the Blue Ribbon Foundation in the book: Our State Fair – Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story available in the online State Fair Store.

In addition to supporting the future of the Iowa State Fair, 1854 Society members receive some special benefits.

  • Gate admission for two each day of the Iowa State Fair and special on-grounds parking.
  • Opportunity to purchase four priority seats to a Grandstand concert.
  • Limited Edition Commemorative Pin denoting year of renewal.
  • Access to a hospitality suite and exclusive shuttle during the Iowa State Fair.
  • Recognition in Blue Ribbon Foundation publications and a special reception during the Fair.

For more than 160 years the Iowa State Fair has grown, reflecting the development and growth of our great state. What will the next 160 years hold?  With your continued support, the Fair will remain a true reflection of what is best about Iowa. 





Summer Jobs

November 1, 2017
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Aside from a few babysitting gigs, my first real job was at the local swimming pool. Not the glamourous role of being a lifeguard but in the hot and sticky concession stand. Starting at 14 years old, I served slushes and jumbo pretzels for two summers. In high school, I upgraded to working at my town’s grocery store. I started as a cashier and moved up to working the courtesy courter. Of course I took my turn at bagging the groceries, stocking the shelves and inventorying product.

Growing up, I watched my two older sisters start working at a young age. (Ironically, one was a glamourous lifeguard and the other worked at the same grocery store just a few years before.) My parents encouraged each of us to have a part time job. I think it taught us responsibility, instilled a work ethic, and gave us pride in managing our own money. 

It’s no surprise I wanted to have a job while attending college. I worked as a tour guide for Iowa State and in the ISU Dining Hall offices. More important than a regular job, internships become crucial to college students wanted to launch a career after graduation.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation offers an internship program to college students. Not only do these students become part of the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff and have direct responsibility for specific projects, they also have the opportunity to further develop their skills while adding new experiences to their resumes.

The Foundation plans to hire two spring semester/summer interns and two summer intern. The four internship positions are outlined below.

  • Public Relations: Publicize and coordinate the Iowan of the Day program. Promote other events with various communication materials.
  • Donor Relations: Coordinate special events, donor communications and correspondence with the corporate sector.
  • Volunteer Relations: Schedule and manage more than 600 volunteers for events.
  • Business Relations: Oversee the logistics of the wholesale water program including oversight of orders, invoicing and summer staff. Assist Sponsorship Director with business functions.

Each intern will also assist with a variety of social media, marketing initiatives, and general office duties. Special to the Blue Ribbon Foundation, there are other potential projects based on an intern’s skill sets. This really means that each internship experience can be unique. If you want to develop a certain skill - chances are the Iowa State Fair has some project that can help you accomplish it.

I am officially biased when it comes to the Blue Ribbon Foundation internships because I was an intern a few years ago. I can guarantee that having the internship with the Foundation helped land my first “real world” job after college. I advanced my writing abilities, developed better customer service and relationship skills.  I worked hard (and lots of long days) to help the Blue Ribbon Foundation accomplish its fundraising  goals - all while having so much fun!

Encourage the college student in your life to apply. Applications will be accepted until November 30.


2017 Interns:



My summer internship in 2011:


A Great State Fair

October 24, 2017
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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.




Fall Newsletter: 1997, 2007 and 2017

October 17, 2017
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As the fall newsletter hits mailboxes, here is a brief flashback to what the Blue Ribbon Foundation was doing 10 and 20 years ago.

In the fall of 1997, the Blue Ribbon Foundation had plenty of reasons to celebrate at the Iowa State Fair. The Administration Building was remodeled, the Grandstand received a face-lift, new murals were painted in Ye Old Mill, pavement work was completed in the campgrounds and brick restoration was finished on the Horse Barn. The Family Center was renamed the Maytag Family Center because of a generous $100,000 donation from Maytag.

During the Iowa State Fair, $41,000 was raised with water and merchandise sales. The newsletter thanked the 100 volunteers that helped the Foundation that summer. The first set of Iowan of the Day winners were honored on the Riley Stage. The popular merchandise items available for sale included: lapel pins, a pie plate, denim shirt, trivets, a tile series and a poster.

The newsletter also highlighted the first Corndog Kickoff’s success raising $80,000. Central Iowa Power Cooperative, CIPCO, was featured as the Donor Profile because of their in-kind contributions and participation in the Governor’s Charity Steer Show. It was a busy fall for the Blue Ribbon Foundation!

In the fall 2007 newsletter - Bridget Anderson, Special Program Manager, compares the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s work to running a race. “Just like a road race, rebuilding the Fairgrounds takes dedication, determination and a great deal of thought. The Blue Ribbon Foundation is in a constant race to refurbish the historic buildings on the Fairgrounds and create the best state fair in the nation.”

A recap of the 11th Corndog Kickoff was outlined. The “Setting Up Camp” themed event raised $255,920. Also featured in the newsletter was the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center that opened in time for the 2007 State Fair. The birthing center was made possible because of a donation of $750,000 from Bill Knapp in honor of his brother. Ten amazing Iowans were honored as Iowan of the Day winners. The Blue Ribbon Foundation raised $300,000 selling water and merchandise during the Fair with the help of 400 volunteers.

Gary and Cindy Cheney were featured in the Donor Profile.  As members of the 1854 Society, volunteers with the Fair and the Corndog Kickoff – Gary and Cindy are still involved with the Blue Ribbon Foundation.

In this year’s fall newsletter - Peter Cownie, Foundation Executive Director, expresses his gratitude for Iowans across the state. The Iowa State Fair was truly a celebration of all things Iowa. “Iowa, your unwavering support and investment have allowed us to become the state’s marquee annual event and on behalf of our guests, exhibitors and volunteers, thank you.”

The newsletter highlights the Foundation’s successful Iowa State Fair by sharing information about the social painting class that raised $9,700 and the Woodcarver’s Auction that raised $49,150. Iowan of the Day winners were honored at the Fair and their biographies are listed in the newsletter. The number of volunteers that give their time to the Foundation during August has increased to more than 500 and water/merchandise sales have grown to more than $500,000.

The annual Corndog Kickoff has grown tremendously in the last 20 years. The “What A Ride” themed event celebrated the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 25th anniversary as an organization and raised $553,000. Featured merchandise has also changed over the years. Be sure to check out the online State Fair Store to purchase the perfect gift for the Fairgoer in your life.

The newsletter highlights the Foundation’s internship program and the Donor Profile, Larry Fleck & Son Trucking. The entire Fleck family’s love of the Iowa State Fair and support of the Blue Ribbon Foundation is one-of-a-kind. They have a special connection to the Fairgrounds that continues to grow.

Programs have grown, new projects have developed and things have changed over the years. The loyalty of Blue Ribbon Foundation donors and volunteers continues to grow. Thank you for your support!


Leave an Iowa State Fair Legacy in 5 Minutes

October 11, 2017
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In less time than it takes to brew a pot of coffee, you can make a lasting impact at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. One of the easiest gifts you can make is to name the Foundation as a beneficiary of one of your assets, such as your retirement plan or life insurance policy. This is a popular gift to give because you can set it up by yourself. There’s no need to use the services of an attorney or financial advisor to put your gift in place.

Simple Steps to Follow:
1. Contact the administrator of your retirement plan, insurance policy or bank account for a change-of-beneficiary form or simply download a form from your provider’s website.
2. Decide what percentage of the account you wish to give to the Blue Ribbon Foundation and name us, along with the stated percentage, on the form.
3. Sign and return the form to your plan administrator or insurance company.
4. Tell us about your gift! It would be our honor to thank you for your support. Plus, your generosity can inspire others to follow your example.

Key Benefit: Beneficiary designations offer built-in peace of mind. Your current budget isn’t affected because you make the gift after your lifetime, and you can change your mind at any time.

No matter the size, your gift makes a meaningful difference at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. Contact Robin Taylor at (515) 262-3111 x373 to learn more about giving a gift that doesn’t cost you anything today. If you’ve already made a gift, please let us know so we can thank you for your generosity and ensure that your gift is used exactly as you intend.

Or maybe you have considered becoming a member of an exclusive group of Iowa State Fair donors through our membership or giving programs. The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraiser programs allow you to join a community of generosity and get even closer with the Fair that you know and love. You can join the 1854 Society or Jake’s Club and enjoy the incentives during the 2018 Iowa State Fair.

There is always the opportunity to commemorate your favorite State Fair moment with an engraved brick, paver or a plaque on the newest giving wall in Ruan Plaza. Check out all the Foundation’s giving programs on our website.

Thank you for supporting the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. By making a contribution today, you are saying you care about your Iowa State Fair and want the best for its future! Donate online today.

Copyright © The Stelter Company, All rights reserved.


Flashback to the present photos:




Iowa State Fair Moments

October 3, 2017
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With the 2017 Iowa State Fair in the books, plans are already taking shape for the 2018 Fair: "Nothing State Fair Moments."

What memory stands out to you the most from August? The time your entire family rode Ye Old Mill? Watching your 4-H'er show the Grand Champion animal in the Livestock Pavilion? Earning a purple ribbon on your famous pie in the Elwell Family Food Center?  The Blue Ribbon Foundation has undoubtedly been part of your Iowa State Fair moment in some way.

As we enter fall, the Blue Ribbon Foundation will continue our 25th Anniversary Campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to celebrate our history while creating awareness about our mission for the future. Join the Foundation and the growing base of donors in our charge to renovate and preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Donate: Make a personal contribution of $25, $250, or $2,500. Your donation, no matter the size, will have a direct impact.

Our Fair’s Future: The proceeds of this campaign will be dedicated to Our Fair’s Future, the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s endowment fund. As the endowment grows, it will provide a reliable source of funding for future renovations, building enhancements and maintenance to the Fairgrounds, ensuring the Fair will be a grand tradition for generations to come.

Help Spread The Word: By sharing the campaign and information about the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, you can encourage others to make a contribution. Share our work with other Iowa State Fair lovers and how making a tax-deductible donation will sustain the Fairgrounds for the future.

All Iowans can be proud of the Fairgrounds and renovations made over the last 25 years. But maintaining a beautiful Fairgrounds requires year round upkeep. For 11 days in August, it’s a Fair, but for the other 354 days of the year, the Iowa State Fairgrounds is home to auto shows, livestock exhibitions, flea markets, antique shows, concerts, trade shows and more. These events put wear and tear on buildings. If you look across the Fairgrounds there are still areas that need attention and improvements. 

Each August Fairgoers celebrate traditions and make memories that will last a lifetime. When you support the Blue Ribbon Foundation, you help the Iowa State Fairgrounds last a lifetime. Your donation will create special moments for future generations!



One of my favorite State Fair moments was taking an Old Time Photo with friends:


2017 Fair Recap: August 19 & 20

September 26, 2017
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When the last weekend of the Iowa State Fair arrives, some Fairgoers are attending for their 10th day while others are attending for the first time. As a staff member, it's our goal to make sure each person has a special experience at the Iowa State Fair! (Although I tend to move a little bit slower on day 10 and 11 compared to day 1!)

On Saturday, the Foundation honored our final Iowan of the Day winner - Bernard Becker of Lakota, Iowa. Bernie is well known for planning an annual pheasant hunt and community banquet in support of wounded soldiers known as “Hunting with Heroes”. Each year, Bernie invites Purple Heart Medal recipients from North Carolina to come to Lakota for a pheasant hunt outing to enjoy the outdoors and to see how much their service to our country has been appreciated. Bernie continues to be active in his community, serving on the Volunteer Fire Department, the Volunteer Ambulance Service and Pheasants Forever for over 15 years. When Bernie served as Mayor for five years and on the Lakota City Council, he led many projects to include all members of his community, including swimming and bowling trips. He also shares his knowledge with hunting and fishing with the young outdoorsman in his community.

Each day of the Fair, crowds watched as regular pieces of wood transformed into beautiful works of art - all with intricate designs using a chainsaw! On Sunday afternoon, the Foundation hosted the Woodcarver’s Auction and 50 items including large benches and tiny bears were for sale.  The Grand and Reserve Champion Meats including ham, bacon and dried beef were sold during the auction.  And again this year, the Blue Ribbon Foundation participated in the sculpture painting contest. Our Honorable Mention “Celebrating 25 Years” sculpture designed by Sticks sold for $1300. The Woodcarver’s Auction was a complete success with proceeds totaling $49,150 for Fairgrounds renovations.

Once again I am extremely proud to work for the Iowa State Fair. I want to personally thank my co-workers and other Fair staff members. Each person puts in countless hours throughout the summer and then doubles those hours during the 11 days of the Fair. Individual departments work together to create a celebration of the entire state. The traditions and memories made during the Iowa State Fair are one-of-a-kind.

A huge shout-out to this year’s interns! Each intern went above and beyond to help the Foundation succeed. They worked hard each day with smiles on their faces. Hopefully what they learned over the summer will help develop their individual career path and the memories they made will last forever!

Start gearing up for August because “Nothing State Fair Moments”. The moment you ride the big slide, the moment you share a corn dog, the moment you earn a purple ribbon, the moments are endless and unique. With over 1 million attendees and 11 days, there are billions of moments at the Iowa State Fair, August 9-19, 2018.


Iowan of the Day - Bernard Becker of Lakota:


2017 Woodcarver's Auction:


Blue Ribbon Foundation Concrete Statue:


2017 Interns riding the Giant Slide:

My Personal #1 Fair Supporter:


2017 Fair Recap: August 17 & 18

September 19, 2017
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Day 8 and Day 9 of the Iowa State Fair welcomed nearly 200,000 people to the Fairgrounds. The Blue Ribbon Foundation takes pride in helping those Fairgoers have an unforgettable experience.

Around every corner, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has supported improvements. The first renovation of Grandfather’s Barn and construction of the now Robert G. Horner and Sheri Avis Horner Service Center were just the beginning. One by one, barns and buildings across the Fairgrounds were improved. From unseen electrical updates or simple restroom improvements, to construction of the state-of-the-art Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center, the Blue Ribbon Foundation is determined to make our Fairgrounds one of the best.

In addition to the Midway overhaul this August, the Jacobson Plaza beautification project created a distinct pedestrian and parking area to the south of the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building connecting to the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center and Gate 10. Fairgoers easily navigated this area of the Fairgrounds with new sidewalks, landscaping, and lighting. The additional parking will be utilized throughout the year for events hosted on the Fairgrounds.

Blue Ribbon Foundation dollars also supported updates along East 33rd Street and built the new admissions gate. The updated gate was able to accommodate more Fairgoers. The sidewalks allowed for better traffic flow around Little Hands on the Farm. On a smaller scale, maintenance created new displays in the Agriculture Building and replaced windows on the south and east sides of Pioneer Hall.

On Thursday, the Foundation hosted Legislative Day. It’s a day for our state’s senators and representatives to enjoy the sights of the Fair and our chance to thank each of them for the continued support. Following lunch, the Legislators took a tour of the Fairgrounds to see the renovations and progress the Foundation is making to preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Marian McQuaid of Guthrie Center and Chris Fox of Johnston were honored as Iowan of the Day winners. Marian organized “Friends of the Library,” a group that guided the project of building a new library. Marian also volunteers her time assisting with after school programs, leading story hour for children and writing the weekly library newspaper articles.  She is a member of Homestead Helpers, a support group for the local nursing home and volunteers weekly for the Guthrie County Arts Council, which she founded. Marian has served on various committees to put together events for all members of her community to enjoy, including the Fall Arts Festival.

Chris Fox dedicated his time to the U.S. Army for 27 years, serving overseas for multiple tours and for the Drug Demand Reduction organization at Camp Dodge, educating youth how to stay or become drug free. The U.S. Army led him to opportunities educating youth throughout Iowa about substance abuse prevention. Chris was a key component to the creation of STAR BASE, “Stay on Track” and other leadership skill programs that are being taught in Iowa schools today, affecting over 26,000 students. These programs have been recognized on a national level. Much of Chris’s time the past ten years has been spent volunteering for Ducks Unlimited, which led him to becoming Chairman of Mid-Iowa Ducks Unlimited, and eventually district chairman. Chris has been a volunteer for Blue Ribbon Foundation, selling water during the Fair, assisting with the annual Corndog Kickoff and driving the 1854 Society Shuttle for members during the Fair.

Each Blue Ribbon Foundation staff member is able to have one evening off during the Fair. (AKA - you only work until 6 pm instead of 10 pm!) I enjoyed Friday evening by attending the Little Big Town concert in the Grandstand. It was a very fun show. Can’t wait to see who else will be joining Casting Crowns and Reba in August.

Stay tuned for more 2017 Iowa State Fair highlights.

Legislative Day:


Iowan of the Day - Marian McQuaid:


Iowan of the Day - Chris Fox:



Little Big Town Concert:


Staff and 2017 Interns:


2017 Fair Recap: August 14, 15 & 16

September 12, 2017
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With the first weekend of the Iowa State Fair behind us - Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are nice slower days for the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff. My routine of checking on volunteers working the Fair Square stand, merchandise and water booths is under control. During these three days, there are several little activities the Foundation participates in.

On Monday, the Foundation led the Kids Club Activity on the Fun Forest Stage. Kennedy, Donor Relations Intern, read the story “Bells Goes to the Fair” by Susan Knapp. The story gives a tour of the Iowa State Fair, through the adventures of Bells the dog. After the story, the kids did a scavenger hunt. Each year on August 14, the entire Blue Ribbon Foundation staff helps celebrate BRF Assistant Director Robin's son Alex. (Yes, a birthday during the Iowa State Fair calls for candles in an ice cream cone from the Old Fashion Ice Cream Parlor!)

On Tuesday, our most “skilled” donors participated in the Outhouse Races. The Foundation came in 5th place (#1 in our hearts) in the event this year. The squad missed out on the second round by 2 seconds! Thank you to our sponsor, Stivers Ford, for building a new Outhouse – the squatty potty did a wonderful job and looked great.

On Wednesday, the Blue Ribbon Foundation held 2 of the 22 social painting classes. Under the direction of Missy Pieters of Messy Missy’s Painting Studio & Gallery in Marshalltown, Fairgoers painted their own personal canvas or barn board with Iowa State Fair inspired art. With 418 participants throughout the 11 days, Fairgoers showed off their talents while supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission. All proceeds from the painting class are dedicated to Our Fair’s Future, the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s endowment fund.

The Foundation honored 3 more Iowan of the Day winners – Patricia Nelson of Winterset, Mary Doak of Grundy Center, and Marty Braster of Centerville.

Pat Nelson played an important role in creating a festival to celebrate the Bridges of Madison County and led the first ever Covered Bridge Festival in 1970. Since then she has continued to donate her time to help prepare for the annual event. Pat also coordinated weddings to take place on the bridges. Pat enjoys sharing her musical abilities with her community. In the 1970’s she put together a community theatre, known as the Apple Tree Players and played as the lead role in a few of the performances. She volunteers her time to her church, singing in the choir and as a soloist, as well as singing for various events within Winterset. Pat also began the Women’s Giving Circle, a group of women who donate money each month to local charities to serve the women and children of Madison County.

The hours Mary Doak spent researching Grundy Center’s history to put together a presentation demonstrating why her town was deserving of a new Main Street is well known in Grundy Center. Along with establishing Main Street Grundy Center, Mary also established the Grundy Center Preservation Commission, the Grundy Family YMCA and the Grundy Center Historical Society. Much of her time spent with the Grundy Center Historical Society was to restore the one-room school house. She has also spent time with children in the local elementary school and assisted with the local museum. Mary began several community events, including the “Magical Forest,” and the Felix Grundy Festival.

Marty Braster’s education in biology and agronomy has led him to opportunities that benefit the entire state of Iowa, as he is leading projects to improve water and soil quality. Not only does Marty develop new soil conservation methods to improve Iowa’s water resources, but he has also volunteered his time in Puerto Rico with the United State Peace Corps improving their conservation methods.  Marty played a significant role in developing the Loess Scenic Byway and the Chariton Valley Switch Grass Project. Marty also enjoys volunteering his time to youth in his community. Marty played an instrumental role in creating a community soccer club that children of all ages could enjoy.

With a little more time and less running around, I found  some delicious Fair food to eat.  I tried the new Apple Taco and also ate a few of my favorites – pork chop on a stick, Chuckies tenderloin, wood oven pizza and a turkey taco. I already miss the yummy Fair food! Stay tuned for more 2017 Iowa State Fair highlights.


Celebrating Alex's birthday at the State Fair:


2017 Outhouse Races:



Painting Class:


Iowan of the Day - Pat Nelson:


Iowan of the Day - Mary Doak:


Iowan of the Day - Marty Braster: 



2017 Fair Recap: August 12 & 13

September 7, 2017
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Beautiful August weather equaled HUGE attendance at the Iowa State Fair. The first Friday and Saturday welcomed more than 233,000 people to the Fairgrounds.  With only 4 full time staff members and 4 summer interns, the Foundation relied on 480 volunteers to help us fundraise.

These supporters gave a valuable gift to the Blue Ribbon Foundation – time. Spread across the Fairgrounds, volunteers sold merchandise, bottled water, and Fair Squares. Volunteers also helped with the Canvas Painting Class, assisted in the Hospitality Suite and drove the 1854 Society golf cart shuttle.  Printed on the back of their t-shirts is “VOLUNTEER” but this could easily be changed to “BRF Advocate”, “#1 Supporter”, “Ultimate Fair Lover” or even “MVP”. We honestly couldn’t have a successful Iowa State Fair if we didn’t have the amazing volunteers. More information about volunteer opportunities for the 2018 Iowa State Fair will be available in May.

The Foundation was pleased to honor Iowan of the Day winners Donald Bries of Dubuque and Ron Bell or Mondamin. Donald has been a Cubs Scout leader and a Boy Scouts Scoutmaster for more than 20 years. He headed up the annual Tootsie Roll campaign to raise money for special needs children.  For the past 15 years Don has volunteered for the Dubuque Special Olympics and volunteered for the Key City Sams camping club, serving meals for the Olympians during the Special Olympics and completing community service projects. Donald and his wife are well known for the creation of the All Starts Country Dancers, entertaining residents of the local nursing home.

Ron Bell spearheaded the Mondamin Christmas Party and the Mondamin Heritage Days Celebration. As Mayor, Ron initiated projects to replace the water tower and to upgrade the sanitary sewer system. As a member of the City Council, Ron applied for many grants that led to Mondamin receiving updates to the city park. Just a few of the organizations Ron has spent his time volunteering for are the Harrison County Board of Public Health, Landfill Commission, Conference Board and Emergency Management Commission. Ron also volunteers for the Early Childhood Board, serving as a community representative and secretary, leading efforts to provide education, health and human services to children and their families.

On the first Sunday of the Fair, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosted a brunch for our 1854 Society members. This set of donors absolutely loves the Iowa State Fair! Each supporter believes in the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s work and gives annually to help us continue to move forward. With a $1,854 initial membership fee to join this exclusive fundraising group, you receive elite benefits including an engraved granite paver at the Museum, gate admission for 2 each day of the Fair, VIP parking, access to a Hospitality Suite, exclusive golf cart shuttle access, and more.

A highlight of my 2017 Fair was getting the chance to talk with volunteers and donors. Throughout the year I hear individual Fair stories and memories but seeing firsthand Fairgoers’ annual traditions come to life is one of a kind. It makes the long days completely worth it.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is helping keep the Iowa State Fairgrounds on the cutting edge for not only our generation but for the future. Stay tuned for more 2017 Iowa State Fair highlights.

Volunteers sold water at 6 different stands across the Fairgrounds. 




Merchandise was available in the State Fair Store, Cattle Barn, Agricultural Building, Little Hands on the Farm, Varied Industries Building and the Museum. 



Lunch break for the interns!



Iowan of the Day Winner, Donald Bries of Dubuque:



Iowan of the Day Winner, Ron Bell or Mondamin: