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.

Introduction of 2019 Public Relations Intern

March 27, 2019
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My name is Gabrielle Gerke and I am so excited to be serving as the 2019 Public Relations intern for this coming summer with the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. I grew up in State Center, Iowa and come from a family with a long history of being involved with 4-H and the Iowa State Fair. I was a 4-H member growing up and participated in many different project areas, my favorite being communications and visual arts. My mother and grandparents were 4-H leaders and my grandparents were recently inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame. I am looking forward to my continued involvement with the Iowa State Fair and seeing the fair from a different perspective as I coordinate the Iowan of the Day program.

Currently, I am a junior at Grand View University double majoring in journalism/public relations and graphic journalism. Within my major, I am involved with GV’s campus magazine, Viewfinder, as an editor and am the social media coordinator for the Campus Ministry team. In addition to my major, I am involved with Team GV, giving tours to prospective students; work as a resident assistant, putting on campus events; and am a member of the GV dance team.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, playing with my dog, and exploring downtown Des Moines.

As the Fair continues to get closer, I can almost taste the sweet, sugary taste of a lemonade and a steaming hot corndog as I watch the Bill Riley talent show; some of my favorite things about the Fair. Nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair!


We’ve come so far but there’s more to improve.

March 19, 2019
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The Iowa State Fair Grandstand was originally built in 1909. Standing majestically just inside the main gate, the Grandstand is one of the most recognizable structures on the Fairgrounds. After several decades and millions of spectators, the building was in dire need of renovations. Concrete had begun to crumble, and the mortar between the bricks was chipping away.

In 1997, supporters stepped up to help the Blue Ribbon Foundation raise funds to replace old seats, windows, doors, concrete flooring, brickwork, elevators and restrooms. In addition, handicap access and electrical wiring improvements were made.

The Grandstand received another renovation in 2018 thanks to a generous $1 million donation from Kyle and Sharon Krause, and Kum & Go. The historic Grandstand structure remained intact, while adding 4,000 more floor seats, new restrooms facilities, and the newly named Kum & Go Stage. The new stage is much larger and safer with updated sound, lights and video screens.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation also received a 2018 Prairie Meadow $600,000 Legacy Grant to support the expanded seating in the Grandstand now called Prairie Meadows Plaza. What's coming to the Grandstand in August? Check out the lineup.

With your continued support, improvements will be made on other historic structures so future Fair-loving families can create their own memories exploring the Fairgrounds.

Join our mission! Your generous gift will help the Blue Ribbon Foundation maintain the streets, sidewalks, and buildings - keeping the Iowa State Fairgrounds in top-notch condition throughout the year.


History worth preserving. A future worth creating.

March 13, 2019
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The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair is a great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It is the true heartbeat of the Midwest, unequaled and unduplicated.

Over the past 165 years the Iowa State Fair has grown, reflecting the development and growth of our great state. What will the next 165 years hold?

You can help determine these future developments by supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Work is still needed on many buildings as we look forward to what the future will bring.

Join the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the growing base of donors in our charge to renovate and preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. A gift of $25, $50, or $100 will secure Iowa State Fair family traditions for the next generation. Donate here.

As always, thank you for your partnership.


Music to Our Ears

February 28, 2019
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Nothing compares to Iowa State Fair entertainment – especially the music. Right now, there is a lot of music buzz around the Fairgrounds. The Iowa State Fair has announced 9 of the 11 Grandstand Concerts for the 2019 Iowa State Fair, August 8 - 18. The Blue Ribbon Foundation is proud to have helped update the Grandstand layout in 2018. Once again in August, Fair fans will enjoy renovations including 4,000 more seats, new restrooms, and the Kum & Go stage. Last summer, the total Grandstand attendance hit a new record of 89,558 over the 11-day concert series. Who thinks we will break that record in 2019?

The Iowa State Fair is also excited to provide an opportunity for Iowa talent to perform in front of audiences of all sizes. A Fair favorite - the free stage entertainment keeps Fairgoers coming back year after year. Applications are available online for you to perform on one of the Iowa State Fair stages. Whether you prefer the Susan Knapp Amphitheater, Anne & Bill Riley Stage or MidAmerican Energy Stage – there is something for every music lover.

What’s music to the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s ears? “I’d like to make a donation!” Thank you to the Blue Ribbon Foundation donors that support our work. The Iowa State Fair would not be able to maintain the historic buildings or stages without Iowans across the state stepping up to support the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

If you love the Iowa State Fair, consider making a donation to one of the giving programs or membership programs. Tribute gifts can be made in honor of a friend, to commemorate an important holiday or event, or made in memory of loved ones. The Blue Ribbon Foundation also manages the merchandise sold in the State Fair Store. Profits from the store directly benefit the Foundation's goal of raising funds to help preserve and improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

As we slowly make our way to the warmer temperatures of spring, the Blue Ribbon Foundation office will be humming our favorite State Fair tune – “Our State Fair is a great State Fair, Don’t miss it, don’t event be late…..”



Corndog Checkoff

February 20, 2019
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Thank you for helping the Blue Ribbon Foundation continue to renovate and preserve the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Through the Corndog Checkoff, Iowa taxpayers can donate to support future projects on their state tax forms. The funding improves the Iowa State Fairgrounds that are used 365 days of the year – with our favorite 11 days in August.

What kind of projects does a donation to the Blue Ribbon Foundation help support?

  • Agricultural education is a highlight at the Iowa State Fair. From baby animals to food production, when visiting the Fair you will find plenty of exciting activities to learn about Iowa’s important agriculture industry. The world famous Butter Cow’s home in the Agriculture Building is just one historic structure that makes the Fairgrounds stand out. Last fall, crews repaired part of the building's roof. Continuing maintenance keeps the building in top notch condition. 


  • Last summer, the city of Des Moines replaced the storm water sewer along East 31st street. Since that project is now complete - a new concrete street, sidewalks and landscaping will be added to improve the flow of traffic north of Grand Avenue. This is similar to what was completed south of Grand Avenue, along East 31st street in front of the Elwell Family Food Center last summer. There will be a new pedestrian Admissions Gate that will be similar to the Admission Gate at East 33rd street. Overall, this area will be cleaned up with an organized layout to allow for future opportunities.   


  • Pioneer Hall was built in 1886 for the first Iowa State Fair at its permanent location. Of the 67 buildings constructed for that Fair, only Pioneer Hall remains. It was originally a poultry building, then an employees’ dormitory and a storage facility. Today it is a museum of Iowa agriculture that illustrates an important period in Iowa history. It’s also the site for the Fair’s Rural Americana Olde Tyme contests including cow chip throwing. This spring the north corner of Pioneer Hall will receive window and paint updates. Routine maintenance is done on the historic structure to keep it functional.


Please remember when completing your taxes, to check off $1 (or more!) on your Iowa tax return and support the Corndog Checkoff.

Winter Newsletter: 1999, 2009 and 2019

February 7, 2019
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What’s happening at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation?  

Check out the Winter 2019 Newsletter. This edition features a little bit of history, highlighting special donations from two art-inspired Fair lovers. Be sure to mark your calendar with dates for the Halfway to the Fair Happy Hour Fundraiser (TOMORROW), Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction (July 13) and the Iowa State Fair (August 8-18). 

The newsletter is also filled with the names of our loyal supporters since the very beginning. These donors have given to the Foundation with annual contributions, gifts toward the endowment, and even anonymous donations through the Corndog Tax Checkoff. It is because of contributions from businesses and individuals that we’ve been able to help the Iowa State Fairgrounds grow and develop as the state’s premier gathering place. 

What was happening 10 years ago?

“Change is inevitable, so it is our job to ensure that things continue to change for the better.” The change up for discussion? The renovations to the Elwell Family Food Center and early planning for the Jacobson Exhibition Center.

This newsletter included a recap of the cold temperatures of the previous November’s Fairgrounds 5K- the event raised $8000. The Foundation was planning ahead for the Corndog Kickoff and hosting a booth at the Iowa Beef Expo. (Things I’m currently working on right now!)

James Kopel was featured in the Donor Profile. James was an original member of the 1854 Society and continues to renew his membership to this day. James has traveled to all 50 states visiting fairs across the country.  He still believes the Iowa State Fair is the best!

What was happening 20 years ago?

Plans were in the works to update the Varied Industries Building. With William Knapp’s initial donation and the Iowa Legislature’s support – the building would be enclosed and reconstructed to transform into one of the largest exhibition halls in the Midwest.

“Renovate to Keep it Great!” was the theme used to promote the Corndog Checkoff program. This avenue to donate to the Blue Ribbon Foundation is still available today through your Iowa taxes. More information about the Corndog Checkoff is available on our website. (A website that was is the early stages 20 years ago!)

Bill and Judy Campfield were highlighted in the donor profile section of the newsletter. The Campfield’s both volunteered with the Foundation selling merchandise during the Fair. Bill also helped develop the Iowa State Fair History Book.


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!


Easy Way to Donate

January 23, 2019
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Throughout its history, the Iowa State Fair has been a unique institution, serving to educate, inform and entertain people from all walks of life. From the first Fair in Fairfield in 1854, to 1886 when it found a permanent home, to today, the Iowa State Fair has been our state’s outstanding agricultural showplace.

But a long history and annually hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors takes a toll. The Blue Ribbon Foundation continues to need the financial generosity and commitment of Fair-lovers to support preservation and renovation projects. Through the Corndog Tax Checkoff, it’s easy to make a donation to ensure these vital efforts continue. While completing your Iowa tax return, please consider making a donation of $1 or more. Donations will be deducted from your refund or added to the amount due, and are fully tax-deductible. Together, we ensure the Fair remains a grand tradition for generations to come.

For 26 years, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been raising funds in support of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. From the preservation of Grandfather’s Barn in 1994 to the enclosure of the Varied Industries Building in 2001 to the major expansion of the Grandstand completed for the 2018 Fair, one by one, barns and buildings across the Fairgrounds were saved from the ravages of time or upgraded for modern use. The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s goal is to make the Iowa State Fairgrounds the best in the nation.

Now is the time for Iowans to ensure the future of the Iowa State Fair with a Corndog Tax Checkoff donation! Thank you for your support of the Blue Ribbon Foundation.


Iowa State Fair Puzzle

January 15, 2019
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There’s going to be a new, portable brick pad coming to the Iowa State Fair this year! “Portable?” you ask? Yes! This brick pad will be one side of a new 350-piece custom jigsaw puzzle the Blue Ribbon Foundation will be offering at the 2019 Iowa State Fair.

Measuring 18” x 22”, the face of the puzzle will feature a colorful, sunset image of Grand Avenue packed with Fair-fans. The opposite side will feature one of our popular brick pads with customized brick inscriptions. With a limited run of only 1500 puzzles, you’ll want to make sure you secure one or two of these for your family. Produced and sold exclusively by the Blue Ribbon Foundation, the proceeds contribute to ongoing efforts to renovate and preserve our historic Fairgrounds.

Want to have your personalized inscription included on a puzzle brick? For a $100 donation, you can reserve one of the 100 bricks and select your three line inscription. Let your creativity shine and forever be part of a one-of-a-kind Iowa State Fair keepsake. You’ll also receive a complimentary puzzle for your donation. Additional puzzles will be available to purchase for $15.00 each.

Only 70 bricks left! To reserve your brick, please fill out the Donation Form by February 1. All bricks will be filled on a first come, first served basis. For more information, please contact the Foundation at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371 or

Puzzle Side One:


Puzzle Side Two Sample:


Happy Hour Tickets On Sale

January 11, 2019
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation is celebrating Iowa’s favorite summertime tradition six months early at the Halfway to the Fair Happy Hour Fundraiser on Friday, February 8 in the Elwell Family Food Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The evening will include live music from Dueling Pianos of Andy Anderson and Mike Leeds.

What is “Dueling Pianos”? “Dueling pianos” is an event that was designed for complete crowd participation of all ages to make each and every attendee become involved or be a part of the show in one way or another. The show itself is full of music, comedy, hilarious crowd skits, dancing, videos and much, much more… The music performed during the show is all-requested songs (by the crowd) anywhere from the 1950’s to today of any genre.

Buy your $50 Admission Tickets online here or by calling the Blue Ribbon Foundation office at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371. Tickets will include all of your favorite State Fair inspired appetizers. We are talking mini corndogs, little funnel cakes, and a tasty treat with bacon. Top things off with an Iowa craft beer.

Attendees will receive information about current and upcoming renovation projects. The Blue Ribbon Foundation will also auction off a pair of NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament tickets at Wells Fargo Arena for March 21 and March 23. This is perfect for any college basketball fan.

A special thank you to our event sponsors: Corn States Metal, Great Western Bank, Mercy Health Network and Kirkham, Michael & Associates, Inc.

This exciting, brand new fundraiser will get any Fair lover excited for August. Can’t wait for you to join us!!



Save the Date

January 3, 2019
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Happy New Year! The Blue Ribbon Foundation hopes everyone had a wonderful holiday. As you start to plan for 2019, please add these dates to your calendar.

February 1: Deadline to reserve your space on the new Iowa State Fair puzzle. Want to have your personalized inscription included on a puzzle brick? For a $100 donation, you can reserve one of the 100 bricks and select your three line inscription. Let your creativity shine and forever be part of a one-of-a-kind Iowa State Fair keepsake. You’ll also receive a complimentary puzzle for your donation. Read More. 

Puzzle Side 1 and sample of Puzzle Side 2:



February 8: Halfway to the Fair Happy Hour Fundraiser - The Blue Ribbon Foundation is celebrating Iowa’s favorite summertime tradition six months early at the Halfway to the Fair Happy Hour Fundraiser. The evening will include live music from Dueling Pianos of Andy Anderson and Mike Leeds, appetizers and fundraising! Read More. 



April 15: The final day to support the Foundation on your Iowa taxes through the Corndog Checkoff program. Read More.



July 1: Deadline to submit your Iowan of the Day application. We are searching for outstanding Iowans to recognize at the 2019 Iowa State Fair. We look for individuals across the state who personify the greatness of Iowa with a strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others, and an exceptional sense of Iowa pride. Start working on your nomination form now. Read More.



July 13: Corndog Kickoff - Each July, Fair lovers whet their Iowa State Fair appetite by attending the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party. It is a fun-filled night complete with all of your Fair food favorites and a variety of unique auction packages to satisfy any State Fair enthusiast. The 2019 event theme..."Let the Competition Begin"! Read More.



August 8-18: Iowa State Fair - The Blue Ribbon Foundation is planning new and fun ways to engage donors during the Iowa State Fair! We are planning to sell new merchandise, host BINGO, and expand the water program. Stay tuned for more updates over the next 8 months.


Thank you for an amazing 2018 and cheers to an even better 2019!