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 $150 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.

Food & More Food! - 2018 Corndog Kickoff

June 4, 2018
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Buckets of chocolate chip cookies, giant turkey legs, fresh melon cups, and over 80 different foods on a stick—these are just tastes of the classic foods showcased at the Iowa State Fair each year and some of the foods that will be featured at this year’s Corndog Kickoff! Last week, we talked about the “fun” found at the 2018 Kickoff; this week, let’s talk about my favorite “F” of this fabulous event: food!

Awaken your Fair-loving appetite at the Fair Food Grazing Party by enjoying a preview of our favorite Fair treats. As you make the difficult decision about which vendors to try, consider sampling some (or all!) of these delicious food options:

• Hot Chocolate Chip Cookies
• Sliced Caramel Apples
• Corndogs (wouldn’t be a Corndog Kickoff without ‘em!)
• Fresh Melon Cups
• Hot Beef Sundaes
• Turkey Legs
• Gizmo Sandwiches
• Fair Squares
• The Bruschetta Sundae "Mt. Vesuvius"
• Pickle Dawgs
• Nut Rolls and Fudge
• Pork Chops On-A-Stick
• A&W Root Beer Floats
• Smoked Brisket Bacon Mac N’ Cheese
• Corn in a Cup
• Sno Cones
• Kettle Korn
• Cotton Candy
• Blue Bunny Ice Cream

As the days draw nearer, even more food options (yes, more) will be available for you to get excited about. So pack your bags with extra stretchy pants, hitch a ride, rent a bike, or prepare your best walking shoes to make the trek across the state to celebrate our favorite and most satisfying Fair traditions at the 22nd annual Corndog Kickoff! I will see you there with two forks and extra napkins in hand.



Volunteers and vendors surrounded by food!

Paint at the Fair

June 1, 2018
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As you stroll through the Fairgrounds, you can see many breath-taking colorful scenes like the bright lights illuminating the Thrill Park, the vibrant colors advertising the concessions on Grand, or even the giant orange pumpkins that sit in front of the Agricultural Building. The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation offers painting classes during the Fair to help ensure the future of the Fair remains colorful.

Grab your friends and come paint these colorful scenes at the Iowa State Fair! The $35 registration fee includes the canvas, brushes and paint for the hour and a half class. There is a new classes offered this year! Rather than paining the traditional canvas, you can paint a gently used canvas or leather bag. Feel free to bring your own, or use one available on site.

All proceeds from the painting class are 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 renovation and maintenance improvements to the Fairgrounds ensuring the Fair will be a grand tradition for generations to come.

Check out the calendar below to see what you can create! On-site class registration is available before the class starts. We have space for 50 painters in each class. We recommend signing up now to reserve your spot. To register online, click here! Or call our office at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371



Volunteering is Priceless!

May 30, 2018
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Our many behind-the-scenes volunteers are what keep the Foundation running smoothly at the Iowa State Fair, as well as the Corndog Kickoff. Each year, more than 500 Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteers donate their time and energy by helping sell merchandise at the Foundation trailers and other locations, or by selling bottled water and Fair Squares at the Foundation’s many stands. Sign up to volunteer at the Iowa State Fair here!

A new fundraising event is the first ever Bingo tent on Grand Avenue, held on Wednesday, August 15th. Sign up to volunteer for this new tradition and stay tuned for more information regarding Bingo on Grand!

Volunteers are all around us, and what make each community in Iowa so successful! If you know a great volunteer, nominate them today for Iowan of the Day! We look for people with a strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others and an exceptional sense of Iowa pride. Winners receive four Iowa State Fair admission tickets, accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, VIP Parking and more! Download a nomination form. All Nominations are due by July 1st, 2018.

Macy Evans 



Dining Delights - Fun at the 2018 Corndog Kickoff

May 29, 2018
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With less than six weeks until our 22nd annual Corndog Kickoff, the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff is already gearing up for a night full of the 5 F's: family, friends, fun, fireworks, and, of course, food! Let’s dive a little deeper into the third F—fun! This celebratory night will feature many auction prizes and exciting games, including Rags to Riches, Spin Wheel, and our brand new game: Dining Delights. Today, I'm going to "delight" you with a sneak peek into this new game!

For the first year ever, the Blue Ribbon Foundation is hosting “Dining Delights” by collecting gift card donations from the best Iowa eateries around the state. We already have gifts cards to restaurants such as Tasty Tacos, Drake Diner, Spaghetti Works, Goldie’s Ice Cream Shoppe, and Jethro’s Barbeque—and that's just a taste! To play, all you will have to do is provide a $20 donation, which will go to preserve and improve our great Fairgrounds. In return, you will pick a mystery gift card with a value of at least $20 (most likely more!) from our mystery gift card bag, and voila! You are a winner. Treat your significant other to a night out in the town, or, if you’re like me, treat yourself to a nice steak dinner with some sweet Iowa corn on the cob. However you choose to enjoy your dining prize, everyone is guaranteed to win.

Seem too good to be true? Well, don't just take my word for it, but come to the Kickoff on Saturday, July 7th and play for yourself! Remember, you can still reserve your tickets before July 1st by mailing in your R.S.V.P. envelope, visiting, or calling 515-262-3111 Ext. 371. Also, if you have a favorite local café, lunch hangout, pub, ice cream parlor, or other restaurant destination that you would like to share, we are accepting gift cards of $25 or more until June 22nd.

Just writing about all of this food is making me eager to enjoy the tastes and fun of this year’s Corndog Kickoff, so I hope you will join me by delighting in some fine Iowa dining and indulging in all of the Kickoff festivities!



Some of the fun from last year's Corndog Kickoff!

Top 10 Fair Food Strategies

May 25, 2018
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Everyone visits the Fairgrounds with different ideas about what to eat, how much to eat, or when and where to eat at the Fair. Your food experience is central to the annual visit. Do you gravitate to the same food stands year after year? Do you eat that one or two or three food items over and over? Or are you perennially on the lookout for new options every time you step foot on the Fairgrounds? Well, here’s a Top Ten List of Fair Food Strategies to consider as you spend time at the Iowa State Fair. Enjoy!

#1 – Cookie dough is safe to eat
#2 – There is salad at the Iowa State Fair
#3 – Help a youngster try a brand new food
#4 – Mini doughnuts can be eaten any time of day
#5 – Nothing is more convenient than food on a stick
#6 – Create your own friends and family food challenge
#7 – Interesting beer and wine selections are everywhere
#8 – Fair concessionaires serve up at least eight different edible proteins including ostrich and buffalo
#9 – When you just have to sit down to eat – Enjoy sitting at one of the dozens of Fairgrounds benches
#10 – Hydration is important – Swing by one of the Blue Ribbon Foundation stands and purchase some Valley Water. When fairgoers purchase water they are supporting our mission to help improve and preserve the beauty of the Fairgrounds.

You can practice these food strategies before the Iowa State Fair by attending the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party on Saturday, July 7th. 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 any State Fair enthusiast. Get your tickets today! Practice makes perfect!



2018 Corndog Kickoff

May 23, 2018
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The 2018 Corndog Kickoff Donations continue to roll in with every day that goes by! The amazing artwork, made by very talented individuals continues to impress me! Check out these ceramic pieces made and donated by Wynanda Ferguson. Keep an eye out for these items to be featured in the silent auction!

The gift card pool for Dining Delights continue to grow each day with restaurant donations! If you know a great eatery that should be featured, ask them to help support the Kickoff! We are seeking restaurant gift card donations with a $25.00 value or higher to highlight restaurants across the State!

Make sure you mark your calendars and purchase tickets for the Corndog Kickoff, set for July 7. Or become a Corndog Kickoff Patron! As a patron, you will receive admission tickets and recognition in event publicity materials. I hope to see you there, it will be a fun-filled night full of food, rides, fireworks and more!

Macy Evans


Meet the 2018 Volunteer Relations Intern!

May 21, 2018
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My name is Julianna Curtis, and I am privileged to serve as the Volunteer Relations Intern for the Blue Ribbon Foundation this summer. As a native Iowan, I have enjoyed coming to the Iowa State Fair since I was a young girl and am very excited to have a hand in the behind-the-scenes magic of this year’s Fair!

I have recently graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University (just a few miles outside of Des Moines…) where I majored in Business Management and played D1 tennis for the past four years. Tennis has allowed me to travel the globe and even brought my family to Tampa, Florida for about seven years. The sport also blessed me with many lifelong friends—in fact, just last year I brought my Argentinian friend to the Fair to gain a full-fledged experience of the Iowa culture and try her very first corndog, which she loved!

The warm climate and diverse experiences were great in Florida, but two years ago, the unique community of Iowa called my family back to our home state. It is this unique, family-like community that I am so thrilled to work with throughout the next three months. Whether it’s at the Corndog Kickoff or the Fair itself, I am eager to meet new people and interact with the over 600 volunteers that make my favorite event in the country so special.

Even at the young age of 10, I have always been a strong advocate for the Fair. When asked by a fellow competitor during a tennis tournament if I had ever visited Disneyland, which was near her hometown, I replied innocently by saying, “No I haven’t; have you ever been to the Iowa State Fair?” I assumed that she must have known this nationally-proven, well-known fact:

The Iowa State Fair was, and still is, the best Fair in the country.

My family and I next to our Blue Ribbon Foundation lamp post!

50 Reasons to Attend Corndog Kickoff

May 18, 2018
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Summer is filled with family vacations, road trips and travel adventures. It’s an opportunity to explore somewhere new or visit your favorite getaway spot. Whether you live in Iowa or across the country, in August - All Roads Lead to the Iowa State Fair! The Blue Ribbon Foundation will celebrate our top-notch tourist attraction at the 2018 Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party on Saturday, July 7.

Pack your suitcase and follow your map because this event is filled with auction packages, entertainment and all of your favorite Iowa State Fair foods. Since this event is 50 days away, here are 50 reasons you should attend the 2018 Corndog Kickoff.

1. Root Beer Floats
2. Sno Cones
3. Kettle Korn
4. Purchase New Iowa State Fair Merchandise before the Fair
5. Fudge
6. Fair Squares
7. Winners Choice Raffle – Your change to claim a live auction package before the bidding even begins! Tickets are $100 each and only 100 will be sold. The winner gets to pick one of the first five live auction items as their prize. 
8. Hot Beef Sundaes
9. Fireworks - Donated by Flashing Thunder Fireworks Spectacular
10. Funnel Cakes
11. Pork Chop on a Stick
12. Brisket Mac & Cheese
13. Bid to put your name on the Fairgrounds. You pick the name of the winding way from Grand Avenue to the stage area of Expo Hill. A sign with your designated name will be installed and grace the Fairgrounds for a year.
14. Mingling with other State Fair lovers
15. Chocolate Chip Cookies
16. Pop
17. Nut Rolls
18. Dining Delights - For a $20 donation, you can grad a mystery restaurant gift card as a prize. Want to feature your favorite restaurant, consider donating a gift card!
19. Iowa State Fair Quilt
20. Cotton Candy
21. Watermelon
22. 200+ Silent Auction packages
23. Beer
24. Gizmo Sandwiches
25. Pickle Dawgs 
26. Photo Booths with complimentary 5”x7” photo commemorating the event
27. Music
28. Generous Volunteers
29. Corn in a Cup
30. Bill Riley Jr.
31. Bid on the 12’ Metal Rooster
32. Sky Glider Rides
33. Bid on a C. W. Parker 1930’s Era Carousel Horse
34. Caramel Apples
35. Corndogs
36. Iowa State Fair Queen
37. Spin the Giant Wheel for $5 and win a State Fair Prize
38. Wine
39. 30 Live Auction Packages
40. Turkey Legs
41. Sneak peek to the additions around the Fairgrounds – New Kum & Go Stage, updates to the milking parlor, updated street and sidewalks along East 30th Street
42. Spin Art
43. Wood Oven Pizza
44. Mountain Valley water
45. Bright Smiles
46. Blue Bunny Ice Cream 
47. Bid on Concert Tickets to Reba, Sugarland, Florida Georgia Line and more!
48. Rags to Riches sponsored by West Bank – Purchase you $10 bandana at a chance to win a cash price. Last year’s winner took home $3000!
49. Most Importantly, Raise Money for Future Iowa State Fair Improvements!

Road trip to the Iowa State Fair and help us celebrate! Buy your tickets or become an event Patron today.



 Here are pictures from the excitment at the 2017 Corndog Kickoff!


Iowan of the Day

May 16, 2018
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For the past 20 years the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation has partnered with Cookies Food Products to celebrate outstanding Iowans from across the state. Every neighborhood is made up of selfless volunteers dedicated to making big things happen. We work to acknowledge individuals that go above and beyond in their communities by being an Iowan of the Day at the 2018 Iowa State Fair.

Iowan of the Day winners receive:
• A day of recognition at the 2018 Iowa State Fair
• Accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown
• An introduction on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage
• Gate admission for four
• Four Grandstand show tickets on his or her day of honor
• $200 cash
• Use of golf cart for his or her day at the Fair
• VIP Parking

If you had someone come to mind that would make a great Iowan of the Day, please consider nominating them! “Start by just outlining things you know about someone who is deserving. Reach out to friends, family and community leaders for their input,” 2017 Iowan of the Day Chris Fox says, “Don’t miss an opportunity to get someone the recognition you think they deserve.” It’s that easy! Nominations and supplemental materials must be received no later than July 1, 2018.



Corndog Kickoff Auction Sneak Peak

May 11, 2018
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Our office is getting more and more Corndog Kickoff auction items as the week goes by! Checkout our newest and latest items! Items come in all shapes and sizes with all types of uses including home décor! These will not disappoint at the Corndog Kickoff, held on July 7.

The C. W. Parker Carousel was built in 1912 operating in the Burnaby Village Museum at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, British Columbia. The carousel was the 119th machine built by C.W. Parker Company, earning is “Parker #119” nickname. The carousel, built by Charles Wallace Parker, toured Texas for two years with the Lone Star Circus before ending up in Happyland, an amusement part in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1936.

In 1989 the carousel was sold off horse by horse at an auction in New York. Local residents came together to save the carousel and formed the “Friends of Vancouver Carousel Society.” In May 1989, the Burnaby Village Museum agreed to provide a home for the carousel and the “friends,” led by President Don Wrigley, set about raising the $350,000 to purchase the machine. In 1990, the carousel was purchased. The pavilion, named the Don Wrigley Pavilion was completed in 1993 and the carousel was then named the Burnaby Centennial Parker Carousel. This horse will be featured in the Corndog Kickoff live auction.

Would this carousel look good in your home? Get your tickets today and participate in the live auction!

Macy Evans