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 $160 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.

What a beautiful day... To lay bricks!

June 5, 2019
Intern's picture

I hope all of you are enjoying this great weather. The sun is shining on the Fairgrounds, and I can’t help myself from being so excited for what lies ahead this August. This is my 4th week at the foundation and time keeps flying by!

Today, all of the interns had the opportunity to leave our desks and work outside. We spent the morning laying engraved bricks that were donated to the Foundation all across the Fairgrounds, and it was a gorgeous day to do so!  Investing in an engraved brick is a great way to restore a century of memories at the Iowa State Fair. These bricks have proven to be a crowd favorite as you have the opportunity to leave a permanent legacy, while still supporting the renovation and preservation of the historic State Fairgrounds.

The bricks are used to complete various walkways in 15 different locations on the Fairgrounds including: 4-H Exhibit Building, Anne & Bill Riley Stage, Campgrounds Gate Five, Maytag Family Theatres, Elwell Family Food Center, Administration Building, Agriculture Building, Dairy Parlor, Livestock Show Pavilion, Pioneer Hall, Ye Old Mill, and the Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine Barns.

With the purchase of a brick, you can choose the inscription and location of your personalized brick. Options include:

• Standard bricks are available for $100 and inscription allows for up to three lines using a maximum of 14 spaces per line.
• Special logo bricks are available for $125. Please enclose or email a black and white copy of your business or personal logo with your order form.
• Gift cards are also available by request

Bricks are placed twice a year, once in the fall and once in the summer. If you are interested in giving to the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the future of the Fair, consider buying a brick! Please use our secure online order form or download our brick brochure for more details.

If you have any further questions regarding our programs or giving opportunities, please call us at (515) 262-3111 ext. 371 or email us at

Pictured below you can see a sample brick from our morning.


 - Maggie Mathiasen 



There’s still time to be a Patron at the 2019 Corndog Kickoff!

May 31, 2019
Intern's picture

There’s still time to be a Patron at the 2019 Corndog Kickoff!
The Corndog Kickoff is a mere 45 days away and my desire for delicious, fried Fair food is getting stronger by the minute. This year’s Kickoff will feature several new exciting auction items and events that you definitely won’t want to miss. Did I mention a 9-foot-tall Bigfoot statue?! If you haven’t already signed up to be a patron, there’s still time! There are multiple different Patron levels, so you can choose whichever options suits your needs the best!

Best of Show- $10,000
Exclusive Early Admittance
24 Admission Tickets
3 Reserved Tables
Logo recognition in Auction Books

Grand Champion- $7,500
Exclusive Early Admittance
16 Admission Tickets
2 Reserved Tables
Logo Recognition in Auction Books

Champion- $5,000
Exclusive Early Admittance
8 Admission Tickets
Reserved Table
Logo Recognition in Auction Book

Purple Ribbon- $2,500
Exclusive Early Admittance
8 Admission Tickets
Reserved Table
Name recognition in Auction Book

Blue Ribbon- $1,000
Exclusive Early Admittance
8 Admission Tickets
Reserved Table
Name recognition in Auction Book

Red Ribbon- $500
4 Admission Tickets
Name recognition in Auction Book

White Ribbon- $250
2 Admission Tickets
Name recognition in Auction Book

If you would rather purchase tickets individually, you can do so online, by calling the Blue Ribbon Foundation at 515-262-3111 or by stopping in to our office on the Fairgrounds today. If you purchase tickets before June 30, tickets are priced at $100. After June 30, tickets are priced at $125. Get yours today!





Calling All Iowan of the Day Nominations

May 30, 2019
Intern's picture

It’s almost a month until Iowan of the Day nominations are due! Make sure to nominate your outstanding Iowans before July 1. We need your help in finding Iowans from across the state that demonstrate an honest work ethic, while showing a sense of Iowa pride.

When choosing the Iowans of the Day for the 2019 Iowa State Fair, the committee looks for volunteer service, community/youth involvement, awards/honors, and the personal qualities of an individual. While nominating your great Iowan, remember to include and list all of the great work that individual has done in your community. It is also recommended to send in extra materials to show how awesome this Iowan is! These materials can include pictures, newspaper clippings and letters of recommendation.

Along with all of the extra materials, the most important piece is to send in an application with your name, the individual’s name, and references. This nomination form can be found on the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s website, attached in this blog post, or I would be happy to mail you a physical copy if you email me at

By nominating someone for the Iowan of the Day you give them the opportunity to be chosen for a chance at making life-long memories at the Fair. Ron Hunerdosse from Fairfield was chosen for the Iowan of the Day in 2018. He recently called to say how honored he was and what great memories he was able to make with his now grown-up daughters at the Reba McEntire concert. You could do the same for a member in your community!
Each Iowan of the Day receives:

- A day of recognition at the 2019 Iowa State Fair
- Introduction of the Anne and Bill Riley stage
- $200 cash
- Use of a golf cart for the day
- VIP parking
- Gate admission
- Hotel accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown
- Four tickets to the evening Grandstand concert
I look forward to receiving your nominations!

- Gabrielle Gerke, PR intern


Don't miss out... Join the 1854 Society!

May 29, 2019
Intern's picture

The Iowa State Fair is known across the state for having the latest and greatest attractions. Whether that be a new recipe for a deep fat fried food, an up and coming entertainment on the various stages, or new activities and games to compete in at the Fair. However, behind this innovation we must not forget the rich history of the Fair.

The Fair was first held in the town of Fairfield, located in southeast Iowa, in 1854. Fairgoers came from all across the state by covered wagon, and many of them camped on the road, and at the Fair. Admission was 25 cents. People were blown away by the concourse of people that were assembled in Iowa. Iowa had never seen so many strangers meet to celebrate our great state. It is believed that 8,000 people attended the first Fair.

Fast-forward to present day, the Iowa State Fair is internationally acclaimed, and is the single largest event in the state of Iowa. This event attracts more than a million people each year from all across the world. The Blue Ribbon Foundation recognizes that the Fair is the heartbeat of the Midwest, and that it deserves to be recognized and treasured. In commemoration of the Iowa State Fair’s 150th anniversary, the Foundation created the 1854 Society. The funds that were raised by the 1854 society helped renovate the Richard L. Easter Museum Complex, and current donations help to provide archival storage needed to preserve the museum’s pieces.

The Richard L. Easter Museum Complex provides an opportunity for Fairgoers to interact with an exhibit showcasing the highlights of the Fair since its inception in 1854. The Museum got its debut in the 2005 Fair, and has continued to be a highlight for many Fairgoers.

Are you interested in giving to a program that will continue to promote the rich history of the Iowa State Fair? Become an 1854 Society member! With a $1,854 initial membership fee you can join this exclusive fundraising group, and you will receive these exclusive benefits:

• Engraved granite paver at the Richard L. Easter Museum Complex
• Gate admission for 2 each day of the Fair
• VIP parking during the fair
• 4 priority seats to a Grandstand concert of your choice
• Limited Edition Commemorative Pin denoting membership year
• Access to 1854 Society Hospitality Suite during the Fair
• Exclusive 1854 Society Shuttle access during the Fair
• Recognition in Blue Ribbon Foundation publications
• Special Membership Reception during the Fair

If you are interested in signing up, please use our secure online order form, or give us a call at (515) 262-3111 Ext. 371 to learn more.

Pictured above you can see the Richard L. Easter Museum Complex. Make sure to stop by at the 2019 Iowa State Fair! 


- Maggie Mathiasen 


Introduction of the 2019 Volunteer Relations Intern

May 28, 2019
Intern's picture

Hello everyone, my name is Lucia Ruppert and I am serving as the 2019 Volunteer Relations Intern for the 2019 Iowa State Fair! I am in the midst of my first week at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and I am absolutely loving it. I grew up in Norwalk, Iowa and have worked and attended the fair with my family’s booth for as long as I can remember. I have loved coming and interacting with the public, selling Rada Cutlery knives for all 10 days since I was little. My favorite part of the fair continues to be when I can sneak away and catch a ride on the Big Yellow Slide and the Sky Glider.

I just finished up my senior year at Colorado State University where I am double majoring in Equine Science and Natural Resource Tourism and minoring in Business Administration. I will be returning to Fort Collins to finish up my last semester at CSU which is starting to become bittersweet. In Fort Collins, I am very involved. I am an Admissions Ambassador for the University where I give campus tours to more than 1,200 prospective students and their families a year. I am also an Equine Science Steward, we are a group of high achieving Equine Science students who serve as ambassadors for our major and the College of Ag to help with a lot of outreach and events for students. With the Equine Science Stewards I am the Communications Director, where I am in charge of all of the social media and outreach, and the Recruitment and Tours Director where I design our tours to make sure families have the best representation of the Equine Science major and facilities as possible. I also run my own pet and ranch sitting business to ensure that the Fort Collins area has some of the best pet services around.

When I get to enjoy some free time, I love to explore the incredible outdoors and natural areas in Colorado. My favorite is to go hiking at Horsetooth Reservoir with my dog and my friends. I also enjoy riding my horse around trails in Fort Collins.

Summer has finally started and I am so excited to take my first steps down the grand concourse with a bag of mini doughnuts in my hand and an army of volunteers behind me. Get ready everyone it’s State Fair season!


What are YOUR #FairFavorites?

May 24, 2019
Intern's picture

I’m not sure if all this rain and dreary weather has got me in a funk, but I could not be more excited for sunny weather and the State Fair this year. Nothing sounds better right now than a warm summer night, riding the sky glider, and munching on some classic Fair food. This year’s Fair theme is #fairfavorites, focusing on everyone’s personal fair food must-haves. Most Fair-goers have their personal favorite food item that they have to get at least once a year while they’re at the Fair. Two of my all-time favorites are Iowa State Fair corndogs and cotton candy. It doesn’t get any more iconic than this classic combo of fried goodness and sugary sweetness. I’m hoping to make some new favorites at this year’s Fair with the continuing list of fun new foods every year.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag, #fairfavorites when posting pictures on social media at the Fair! And download the Iowa State Fair and the Food Finder App to help navigate through all the activities, events, and fabulous foods throughout the Fairgrounds. I’m excited to see everyone with their #fairfavorites at the 2019 Iowa State Fair!


-Joy Van Wyngarden


Our State Fair

May 23, 2019
Intern's picture

“Since 1854, the Iowa State Fair has celebrated the best of Iowa – its quality food, its fertile land, and its hard-working people. The State Fair was designed to educate Iowa’s farmers about the very best ways to raise food and livestock. As a result, Iowa has evolved to a world leadership level in agricultural production. Today, the Iowa State Fair provides a showcase for Iowa as the Food Capital of the World.” – Governor Thomas J. Vilsack.

The Iowa State Fair began as an experiment in Fairfield, Iowa on just six acres of land. Since then, the Fair has expanded and grown and become a tradition for nearly 1 million people every August. Our State Fair is known for so many things including the famous butter cow, the Avenue of Breeds, riding the Ferris wheel, attending great concerts in the grandstands and eating food on sticks with real lemonade.

A huge aspect of the Fair for me growing up was 4-H. Almost every year I succeeded in having a non-livestock project be chosen for the Iowa State Fair and was so excited to have the opportunity to see my projects or give a presentation. Giving these presentations and having success in the visual arts project area is what actually led me to my career choice as a communicator. The goal of the 4-H program was to help rural youth by encouraging public school teacher to establish boys’ and girls’ clubs. From the beginning, members worked on projects, but the goal of 4-H has evolved from projects being demonstrations that centered around how to do something and now having the club member also talk about why they did the project and what they learned.

4-H has been a huge part of many young people’s lives and the Blue Ribbon Foundation plays a big part in raising the funds for a great building to showcase 4-Her’s work. After the 2019 Iowa State Fair a six million dollar renovation of the 4-H building will begin thanks to a donation from the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation. The building will be renovated from top to bottom with new lighting and floors, updated facilities and restrooms, construction of a new kitchen facility, and creating additional classroom space. This donation will allow many more generations to show off their projects at the great Iowa State Fair.

- Gabrielle Gerke, PR intern


Rags to Riches

May 22, 2019
Intern's picture

As I finish up my second week at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, I am so excited for what lies ahead at the Iowa State Fair in 2019! The Fair is 77 days away and I am sure that many of you have already started dreaming of your Fair favorites. However, you don’t have to wait that long to experience them. In 58 days we have our annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction. This event will be held on July 13th and serves as a great launch into the Fair.

The Corndog Kickoff offers many opportunities to get involved. Participants will be able to sample Fair favorite foods, take home a complimentary photo, enjoy fireworks, and ride on the Sky Glider. If you are interested in supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the future of the Fair, you will have the chance to participate in live and silent auctions, and play various games including Rags to Riches.

Rags to Riches is a 50/50 raffle game that is sponsored by West Bank, and it will be played halfway through the live auction. At the Kickoff, you will have the opportunity to purchase a souvenir bandana, or “rag” for $10 to participate in the game. Participants during the game will hold their “rag” in the air or keep it down at their side. The auctioneer will flip a coin, heads is rags up and tails is rags down. If a contestant chooses correctly, they will remain standing and continue to play. If they are wrong, they’re out! The game will continue until there is one participant standing. The winner will receive half of the amount that was made from bandana sales. What could be better than donating money to the foundation, while also getting to take cash home with you?

I promise, you do not want to miss out on this fun. Are you interested in coming out for a night of fun, food, and competition, but you haven’t bought your tickets yet? No problem! There is still plenty of time to get your tickets. You can go to the Blue Ribbon Foundation website to purchase your tickets. Don’t miss your chance to participate in Rags to Riches. Let the competition begin, and may the luckiest contestant win!!


- Maggie Mathiasen 


Let the Competition the Principal Charity Classic!

May 17, 2019
Intern's picture

Every summer in Des Moines, the Wakonda Golf Club hosts the annual Principal Charity Classic. If you are someone who loves golf and would also like to donate to an excellent cause----this event is for you! The Blue Ribbon Foundation partners with the Principal Charity Classic’s “Birdies for Charity” to help bring together people’s love for golfing and giving. This year’s Charity Classic will be held May 28- June 2. Supporters can pledge a given amount to the charity of their choice for every birdie made by Champion Tour Players during the event. Donations can be made in two ways:

-a set dollar amount for every birdie made by Champion Tour Players

-one-time flat donation

Donations can be given either online or by filling out the Birdies for Charity Pledge Form.

For example: If someone pledges $.50 for each birdie made, and the Champion Tour Players score a total of 450 birdies by the end of the Principal Charity Classic, then the individual’s contribution would be $225.
For those who are golf illiterate like myself, a “birdie” in golf simply means that the golfer scored one stroke beneath “par”, where par is the normal, expected score that was anticipated for the designated hole.
Even if you are not a golfer yourself, please join us at the 2019 Principal Charity Classic and donate to a great cause- preserving the beloved Iowa State Fairgrounds!



Scratch Ticket Game Prize

May 16, 2019
Intern's picture

The Corndog Kickoff has been an event held annually since its conception in 1997. The Kickoff has evolved greatly over the last 20 years, growing and adding new components that make every year better than the last. This year is no different with the Foundation adding a new Scratch Ticket Prize Game.

You can purchase a Scratch Ticket for $10 at the event and win an Iowa State Fair prize! Only 250 Scratch Tickets will be sold during the Corndog Kickoff. There are more than $1600 worth of prizes available.

Prizes Include:
• Two Iowa State Fair Grandstand Concert Tickets of your choice
• VIP Parking
• On-Grounds Parking
• $5 Iowa State Fair merchandise coupon
• $5 in Iowa State Fair food vouchers
• Admission Ticket
• Ye Old Mill Ride Ticket
• Sky Glider Ride Ticket
• Giant Slide Ride Ticket
• Free Bottle of Water

You can purchase your Scratch Ticket at the designated table during the Corndog Kickoff. Prizes can also be redeemed at the Scratch Ticket Prize Game table. Every card is a winner!

Sponsoring the Scratch Ticket Prize Game for its first year is Bill Rhiner’s Plumbing, Heating and Cooling. This organization has been involved with the Corndog Kickoff since 1998 and we are thrilled to have them join us in supporting this new game!

  We hope to see you at this year’s event. Get your tickets on our website!