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.

And the award goes to...

March 19, 2010

It’s a Fair Game was the big new item that the Foundation introduced last summer at the Fair. Following the success of Fairopoly in 2004, we had wanted to create a pathway game of the Fair so that Fair fans could enjoy the trek around the grounds from the comforts of home. Something that was really necessary this winter with all of our snow!

Well, recognition of our game just went national in January. It’s a Fair Game was the recipient of the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Pyramid Award. There are only 5 categories for this national award and we won for consumer programs. Dan Livengood, co-creator of It’s a Fair Game, jumped through all the hurdles this fall to fill out the application to be considered. From there, the file is reviewed and, most often, passed over, as there are only 3 finalists per category. Dan was tickled pink when he found out in late November that our game was selected as one of the finalists. As with an Oscar, it’s just an honor to be nominated!

In January, Dan attended the PPAI annual convention in Las Vegas where the award was announced at a special, black-tie recommended banquet. He was all set to applaud graciously for the winner of our category when, much to his surprise, it was our game that was announced the winner. Walking onstage, Dan said he imagined that’s what winning an Oscar was like.

Dan Livengood, on right, accepting the Pyramid Award.

It’s a Fair Game was a collaborative effort between myself, Dan and Cathy Rickers, the illustrator. The time, thought and planning (as well as laughter when coming up with the text for the path and when seeing Cathy’s latest images) that went into the game was quite extensive. So, to have it go over well with fans of the Iowa State Fair is great but the cherry on top is having it recognized within a very competitive industry as something special too. That makes all the frustration of trying to fill in the last 3 spaces with something creative all worth it.

Dan Livengood, Robin Taylor and Cathy Rickers with their creation at the 2009 Corn Dog Kickoff.

For more information on the award you can read an article in the PPB magazine’s March issue or see our press release. And, if you don’t have a copy of the award-winning It’s a Fair Game, there are a few left after the 2009 Iowa State Fair. To order just go to our website or contact the Foundation at 1-800-450-3732.

Making Progress

March 15, 2010

 

A view of the Jacobson Exhibition Center from the west.

Last week I had the opportunity to walk through the Jacobson Exhibition Center to check out the progress! It’s amazing how far it has come, but there’s still lots to do! With all the melting going on it was a muddy mess but I thought you might like an update of the progress.

A view of the arena.

A view of the arena.

 

The second floor VIP area.

Construction continues as workers scurry around to make sure that the building is ready to go by Fair time! It is a construction zone; I had to wear a hard hat!

While the workers continue to work to make sure that the building is ready to go at Fair time, the Foundation continues to raise funds to make the building possible. We are very excited about our newest giving program, Block by Block, the donor wall that will be on display in the foyer of the Jacobson Center.

Design of the Block by Block donor wall.

Designed to look like a barn quilt, each colored square represents a different donor level. For more information about the donor wall or to make a contribution, go here.

Exciting things are going on around here, we’re excited for you to see the Jacobson Center for yourself this August! Until then stay tuned for more updates! Happy Monday!

The Faces of the Foundation

March 10, 2010

I have been working full-time for the Foundation since November of 2009, so just a little over a year, and since the first day I started I have been meaning to take a staff photo to post on our website. With an office of only four full-time staff, you would think this would be an easy task – not too many schedules to line up for a 5 minute picture. Wrong.

It may have taken over a year to bring up the subject, plan a date and time, and actually take the photo, but we did it! Of course I then immediately went to post it to thestaff page on the website and I ran into complications. But, the picture is taken and now it is up! 

Back Row: John Putney, Executive Director; Robin Taylor, Assistant Director; Front Row: Allyson Krull, Communications Manager; Emily Saveraid, Sponsorship Director

With the warmer temperatures and all this melting snow, it appears Spring is finally on its way! Things are also starting to pick up here at the Foundation. For me, thegiving programs deadline is approaching quickly so I am getting all of those things in order (benches, bricks, donor wall, etc.), as well as other membership programs including Fan Fair and the 1854 Society

One of my biggest projects during the year, though, is the annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party held just weeks before the Fair. I’ve met with each of my planning committees and we will start getting into more of the details in our meetings next week. I can’t believe how quickly time passes! If you have never attended the Kickoff, you must experience “Building a Blue Ribbon Tradition” on July 10 at the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds…it’s a Fair lover’s dream! Be sure to stay tuned to our blog- I will update you with more Kickoff details in future posts. 

While I’ve only taken time to mention a few of the projects that are keeping me busy at the moment, there is so much more that happens year-round here at the Foundation. John, Emily and Robin also have several projects going on at once, which keeps this a busy place. I know I can speak for all of us when I say that we truly love what we’re doing and we believe in making the Iowa State Fair a better place for future generations. Along with all of our supporters and volunteers, we are proud to be the faces of the foundation.

Attend your local county fair this summer!

March 4, 2010

 

Zone 5 Conference attendees sit in on a session workshop.

Last weekend, Foundation and State Fair staff organized and attended the Zone 5 Conference for the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. The Iowa State Fair is a member of the IAFE and hosted the conference. Representatives from fairs large and small from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri & Nebraska came to learn more about the fair industry from speakers, sessions and each other. In addition, our own Allyson Krull sang the National Anthem! Who knew we had such talent on our staff? 

While our involvement in IAFE may not be apparent to the general public, Fairgoers do reap the benefits of our learning! We talk about what works and what doesn’t and share ideas for how to make our fairs better, whether it’s the state fair or a local county fair. 

I love getting back to the Linn County Fair where I grew up. The fair has changed a lot since I participated (for the better, I might add!) and I always like to see what’s new. I consider the county fair my roots, because if I hadn’t started showing there, I might not have made it to the Iowa State Fair! 

Do you attend your local county fair? If you don’t, take some time this summer to stop by! You’re sure to see great exhibits, entertainment and of course food! Consider it an opportunity to get excited about the Iowa State Fair!

Word of Mouth Works

February 26, 2010

 

Crowds form around the live auction.

This week the publicity committee for the Corndog Kickoff met to talk strategy for promoting the Kickoff in 2010.  We’re always looking for new and creative ways to get the word out about what a fun event the Kickoff is and encourage people to attend.

This year’s theme, ”Building a Blue Ribbon Tradition” will allow us to talk not only about the Kickoff, but also about the work the Blue Ribbon Foundation has done in raising money to not only preserve the historic buildings on the Iowa State Fairgrounds but to build new ones as well. While the Kickoff is a fun event, with lots of food and entertainment, the ultimate goal is to raise money for the Foundation. This is the core of what we’re about and we don’t want to lose sight of that goal.

That being said, though, the Kickoff is FUN and we want to share the fun with Fair lovers everywhere! We’re coming up with some new ideas including more video clips and more opportunities to get out into the community, so look out for us!

Do you love the Kickoff? Tell your friends! While all of our promotional activities are important, I think that the best way for us to get the word out is to have you tell your friends, who tell their friends, who tell their friends! It’s all about word of mouth! You are an important part of our publicity efforts. We like to think that we put on an event that gets people excited about not only the Fair but about supporting the Foundation and our increasing attendance proves this!

So this year, when you bring your friends to the Kickoff, enjoy a corndog, ride the skyglider and watch the fireworks. Don’t forget, though, to bid on the packages or spin the spinwheel or buy a centerpiece! All of the money raised goes to improve the Fairgrounds, a cause that I think we all can agree on!

Ringmen call out bids during the live auction.

 

Fair is in the air!

February 17, 2010

Though the Fair is still six months away, the smell of livestock is in the air! That’s right, the grounds are booming with activity from the Iowa Winter Beef Expo. Each year we have a small corner booth in the annex of the cattle barn to display our merchandise and giving programs and to get people thinking about the upcoming Fair. We are lucky to have great volunteers that staff the booth during business hours so we can continue our work up in the office. It gives our volunteers a chance to get a taste of what it’s like during the off-season and give back to the Iowa State Fair. And for me personally, it gives me an excuse to go down to the cattle barn as I check on the booth three times a day.  

Volunteers Gene and Krista Bear work at the Foundation's merchandise booth at the Beef Expo.

The Beef Expo holds a special place in my heart and it’s fun to stay connected and reminisce with people I’ve met in the cattle industry. I started showing cattle when I was five, but didn’t attend my first Beef Expo until I was eight. As a third grader, I exhibited my former bottle calf and walked away with a trophy and the title of Grand Champion Polled Hereford Steer. Needless to say, that’s the best I ever did at the Beef Expo. I continued to show through my senior year of high school and was happy to be “finished” with cattle when I went off to college. Now, my parents come down to sell heifers each year and I get to visit them while they’re in town. Today my mom and I went for lunch and I told my dad I would lead the heifers in the sale ring tomorrow (he’s convinced they’ll sell higher if I do it). I have lots of memories from the Beef Expo and I’m glad I get the opportunity to make more through my job here at the Foundation. 

In addition to the Beef Expo excitement, I have a couple of other projects going on that I’d like to share with you. To start, I had my first individual committee meeting last night for the Corndog Kickoff and have another one scheduled for tonight! Our theme for this year’s Kickoff is “Building a Blue Ribbon Tradition,” highlighting the changes our beautiful Fairgrounds has undergone over the years and the role the Foundation has had in some of those changes. It’s truly amazing to see how our renovation projects have improved these beautiful fairgrounds. If you’re not familiar with some of the building projects, you should check it our on our renovations page.  

In my first post, I mentioned that I had written a list of goals for this year. In addition to the blog, another goal on my list was get an eBay account up and running for the Foundation. It has come up in discussion several times at the office so I set aside some time last week and put up our first item for auction. A diehard Iowa Hawkeye fan and Iowa State Fair supporter donated a pair of Hawkeye football game pants signed by the star place-kicker Nate Kaeding for us to sell as a fundraiser for the Foundation.Check out the item and get your bids in…the auction ends on Monday! For the months of February and March, a new item will be listed for auction each Monday and run for seven days before it’s sold. Items will include discontinued collectibles and other Iowa State Fair merchandise.  

As I’ve said before, I’m really excited about getting word out about the Foundation in the online community and taking full advantage of social media opportunities. So…remember to check our website, visit us on Facebook, and of course stay tuned for our next blog update! We greatly appreciate all our supporters do for the Fair and we want to do our part in keeping you informed about how we’re making your dollars work to make our Fair even better!

My View...

February 10, 2010

 

Finally, a sunny day! The image I’ve included is the view from my desk. I have to admit, I really love my office and the view it affords me of our fairgrounds. When I’m stumped, need to collect my thoughts or just take a short break as I wrestle with numbers, I gaze out my window. I’m always amazed at the activity that I see going on, even without the Fair. For instance…
 
As I snapped this picture a maintenance truck was going by loaded with snow. With the Iowa Beef Expo starting next week, our maintenance department is trying to clear snow out of the barns area for all the cattle and trailer traffic. On several days next week, I’ll look out and see pickups and trailers parked along the road in front of our office.People walking their dogs or running. Yes, even on these cold days, I always see two or three people go by.
 
School buses – I’m assuming they are drivers in training. And speaking of drivers in training, many a “mean” parent has made a child stop and start a manual transmission car on the road in front of our office. I just hope that they don’t want them to practice parallel parking between my car and another!
 
Tactical units – one summer day I observed a tactical unit practice hostage rescue by storming the Cultural Center. And, when a presidential candidate visited, a Secret Service agent (fully armed) walked by to take up a position on our roof.
 
I know the Fair is about two months away when I see the golf carts go back and forth from the Cultural Center to Grand Avenue for the Pork Expo; a month away when our crews put up the tarps on the AE Dairy Stage and about two weeks away when Campbell’s moves in their Corn Dog stand.
 
And I get such pleasure in the simple act of watching the squirrels. On hot summer days, I’ll often see one taking a break by laying spreadeagle on the top board of the bench outside. And, now in this snow covered world, I’m amazed how they can seek out a nut they buried in the fall -though I have to admit it hasn’t been recently. (I’m just waiting to see a salted nutroll rather than an acorn get uncovered some day.)
 
The fairgrounds is always busy, no matter what time of the year and I feel lucky that I get to see it from such a neat vantage point. As I watch the seasons change out my window, I’m reminded again and again of what the Foundation is trying to accomplish and how worthwhile it is to preserve and improve such a treasured fairgrounds. As Allyson mentioned in her opening blog, we really hope you’ll be able to get a new appreciation of all that happens during the year and how much we value your support.

What do you love about the Fair?

February 5, 2010

Despite the snow and chilly temperatures, I can’t help but think of State Fair time! I love the Fair. From the people watching to all of the foods on a stick, each year I find something new to love.  

Even though the great Iowa State Fair is still a few months off, you can show your love for the Fair on your state tax returns. Now, I know the Fair and taxes aren’t necessarily things you would put together. But, when the Corndog Checkoff began sixteen years ago, the Fair was made a part of your tax-filing experience! Look for the State Fairgrounds Renovation Checkoff on line 58b on Iowa Tax form 1040 or line 14 on Iowa Tax form 1040A.  

Checkoff dollars go to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s efforts to continue to renovate, preserve and protect the Iowa State Fairgrounds. You don’t need to make a huge contribution, every dollar makes a difference! Last year, more than $72,000 were contributed through tax returns.

We all have things that we love about the Iowa State Fair. Let’s all do our part to make sure that the things that we love about the Fair will still be here for generations to come!

There are many things that I have to experience every year at the Fair. Tell me, what is one thing you have to make sure that you see every year, or your trip to the Fair won’t be complete?

This April, be thinking of those things as you fill out your tax returns!

Welcome to our blog!

January 27, 2010

Starting a blog for the Blue Ribbon Foundation is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. My sister started a blog when she moved to Hawaii a few years ago and people really seem to follow it – myself included. I later attended a local marketing workshop which included a session on blogging and decided to move forward. I let other business items push this back, so with the new year here in full force, I figured now was the perfect time.

I’m not big into New Year’s resolutions,  however, I like to set several goals for myself throughout the year, especially at work. Just yesterday I sat down and created a list of goals for my job as the communications manager; items I really wanted to accomplish this year at the Foundation. Most of them relate to delving into the world of technology and social media, and this blog is one of those items. More than that though, I thought it would be interesting for readers to know what we do here in the office on a weekly basis. Many ask what we do throughout the year and how we prepare for the Fair, so this is our attempt to bring you into our world, let you know what we do and introduce you to each of our personalities.

As many of you know, we publish a quarterly newsletter for our constituents. Each issue includes a front page editorial which we each take a turn writing. Well, in a way, this will be similar. We will rotate staff members as authors to the blog and will each keep you updated on a weekly basis what we’ve been up to. We also plan to write conversationally and use this as a casual form of communication with our followers. Some posts will be long, some short, some entertaining, and others a simple review of the week.

I am excited for this new form of communication with our supporters and hope to find some new followers along the way. Check back in and see what we’re up to…it should be eventful as we choose our summer interns (who will also be posting in the future) and conduct our first Corndog Kickoff planning meeting of 2010!

Pages