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.

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It's beginning to look a lot like...the Iowa State Fair!

August 1, 2011

With only 9 days, 15 hours and 48 minutes left until the opening of the 2011 Iowa State Fair, the grounds are starting to look a little different this Monday morning. Normally when I come into the office each day, I may see a car or two pass by, someone walking their dog or the maintenance people driving by in a truck. This morning it was a little different…

Right when I turned off of University Avenue through Gate 2, I noticed the newly paved ground and beautiful landscaping surrounding the street. As I drove in past Little Hands, there is the Butter Cow image in the flowerbed right out front. As I made my way to Grand Avenue, that’s when things really started looking different.

Applicious, cheese curds, corndogs, cotton candy…the food vendors are all moving in! The Triangle is almost full  – even though it was before 8 a.m. when I passed by, I started getting hungry for cheese curds! They have always been my favorite, so of course when I saw them I was instantly excited.

I then turned left on Grand after I let all the traffic pass by me. On my way up the hill to our office, I drove by the Agriculture Building. I noticed last week that there was a strange vehicle parked there…Sarah Pratt, maybe? Well of course! With the Fair being less than 10 days away, I’m sure she is hard at work sculpting the Butter Cow.

Since her sculptures this year are a secret, it’s very tempting to go down to the Ag. Building to measure the spot I am placing a banner (no one needs to know that I already have the measurements).

All of us are getting really excited. I have a feeling this year is going to be a really great year for the Iowa State Fair. Please make sure you get your tickets and make a trip to the Fair! Our ticket office is open at the Administration Building every day, and if you get your tickets now they are only $7!


9 days, 15 hours and 31 minutes now!


2011 Iowans of the Day Selected

August 1, 2011

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products are pleased to announce the recipients of the Iowan of the Day award for the 2011 Iowa State Fair.

 Each Iowan of the Day receives VIP treatment on their respective day! Starting with recognition on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage at 2:30; use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart; gate admission and grandstand tickets; VIP parking; $200 cash; and accommodations at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott.

 The Blue Ribbon Foundation began the Iowan of the Day award in 1997 to honor those Iowans who have truly made a difference in their communities. This year, the judges reviewed hundreds of nominations selecting those that show examples of integrity, Iowa pride, hard work and dedication.

“We are pleased to recognize these outstanding individuals as Iowans of the Day,” said John Putney, Executive Director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. “Their volunteerism, dedication and service to their community and the state of Iowa makes each one deserving of this honor.”

 The 2011 Iowan of the Day recipients are:

Louise Unkrich of Swedesburg

Robert Smith of Sidney

Pauline Flamme of Gladbrook

Julie Beitelspacher of LeMars

John Rains of Urbandale

Ruby Bentley of Macedonia

Milton Menefee of Denver

Mickey Thomas of Osceola

Bill Forbes of Correctionville

Leo Chisholm of Osage

Friends. Family. Food. Fun

July 18, 2011

Although I have been a resident of Ames for the past three years, I was born and raised in southeast Iowa.  This is the beginning of a special week back home. An event that I plan on attending this coming weekend and haven’t missed since I was a little girl. The Davis County Fair.

County fairs across the state are a time to celebrate! It’s a time when friends and families can get together again in the summer. It’s a time when 4-H’ers can show off what they have created and learned all year.  It’s a time when food and entertainment can appeal to all ages.

When I was younger, my fun came from the Midway and riding the tilt-a-whirl as many times as I could. As I got involved with 4-H, it was much more exciting to see if my projects made it to the State Fair. I used to attend the concert, races and demolition derby each year. Now after a few games of bingo and the famous Cattlemen’s taco salad, I just enjoy the atmosphere.

I would encourage everyone to attend their county fairs this year and get ready for the 2011 Iowa State Fair.  To me, the Iowa State Fair is a combination of every county fair in Iowa. It is a time when everything about our great state is brought together.

This year’s theme of the Davis County Fair is: Friends. Family. Food. Fun.  It’s a pretty simple theme but I think is captures exactly what any county fair is all about. I plan on enjoying my family and my favorite fair foods this weekend before I get busy in August. I can’t wait to be part of the Iowa State Fair.  23 days!


The Davis County Fair


Thanks to the Nominators

July 12, 2011

The deadline has passed… the nominations are in… get ready to celebrate the Iowans of the Day at the 2011 Iowa State Fair!!

The selection committee is excited to learn more about the outstanding volunteers across the state of Iowa. The top ten nominations will be picked later this week and the 2011 Iowans of the Day will be announced very soon.

To show our appreciation for the deserving Iowans of the Day, each will receive:

  • An introduction on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage
  • Four Grandstand show tickets for their day
  • Use the Iowan of the Day golf cart
  • VIP parking
  • Accommodations at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott hotel
  • $200 cash

I would also like to take this time to thank all of the Iowa of the Day nominators.  We appreciate the time you have put into your nomination.  You are the reason the Blue Ribbon Foundation can honor these people. The Iowan of the Day program’s success would not be possible without people like you!

I hope to see all of the nominators and other community members at the Fair to celebrate each Iowan of the Day winner.

And remember if you didn’t get your outstanding volunteer nominated for this year’s Iowa State Fair, there is always next year! :)


One month until the 2011 Iowa State Fair

July 11, 2011

I can hardly believe the Fair is just one month away from today! It feels like summer just started not too long ago. After winding down from the Corndog Kickoff this weekend we will continue working hard at preparing for the Fair. I have always loved the Fair and am excited to see all the work that goes into it after being an intern with the Blue Ribbon Foundation. This internship has been great so far and I’m sure it will only get more exciting as August 11th approaches.

Check out more pictures from the 2011 Corndog Kickoff on our facebook page.

The Final Countdown

July 8, 2011

I can hardly believe the Kickoff is 1 day away! All our staff and volunteers have been down at the Varied Industries Building the past few days preparing for tomorrow evening. Things are coming together perfectly and we are so excited! I took a few pictures yesterday while we were setting up. Here is a glimpse into the 2011 Kickoff that will hopefully get you excited for tomorrow!

Here Comes the Kickoff

July 5, 2011

Here it is, the week of the Kickoff! Our office is already bustling today with things to prepare for the big event. If you haven’t ordered tickets yet you can still do so online or at the door.

Here are some more fun facts about the Butter Cow:

  • Butter Sculpting at the Iowa State Fair began as a way for the dairy industry to promote itself. The Midwest Dairy Association provides the butter used to sculpt the Butter Cow.
  • John K. Daniels, the first Iowa State Fair butter sculptor, lived to be 103 years old!
  • There was not a cow sculpted in 1946.  World War II was just ending and butterfat prices were too high.
  • The butter used to create the 2011 cow will be 6 years old. It will almost be time to get a fresh batch of butter after this year.
  • The Butter Cow ornament will be available for sale again at the 2011 Iowa State Fair. Be sure to get in line for yours!

Butter sculptress Sarah Pratt


Good Guys and their cars

July 1, 2011

This morning I had to make my way through the Fair campgrounds to find a parking spot and walk a ways to get to work. That’s because the Good Guys Car Show is going on today at the Fairgrounds. Lined up all around the Fair are some pretty sweet cars. I snapped a couple pictures of some of the cars outiside our office building.


Also going on this weekend are tons of people camping out at the Fair for the Fourth of July weekend. It is fun to see so many at the Fairgrounds and gets me excited for August, which is now only a short month away. There’s still so much to do! After this nice 3-day weekend I will have to put it into turbo-gear to prepare for the Corndog Kickoff, which is next Saturday the 9th. If you still haven’t purchased tickets yet or need some more you can get them online or buy them at the door.


Fun Friday Facts of the Butter Cow:

In 1997 the Butter Cow was featured on a souvenier postcard that sold for 50 cents. Proceeds were used to rennovate the Agriculture building which houses the Butter Cow. In 2000, a plaque was placed in front of the Agriculture buidling to commemmorate 40 years of Duffy Lyon sculpting the Butter Cow. Make sure to check it out this year at the Fair!

The Butter Cow is approximately 5 1/2 feet tall and 8 feet long.

In 2007, the Iowa State Fair and the Butter Cow were listed in the New York Times Bestselling Book  1,000 Places to See Before You Die.


A Beautiful Day on the Fairgrounds

June 29, 2011

Our office is located in the Earth Building which has many windows and beautiful landscaping and is quite enjoyable on days like today. This morning I was able to get some fresh air outside as I helped assemble some of the decorations for the Corndog Kickoff. As I was working I saw several walkers powering up the steep hill between our office and the Anderson Erikson Stage. I also spent some time enjoying the Fairgrounds this past weekend. My fiance and I took our engagement pictures here Sunday afternoon. My Dad got a cool picture of us standing under the sky glider with the Grandstand and Fairgrounds in the background. If  you happen to be looking for a good place to take pictures I strongly suggest coming out to the Fair!

This week continues another round of Butter Cow facts!

Duffy Lyon became the apprentice to sculptor Frank Earl Dutts in 1959. Just one year later she replaced Dutts to become the fourth Fair sculptor and the first female Fair sculptor. Duffy preferred to sculpt more modern cows that were long and thin opposed to short and round. She loved sculpting cows but did not enjoy sculpting calves as much. She sketched out a picture of every cow prior to building its frame and would begin sculpting at 6 a.m. each morning. Duffy happened to be 8 months pregnant when she sculpted her first cow for the Fair in 1960. The sculpture was of a Jersey cow, as she was most familiar with this breed from spending time on the Lyon’s farm. Since then, each year has featured one of six major dairy breeds: Jersey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Holstein, Guernsey and Milking Shorthorn.

If the temperature in the cooler is not cool enough, the sculptures have a tendency to lose their shape. Three of Duffy’s Butter Cows have lost parts of their bottom sides. Luckily Duffy and her team are talented enough to rebuild the udders and adjust the cooler temperature. Usually Duffy has about two or three assistants each year helping her construct the cow and companion sculpture. At the age of 13 current sculptor Sarah Pratt began an apprentice with Duffy constructing the Butter Cow. Sarah took over the as the Fair sculptor in 2006.

What I have learned so far...

June 28, 2011

I started my internship with the Blue Ribbon Foundation in March. I have been working on press releases, newsletter articles, and many other projects to get ready for the 2011 Iowa State Fair. I have improved my writing and design skills by working for the Foundation.

One thing that I have learned always sticks out in my mind . . .  People are truly passionate about the Iowa State Fair. I have seen this passion first hand with theIowan of the Day program and the Corndog Kickoff.

People are willing to take time out of their busy lives to fill out a nomination form for the Iowan of the Day program. They are passionate about honoring outstanding volunteers across the state. I have received amazing nominations for people who have made their community a better place to live. Most of the nominees volunteer hundreds of hours without any recognition at all. The Blue Ribbon Foundation gives ten of those volunteers the opportunity to have VIP treatment during the great Iowa State Fair.

I have been working for the past few months on auction donations for the Corndog Kickoff. As of today, there have been 298 auction donors for the 2011 Corndog Kickoff.  The money raised from the silent and live auction will go to renovations and improvements to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. New for this year’s Fair is the remodel of Expo Hill. The landscape of Expo Hill now features renewable energy technologies including solar power lighting, solar cooled benches and solar powered Wi-Fi benches. There have also been electrical updates in the Sheep Barn and a new fiber optic network. These donors are passionate about maintaining the Fairgrounds.

Just recently I had a phone call from an auction donor. We discussed her donation and the Corndog Kickoff in general. She went on to describe how much she loved the Iowa State Fair. Over the years, she had been to other State Fairs but I could hear the passion in her voice when she spoke about the Iowa State Fair. To her, our Fair was the best.  I think many would agree that nothing compares.

I also had the opportunity to spend last Friday at the Downtown Des Moines Arts Festival. As I worked on the “butter cow masks” with the children, I would ask if they had ever been to the Iowa State Fair. Young kids were even passionate about telling me their favorite part of the Fair, especially their favorite food. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter the age or involvement, Iowans are passionate about their Fair.