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.

Donor Relations Intern

May 15, 2019
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Hello everyone! My name is Maggie Mathiasen and I will be serving as the Donor Relations intern for the 2019 summer. This is my first week at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and I could not be more excited!  I grew up in Forest City, Iowa and have attended the Iowa State Fair for as long as I can remember.  I have loved coming to the fair each year, as this often included coming to support my cousins who were involved in 4H! However, my favorite part of the fair has to be attending various concerts over the years.

I just finished up my junior year at the University of Northern Iowa where I am studying Business Management with a focus in Business Administration. At UNI, I am involved in Dance Marathon which is an organization focused on raising money for children in the Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. I am also involved in a campus ministry called BASIC; UNI Student Employment Leadership Academy, which serves to grow and develop employees who work on campus; and I volunteer for a children’s ministry program at a church in Cedar Falls.

In my free time I love to be active outside, spend time with my family and friends, and be at the lake during the summer months.

Summer has officially started and I am looking forward to walking down Grand Ave in a few short months with a basket of cheese curds in one hand, and a refreshing smoothie in the other. As an Iowan, I take great pride in the Iowa State Fair. As they say, nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair!


What to expect at the 23rd Annual Corndog Kickoff

May 10, 2019
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What to expect at the 23rd annual Corndog Kickoff
Well folks, school is coming to a close. Finals are ending, students are moving back home, and internships are in full swing! Here at the Foundation, Gabrielle Gerke, the public relations intern, and I are full-time from here on out until the end of summer. Recently, I have been working on the “Dining Delights” portion of the Corndog Kickoff and doing my best to reach out to local restaurants. What is Dining Delights you ask?  Dining Delights is a gift card pull held during the Kickoff Benefit where participants have the chance to win a restaurant gift card of $25 or more simply by paying $20 to play. Every participant is a winner, so don’t miss out and join the fun! A few other things to anticipate at this year’s Kickoff are:

- A fantastic display of fireworks to end the night, donated by Flashing Thunder Fireworks and located behind the Grandstand.

- Several spectacular live auction items including an EZGO Golf Cart donated by Golf Cars of Iowa and a hand-carved Carousel Horse by Marilyn Markey from Carroll, IA.

- All your favorite fair foods! (yes this means corndogs and sno cones and the famous State Fair chocolate chip cookies!)

- 200+ silent auctions items that you will not want to miss out on!

If you would like to show your support, donating a restaurant gift card of $25 or more would greatly benefit the event. The 2019 Corndog Kickoff has something for every Fair-lover out there. Buy your tickets today and we’ll see you on July 13! 

-Joy Van Wyngarden, Sponsor Relations Intern




Baby Mine

May 9, 2019
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90 days until the Iowa State Fair! Can you believe it? It is getting very busy around the Foundation as we prepare for the Corndog Kickoff, the Iowan of the Day program and the Fair itself. It’s a cloudy, dreary day today but we are looking forward to a sunny day in August.

Last week I sent out the Iowan of the Day press release to media stations across the state. I am starting to get emails seeing that different newspapers have published my press release. It’s exciting to see my work come to life. Look for an article featuring the Iowan of the Day program in your local newspaper.

Each year the Iowa State Fair has a different themed sculpture contest. The sculptures are placed around the Fairgrounds during the Fair. This year the sculpture is of an elephant, celebrating the 90th birthday of Baby Mine. Baby Mine was a 4-foot tall baby elephant that came to the Fair in 1929, thanks to 15,000 Iowa children that helped sponsor and name him by sending in nearly $1,000 nickels and dimes. There is a replica of Baby Mine in the Fun Forest, but this year there will be many more around the Fairgrounds.


The Corndog Kickoff planning is in full swing! Every day we are receiving more donation items at the office, planning centerpieces and designing various materials. One of the items that I got to help design is a bandana for a game played at the Kickoff. You don’t want to miss out, so buy your tickets soon on the Foundation’s website.

Two of the other interns start on Monday and I am so excited for them to be here!

- Gabrielle Gerke
Public Relations Intern

Capture a Memorable Moment for an Outstanding Iowan

May 1, 2019
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May 1, 2019

Gabrielle Gerke,
Public Relations Intern
Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation
(515)-262-3111 Ext. 378

2019 Iowan of the Day
Capture a Memorable Moment for an Outstanding Iowan

Des Moines, IA - If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation believes a volunteer photograph must be worth a thousand hours! The Blue Ribbon Foundation has our camera ready for a volunteer photoshoot this summer during the Iowa State Fair. We need your help in finding Iowans from across the state that go above and beyond to make their communities a picture- perfect place to live. With the support of Cookies Food Products, the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Iowan of the Day award will recognize 10 outstanding volunteers during the Iowa State Fair, August 8-18.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation wants to zoom in and highlight those Iowans who work hard to make their neighborhoods and state better through their volunteer efforts. These community members are the first people to be in the scene, and demonstrate an honest work ethic while showing an exceptional sense of Iowa pride.

Each Iowan of the Day is awarded a day of recognition at the 2019 Iowa State Fair, including an introduction on 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 and four tickets to the evening Grandstand concert.

Since 1997, the Iowan of the Day program has become an Iowa State Fair tradition honoring more than 220 Iowans across the state. It’s time to photobomb these volunteers! Help spread the word and encourage people to nominate the outstanding Iowans in their hometown.

Nomination forms can be found online at or contact Gabrielle Gerke at 515-262-3111 ext. 378. The deadline for all nominations is July 1. All nominees must currently reside in Iowa.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Since its inception in 1993, the Foundation has generated more than $150 million for renovations and improvements to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. For more information, please contact the Blue Ribbon Foundation at 1-800-450-3732 or

Pictured below are past winners of the Iowan of the Day award from over the years. 




Weekly Update

April 24, 2019
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The Iowa State Fair will be here before we know it! I am finishing up finals this week at Grand View University, and will start full-time at the Foundation next Wednesday. I am excited to have more than just a few hours here each day to see what I can accomplish.

Things are starting to get real as we get closer to the Fair. When I wrote down May 1 as a deadline for many projects dealing with the Iowan of the Day, I thought that seemed like a long time away; however, it is almost here. I continue to update the different libraries and catalogs of people we have to market the Iowan of the Day program and will be creating a poster this week as well. I will be sending out a press release to the various news stations and groups around Iowa and letters to past winners and nominators.

Pictured below is 2018 Iowan of the Day, Brenda Lee Larkey from Low Moor, Iowa. 


I am also continuously working on updating the database with the many auction items for the Corndog Kickoff. The Kickoff takes place on July 13 and will feature a live and silent auction as well as some of your Fair food favorites. Auction items include a one night’s stay at the Embassy Suites, Des Moines Downtown, and a variety of different baskets such as one featuring honey-made products from Randol Honey Farm, and a three-month membership to Fitness World in Ankeny.  You don’t want to miss out! Get your tickets on the Foundation’s website today.

Spring is Here!

April 17, 2019
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The weather is getting nicer as each day passes, and it looks like it should continue to get warmer! With spring in full swing, a lot is happening on the fairgrounds in the various buildings. As I drive in to work, I often see several yellow school buses or many trucks parked at the Varied Industries building for the large number of events going on.

I am currently working on entering the numerous donations we have received for the upcoming Corndog Kickoff taking place on July 13. We are working hard to get everything in order for the event, and we appreciate all the generous donations we have received so far! Please consider making a donation to the Corndog Kickoff Auction to help support Fairgrounds renovation projects. Donating an auction package consisting of your product or service is an excellent way to promote your company, as it will be seen - and bid on - by nearly 2,000 attendees. Some of the fun items we have received include gift cards to Fetch! Pet Care, a professional dog walking and pet-sitting service; a gift card to attend a painting class of your choice at El Arte Uncorked; and jewelry from DesignsBloom.

Last week I was also given the chance to design an ad promoting the Corndog Kickoff for the Livestock Plus Inc. magazine. It was fun to be able to use my design skills as well as photos to create an ad that will be placed in a published magazine. 


Each day at the Blue Ribbon Foundation I am learning new skills and becoming more confident in my ability to take on new projects and use the talents I have to create professional work. I take my finals at Grand View University next week and will start at the Foundation full-time the following week! I am so excited to meet the rest of the summer interns and plan for a great State Fair!

Intern Insights

April 12, 2019
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It’s the second week of being the Sponsor Relations Intern here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation and I’ve already started dreaming about warm, delicious corn dogs at the fair. If I close my eyes long enough I can almost smell them. As far away as this fantasy may seem, summer is just around the corner and the fair is quickly approaching!

This week I worked on the “Dining Delights” event portion for the 2019 Corndog Kickoff. The 23nd annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction will be a fun-filled night complete with live entertainment, fair food favorites, and a variety of auction packages to satisfy any State Fair enthusiast. The Kickoff is the foundation’s largest fundraiser, with over 2,000 individuals in attendance last year. Because the inaugural Dining Delights gift card pull was such a resounding success, Kickoff attendee’s will have the chance to select a gift card at random again this year. Iowa restaurant gift cards with a $25 value or more will be featured in the gift card pull.

To either donate a gift card get involved with the Corndog Kickoff, contact us through the website or call us at (515)-262-3111. I look forward to this year’s Kickoff and hope to see everyone there! Let the competition begin!

Thanks to Main Street Café and Bakery and Texas Roadhouse for participating!



Spring Newsletter: 1999, 2009, and 2019

April 10, 2019
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What’s happening at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation?

Check out the spring 2019 Newsletter. This issue features many upcoming events the Foundation has coming up, heartwarming stories of family and love for the Iowa State Fair and project updates happening on the fairgrounds. Be sure to mark your calendar for the Corndog Kickoff on Saturday, July 13 and the Iowa State Fair happening August 8-18.

The newsletter also features a recap of the first-ever, “Halfway to the Fair Happy Hour Fundraiser” which took place in February of this year in the Elwell Family Food Center. Overall, the event raised $10,000 for future Fairgrounds renovations. Thanks to the generous contributions from businesses and individuals that made this event possible and continue to support the Foundation in bettering the Fairgrounds.


What was happening 10 years ago?

The 2009 newsletter featured a “You Asked” column allowing fairgoers to ask questions and get answers. This particular article featured the MidAmerican Energy Building which was just being built as a learning center about wind generation.

This issue also highlighted the “limited edition board game celebrating the Iowa State Fair.” This game allowed Iowa State Fair fans the chance to visit the Fair at any time and re-live the fun of trekking their way across the fairgrounds. This game is still available on the Foundation website.

Frank Robey was chosen for the donor profile section of the newsletter in the spring of 2009. Robey was then a carpenter for the State Fair’s maintenance department. Robey is now the Assistant Director of Plant Operations for the Iowa State Fair.


What was happening 20 years ago?

20 years ago, thirty new trees were planted on the Fairgrounds, thanks to generous individuals who contributed to the Legacy Tree Program. The program was put into place to help replace many mature shade-bearing trees that were lost due to storm damage in 1998.

“… I stumbled upon your fair by accident, but have loved it and returned every year since. I love everything about it; there is something there for everyone. Keep up the food work and the Iowa State Fair will live forever!” said Connie Ricklefs from Sterling, IL in the “From Our Mailbox”, section listed in the 1999 spring newsletter.

The newsletter featured Ron Corbett on his accomplishments during his ‘decorated tenure in the Iowa Legislature.’ Throughout that time, Corbett worked diligently promoting Fairground renovations and was crucial in passing legislation concerning the tax checkoff and many other bills that secured millions of dollars for the preservation of the Fairgrounds.


Many things have changed over the years but one thing remains the same. The Blue Ribbon Foundation helps thousands of Iowa State Fair fans like you show their support through giving programs, membership programs and fundraising events. Our organization will continue to raise funds to preserve and improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the next 10 and 20 years!


Introduction of 2019 Sponsor Relations Intern

April 5, 2019
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My name is Joy Van Wyngarden and I am very excited to be serving as the 2019 Sponsor Relations Intern with the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. I am currently a junior at Iowa State University majoring in Agricultural Communications. I was born and raised on a row crop farm in the country near Pella, IA. My passion for agriculture and people started once I joined 4-H as a kid and further developed as I continued through high school. My interest in agriculture and working with people ultimately lead to my decision to attend Iowa State.

On campus I stay busy with several club and extracurricular involvements. I serve as the Public Relations Officer for the Line Dancing Club, I’m an active member in ACT (Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow), and I am a workshare member for the Good Earth Student Farm during the fall semester. Along with those activities, I am also a peer mentor for Agricultural Studies transfer students during the fall semester. For this positon, three other students and I help teach an orientation course to incoming transfer students. In my free time, I enjoy anything to do with the outdoors, hunting, traveling, cooking, and spending time with my friends and family.

The Iowa State Fair, for me, is by far the best part about summer. The never-ending concerts, activities, and fried foods, make the fair fun and enjoyable year after year. I feel truly honored to be working with the Blue Ribbon Foundation this summer and will be counting down the days to the fantastic Iowa State Fair!

Intern Insights

April 3, 2019
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It’s my second week on the job as the public relations intern, and I can’t believe how much I’ve already learned. The full-time staff give the interns a lot of responsibility and freedom to use our creativity, which in turn allows us to gain a lot of valuable experience. It makes me excited for what the rest of this school year and summer will bring!

My first task on the job was to complete the donor profile for the spring newsletter. The profile will feature the Norman and Mary Van Zante family, who have contributed to the Blue Ribbon Foundation in many ways, including being members of Jake’s Club and longtime patrons of the Corndog Kickoff. This was a fun first assignment as I had the pleasure of chatting with Mary and hearing about their family’s history with the Fair. Look for their profile in the spring newsletter!

Another project I have been working on is updating the contact list to promote the Iowan of the Day program, which will be my main job throughout the summer. I have also been looking into past winners and nominations. If you have nominated someone in the past and want to send more information on the individual, please email me at You can also nominate a new great Iowan by going to our website,, and filling out a nomination form.

Lastly, the Corndog Kickoff will be here before we know it! If you haven’t heard of this event, it is a fun-filled night complete with live entertainment, all of your Fair food favorites, and a variety of unique auction packages to satisfy all State Fair enthusiasts. The event will be held on July 13 this year, so mark your calendars and get your tickets here:

All of these projects will keep me very busy, and I am excited for the new experiences and seeing where this journey will lead me.