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.

Nominate a "Local Olympian" today!

June 14, 2016

This week marks a much calmer week without the World Pork Expo on the Fairgrounds. As strange as it was to see the Fairgrounds filled, it’s just as strange to see the Fairgrounds bare again too.

Two weeks from this Friday marks the last day to submit Iowan of the Day nominations. As much as I’ve loved reading through old nominations, I can’t wait to see this year’s Iowan of the Day winners.

Caroline Lehman of New London, Iowa is the fifth and halfway point of my 2015 Iowan of the Day spotlights.

Lehman is best known for her work as curator for the Dover Museum in New London. Lehman creates exhibits and goes above and beyond to educate the New London community about Iowa’s history. Through the State Historical Society of Iowa, Lehman worked to bring a traveling exhibit about Iowa’s involvement in the Civil War to New London. Lehman was also influential in getting a railroad depot moved across Iowa to place in the Dover Museum’s railroad collection.

If this wasn’t enough, Lehman served as a committee chair for the 175th annual celebration of New London’s founding. During the celebration, the event honored local veterans and brought the community together.

Lehman also volunteers with her church, works with the local wellness center, serves as secretary of the Henry County Historic Preservation Commission and prepares food for shut-ins and funeral dinners. Lehman’s work has not gone unnoticed by the community as she was recognized as Citizen of the Year in 2009.

People from across Iowa do outstanding things for their community and through this program we’re striving to “celebrate local Olympians.” If you know of someone who deserves recognition, consider nominating them as Iowan of the Day! I would love to see more applications than I have been receiving and would appreciate your help in spreading the word. Tell your friends, family and coworkers to nominate a community member today!


I've Got My List

June 13, 2016
Today marks 25 days left until the 20th Annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party! Everyone here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been busy working on different aspects of the event to make it all come together. I have been busy over the last week organizing the auction items into packages. Along with that, I have been busy figuring out which items and donations we have to pick up. In about an hour I will leave to pick up a few donated items including a donation from the Des Moines Symphony. The Symphony has donated six tickets to any Masterworks Series in the 2016-2017 season and some great souvenirs, in the silent auction package, A Symphony Season.
Being surrounded by over 200 silent auction and 30 live auction packages for the last few days has been quite interesting. My desk has never seemed smaller and I have gone through about 500 paper clips to keep everything organized. With all of this, I have been able to scope out some of my favorite auction packages. I have invited my father to attend and bid on a few silent auction packages that I think our family needs. Some of them include the Beer Couch VIP, High Trestle Trail, Ducks on the Pond and Fore the Night. These are just some of the great auction packages you can expect some competition on at the Corndog Kickoff. 
Make sure to check our Auction page for updates on both our Live and Silent auction packages. The auction book will be finalized and sent out in the next few weeks, soon enough your list will match mine. If you have any questions or comments on the Corndog Kickoff, or any of our many great programs, please use our contact form. Thank you and see all of you in less than a month!
Look forward to this beautiful view as you bid on the High Trestle Trail silent auction package. 

Obsessively, Relentlessly at Your Service!

June 9, 2016

With World Pork Expo in full swing, the fairgrounds have been a bit crazy. Coming from a livestock background, events like this get me fired up. I love seeing people from all over the world come to the east side of Des Moines to learn and partake in all the activities the World Pork Expo has to offer. With a large event like this and the State Fair of course, the Fairgrounds use an unbelievable amount of energy.

Recently, the Fairgrounds electrical department was fortunate enough to participate in a rebate program through MidAmerican Energy and received a $71,300 check. The Fair was able to accept 568 LED two inch by four inch troughers that have little to no maintenance and last up to 8 years. To be considered for this program, the fixtures had to be bought by December 2015. The troughers don’t have light bulbs so they don’t require a great amount of upkeep. The William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building will be the home for all 568 of the lights. In order to be able to put the LED lights in a building, they have a requirement that the lights have to burn for 1,000 hours. Since the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building is highly used, it qualified for the program.

The William C. Knapp Varied Industries is also where the Blue Ribbon Foundation holds their upcoming Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party. Be sure to check out the new lights that MidAmerican Energy has supplied to the Fair. If you haven’t purchased your tickets, be sure to do that at, by calling (800)450-3732 or at the door the night of the event. 

Charlie Crawford, Robin, and Mitch Frazier - Key Account Manager for MidAmerican

(Inside the Varied Industries Building at the World Pork Expo)


Adventures in Pork

June 8, 2016
The Fairgrounds have come alive this week! The World Pork Expo has taken over the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  While we continue working on the Corndog Kickoff and the Fair, outside the office is the hustle and bustle of business, education, old friends, and families.  The William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building, Agriculture Building, Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center, the Grand Concourse, and all of the barns are full with the record breaking 6,000 pre-entry hogs and over 1,000 exhibitors.  
Before a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know that there even was a World Pork Expo, let alone that it happened on the Fairgrounds.  Today my “pork adventure” started with much more traffic on the east side.  People with parking passes were passing me on the interstate, and I think I timed my wait on University at 10 minutes.  Even taking the mail to the Administration Building was more interesting than usual as I dodged golf carts and strollers.  The other interns and I are also excited to ditch our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for free lunch at “The Big Grill” for the rest of the week.  On the menu today was ribs and pulled pork, in case you need another reason to be jealous of the great summer we’re having as Blue Ribbon Foundation interns.
If you’re going to be missing out on the World Pork Expo this year, you can still get your full of pork at the Corndog Kickoff on July 9.  In addition to the pork chop on a stick you can munch on, there are some great auction packages involving the other white meat.  In the silent auction you could be the lucky winner of the “Pig Out” basket that includes a $150 gift card for Berkshire Pork fresh products and a ceramic “meat” pig showing where all the cuts originate.  If you’re a fan of the Pork Tent during the Fair, you might consider bidding on “A Fair Experience” which includes lunch with Governor Branstad provided by the Pork Tent. 
I'm looking forward to the rest of my first World Pork Expo adventure, if you've never been check it out this week!
The World Pork Expo takes over the Fairgrounds!

Recognizing Outstanding Iowans

June 7, 2016

As the deadline to submit Iowan of the Day applications quickly approaches on July 1, I’ve had more time to look over the accomplishments of our past winners.

2015 winner Elaine Bohling from Greenfield, Iowa is an outstanding role model for the youth in her community.

Elaine spearheads the youth action committee in Fontanelle, Iowa and led a team of local youth to apply for and receive three grants to renovate the “Fontanelle slab.” The slab, which once served as a hang-out to play basketball and roller-skate, had turned into an eye sore before Elaine and her youth committee restored the local favorite. Along with this project, Elaine and the youth plant flowers around Fontanelle each year for residents to enjoy.

As a 4H leader for over 15 years, Elaine helps to organize volunteers for the popstand at the local fair as well as workshops for her club. Elaine is a co-founder and volunteer of Pride of Iowa and has served as both a State and Area 4H Awards interviewer and 4H judge.  

Elaine also takes ten days off of work each year to volunteer at the Iowa State Fair! As if this wasn’t enough, Elaine helps with her church’s bible school, is a member of Friends of the Library, ushers for the Des Moines Playhouse and serves Thanksgiving dinner at the Machine Shed.

It’s easy to see why Elaine was named an Iowan of the Day. If you know of anyone who gives their time to serve others and their community, nominate them today! Applications have been coming in more slowly and I would love to read more about all the wonderful things Iowans do for this great state.

Thanks for reading and I can't wait for all those Iowan of the Day applications!


Golfing for Good

June 6, 2016
This past weekend, Central Iowa was full of great things to fill up the weekend and to enjoy the beautiful weather. As the Downtown Farmers’ Market is in full swing, a successful Dam to Dam made possible by thousands of runners and volunteers concluded, and a record attendance at the Principal Charity Classic broken, it was great to see the support by all Iowans. 
The 2016 Principal Charity Classic saw some of the best participation in recent years. This year had 81 PGA TOUR Champions players, nearly 130 amateurs in the Pro Am, and almost 1,200 volunteers to make it all happen. A little over 83,000 attendees made the Classic even more special, adding to the outstanding work and charity for local nonprofits. This year’s Birdies for Charity saw another record of 883 birdies, with total charitable contributions to be determined. 
As Scott McCarron clinched the purse yesterday, excitement built for the 2017 Principal Charity Classic. You can gain exclusive access to some of best seats and great golf in 2017 if you bid on the Tournament Host silent auction package at the 20th Annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction. On July 9th, don’t miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime as you can golf the beautiful Wakonda Club golf course and prepare yourself for the 2017 Principal Charity Classic with exclusive Fareway Club passes! 
Thank you to all of the supporters of the Birdies For Charity and don’t forget to attend the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party! To purchase tickets to the Kickoff, please visit our Ticket page, and to preview some of the silent auction packages, please visit our Silent Auction page.
John Daly approaching the 10th tee box to kick off his second day of the 2016 Principal Charity Classic!
View from the Fareway Club. Look forward to this view as you bid on the Tournament Host silent auction package at this year's Corndog Kickoff! 

Time Flies When You're Havin' Fun

June 2, 2016

The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” definitely has a meaning this summer. When working on my projects at the Foundation, I tell myself I have plenty of time, but in reality the summer is going by quickly. We are down to 36 days until the Corndog Kickoff and 69 days until the great Iowa State Fair.  It seems like yesterday I was walking in the front doors of our earth home office and we had 95 days until the Fair. Although I have gotten a number of things done since I’ve been here, it puts in perspective just how fast days can go by when you are working toward a great summer filled with awesome events.

Since 1997, the Foundation has been holding the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party. This is a fun-filled pre-Fair celebration that offers a live and silent auction, Fair food favorites, Sky Glider rides, and fireworks.  This is the largest fundraiser that the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosts and since 1997 has helped raise over $4.4 million to put towards renovations of the beloved Iowa State Fairgrounds. In 2005 I got the opportunity to attend this great event and I can tell you I am thrilled to be a member of the team that makes it all possible. We have over 230 silent auction and almost 30 live auction packages this year for the 20th annual celebration.  All hands are on deck this week at the office proofing materials and putting final pieces together for the event.

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time or at the door the night of the event. Until June 30th tickets are $75 each and after that they bump up to $100. You will not want to miss this unique opportunity to share in our “Locally Grown” traditions before the fair starts.

Speaking of upcoming events on the Fairgrounds, the Iowa Pork Producers and National Pork Board have been working hard to prepare for the World Pork Expo which starts next week. Be sure to swing by and check out this incredible event filled with thousands of people, great food and top-of-the-line hogs.



(Early days of the Corndog Kickoff held in Pioneer Hall)


Oman Family Youth Inn

June 1, 2016
What exactly does the Blue Ribbon Foundation do?  Our website says, “The Blue Ribbon Foundation is a non-profit organization raising funds to help preserve and improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds.” This answers the basic question of why the Foundation is here, but is that really what people want to know when they ask?  
During my interview I was asked if I knew what the Foundation did. Because I had read the website, I answered confidently that I did.  After getting to know the Foundation as an intern, I think that examples better describe all that the Foundation has done, and continues to do.  
Yes, the Foundation raises funds, that’s why it was created.  We have many sponsors during the Fair, large capital donations, and many giving programs.  Our giving programs include purchasing light posts, plaques for trees, bricks, pavers, and blocks in the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center.  These giving programs tell a story though.  Individuals call or visit the office all the time, not intending to “preserve and improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds,” but to honor a loved one or beloved tradition.  To the people of Iowa, the Fairgrounds are not seen as a money making event complex, it’s where they’ve made memories.  Honoring and preserving these memories is what the Foundation makes possible.  
Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with Jill Oman, who told me about the memories she and her husband Mark were honoring with the renaming of the Oman Family Youth Inn.  Being community minded people the Omans wanted to make a difference and help the entire state. They realized that the best way to do this would be by supporting the Iowa State Fair.  Jill and Mark love how the Fair brings together everyone’s talents from across Iowa to be showcased.  The Youth Inn will particularly help young people across the state, who Jill admires for working hard towards their different projects.  
The Oman Family Youth Inn was built as a Works Project Administration project between 1939-1942.  The facilities include bunk beds, showers, and a kitchen and cafeteria area that hundreds of young exhibitors call home during the Fair.  The Blue Ribbon Foundation makes a difference on the Fairgrounds, but also with all of the Fairgoers who are able to continue making memories. This summer specifically, the Foundation’s work can be seen as the Oman Family Youth Inn is reopened, and is once again deserving of the title “Hilton on the Hilltop.”  

Birdies for Charity Celebrities

May 31, 2016

The first day back from a long weekend brings the first day of the Principal Charity Classic!

Birdies for Charity, a portion of the Principal Charity Classic, is taking place May 31 to June 5 at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines. There’s still time to pledge to the Blue Ribbon Foundation through the Principal Charity Classic website. For all of you unfamiliar with the sport of golf, a birdie is one stroke less than par and par is the average amount of strokes per hole. Through the fundraiser, people can pledge a certain amount per birdie at the Principal Charity Classic. The money pledged through Birdies for Charity goes to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation's mission of preserving and renovating the Iowa State Fairgrounds with current projects like the Oman Family Youth Inn.

2015 was the most profitable year for charities with the event raising over $1.4 million. This Principal Charity Classic also saw over 77,000 attendees, so enjoy the nice weather this week and head out to the Wakonda Club to watch golf celebrities play!

These celebrities include last year’s Classic winner Mark Calcavecchia as well as John Daly, both of whom have won the British Open. After winning the Classic last year, Calcavecchia received bacon inspired slacks and a bacon belt, both of which he fully intends on wearing this year.

Other celebrities that will be in attendance include 18 golfers who won majors from the PGA Tour Champions as well as the winners of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship and the Allianz Championship.

You don’t want to miss out on this great event, and we can’t wait to see this year’s results. Enjoy watching the Principal Charity Classic Birdies for Charity!


Golfing and Giving

May 26, 2016

I am closing in on week 3 working at the Blue Ribbon Foundation and this place is definitely a “birdie.” A “birdie” is one stroke better than par in the game of golf. My internship experience has been anything but par over the last three weeks. The love and passion for the Iowa State Fair and the Foundation that fills the air is incredible. Learning about different areas and the history of the Foundation has been very eye opening.

 One of the greatest features of the Foundation is that it targets people of all ages and offers giving programs to accommodate all different levels. One of our newest giving programs is the partnership with the Principal Charity Classic’s “Birdies for Charity” fundraiser. Supporters can make a pledge based on the number of “birdies” made by Champions Tour players during the 2016 Principal Charity Classic, May 31-June 5. For more information, visit The Principal Charity Classic website.

Years ago, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosted a golf outing as a way to show appreciation for our current donors. This was also a way for the Foundation to meet with some prospective donors to discuss what new projects were happening on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. 2008 was the last golf outing and this is the second year partnering with Principal Charity Classic’s Birdies for Charity program.

Thank you for continuing to show your love and support for the Blue Ribbon Foundation. Check out more information on our website


(BRF staff and Interns at the 2006 golf outing)