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.

Building a Blue Ribbon Future

July 25, 2016
Each year the Iowa State Fairgrounds is dotted with hand-painted sculptures that resemble a Fair time favorite. The last few have included a horse, an ice cream cone, the state of Iowa and a pig. This year’s Fair time favorite statue is the branding box or logo of the Iowa State Fair. For the last few years the Blue Ribbon Foundation has had its own statue in front of the Administration Building. This year we partnered with Sticks Inc. on a design for the Foundation’s branding box statue. 
Each year the Special Events department opens a contest up to the public. Fairgoers can submit a design and then paint the design on the statue to represent their family, hometown or favorite Fair memory. The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s statue this year will be named “Building a Blue Ribbon Future”, and has your favorite Fair elements. 
The Foundation’s branding box statue will be auctioned off at the Woodcarver’s auction on Sunday, August 21st at 3 p.m. in the Penningroth Media Center located in the in John and Emily Putney Cattle Barn. Along with the Foundation’s statue, the Woodcarver’s Auction will highlight the great carvings the woodcarver’s worked on during this year’s Iowa State Fair. Each day the two woodcarvers create many different carvings showcasing their craft to Fairgoers. This is your opportunity to own one of those carvings, or the “Building a Blue Ribbon Future” statue. 
- Marcus
2016 Blue Ribbon Foundation's "Building a Blue Ribbon Future" Statue

Hilton on the Hilltop-Same Roots, Different Look!

July 21, 2016

In twenty days, the gates of the Iowa State Fairgrounds will be flooded with people from all over the country; people that are excited to see what the 2016 Iowa State Fair has to offer. As people around the Fairgrounds have been working tirelessly around the clock to get this place looking fabulous, I know it’s going to be just as great as every other year.

All my years attending the Fair have been the basic; show up, show my livestock, camp and maybe walk around a day or two. I can honestly say I didn’t realize how much work actually goes into making an event this large run. I didn’t fully appreciate the wonderful place where I end my summer every year. We never show enough gratitude for the people working behind the scenes to make sure WE, as fairgoers, have an enjoyable time.

The Oman Family Youth Inn, just days away from being ready for the Fair, has an exciting addition this year. The concrete crews have been working exceptionally hard this week to make sure a big piece of the puzzle gets done, the pouring of the lot north of the building. Due to the large amounts of rain we have received in Des Moines earlier this week, they have had to be very flexible and patient. We are fortunate enough to have had sunny weather two days in a row now so the lot should be poured soon! The opening ceremonies will be held at the Oman Family Youth Inn on August 11th at 9:00 am. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend so be sure to come see the new parking lot plus the remodeled inside of the “Hilton on the Hilltop.”

Can’t wait to see you all at the great Iowa State Fair!



Keep Calm, You're at the Iowa State Fair

July 20, 2016
Twenty one days until the great Iowa State Fair, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteers are ready to go! On July 14th over 300 volunteers gathered in the Elwell Family Food Center to share a meal, and learn their responsibilities during the fair.
It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces from the Corndog Kickoff, as well as meeting as many new people as I could.  I know I don’t know everyone by name, and it would be near impossible for me to try, but I enjoyed getting to put faces with names I’ve seen all summer.  Many of you informed me that you had been working for several years, and I thank you for retaking your pictures, signing new waivers, and your continued support of the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  
Volunteer Selfie Stick
As promised, the selfie we all took is included!  While not everyone got in the shot, I can still clearly see in my mind how many people filled the room.  Your kindness, understanding, and giving hearts is what I’ll remember about the evening.  As an event management major, this was not at all the event I had in mind when I thought about the first event I would lead on my own.  Instead of one client to make happy, I had 300+ clients.  I sincerely hope that if you were able to attend that you enjoyed the evening.  Thank you not only for volunteering, but for being involved in the first dot on my professional timeline. 
While our reception has passed, it’s not too late to volunteer for the Iowa State Fair! Spots are limited, so I encourage you to look at the schedule before registering.  If you have already registered to volunteer, but were unable to attend the reception, your packets and shirts will be mailed to you in the next week.  
I can’t wait to see all of the volunteers again in 21 days!

Hampton's Local Olympian

July 19, 2016

This week is full speed ahead as the Blue Ribbon Foundation prepares for the Iowa State Fair! Without the Corndog Kickoff or the volunteer reception, it is nice to be able to focus on our Iowans of the Day.

Last year’s Iowan of the Day winner, Dennis Carlson from Hampton, Iowa, is yet another outstanding example of Iowa’s local Olympians.

Dennis organized the “Join Hands Day,” at the Cub Cadet Childhood Center in Hampton. On this day, volunteers gathered to landscape a memorial garden for the center’s late board president, with Dennis donating the trees for the garden.

His deeds have not gone unnoticed by the community, with Dennis receiving awards such as an Honorary FFA Degree from the CAL FFA chapter and Volunteer of the Year in 2012.  

Dennis is also involved in his church’s Vacation Bible School, organizing hay rides and gardening sessions for the kids. He also dresses up each year as Ben Franklin for the 5th grade history class during their section on the American Revolution. Dennis, or Ben Franklin, does science experiments for the students and shares Franklin’s many inventions and quotes.

Dennis is always more than willing to invite students to his tree farm to learn more about forestry and nature. After funding for kids’ programming was cut from the local conservation program, Dennis stepped in to fill the void. Dennis uses puppets to teach children about the animals found in Franklin County and brings furs for them to feel.

Dennis has been described by those in the community as a servant leader. Even though the deadline to submit Iowans of the Day has passed, keep in mind your communities servant leaders for next year’s consideration.

Keep in touch to find out this year’s Iowans of the Day or catch them at the Iowa State Fair August 11-21!


Paint the Fair!

July 18, 2016
Have you ever stood on Expo Hill, and looked in amazement at the beauty of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds? If you haven’t, take a few moments during this Fair to breathe in the views and sign up for a time to paint those breath-taking sights at the painting class offered here at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Join Messy Missy’s at the 2016 Iowa State Fair for the first ever painting class held at the Fair. 
Offered twice daily during the eleven days of the Fair, Messy Missy’s will offer a new opportunity to paint your favorite scenes of the Fair. The $35 registration fee includes the canvas, brushes and paints for the hour and a half class where you will learn to paint an aspect of the Iowa State Fair. 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.
With limited seating of 40 per class, registration in advance is always advised. Please do so by visiting our online registration page. On-site registration is available 30 minutes prior to the start of each class. There are classes offered at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m. on Expo Hill, with a rain location at the Oman Family Youth Inn. Tuesday, August 16th and the morning of Thursday, August 18th classes will not be offered. If you have any questions about the new painting class, please contact Francesca
Just one of the great views of the Iowa State Fair!

Nothing Compares to My State Fair

July 14, 2016

As we wrap up the week and have calculated totals from the Corndog Kickoff, it is amazing to see the continuous support for the Blue Ribbon Foundation. This year we set a tremendous record of $684,600 and the Foundation wouldn’t have been able to do it without the 2,000 Fair-lovers that came out to join us. It was great to be a part of such an incredible event that was shared with so many people with a common interest, the love for the Iowa State Fair.

The countdown is on to the best time of the year as we are just 27 short days away from the opening day. The Iowa State Fair is one of the best in the country. It offers fun for everyone. Millions of eyes sat down to watch the TODAY show this morning and got a glimpse of one major reason why people love the Iowa State Fair, the food!  Gary Slater, Manager/CEO of the Iowa State Fair, had the privilege to appear live on the show to showcase some of the new and upcoming foods for the 2016 Fair. There may be other state fairs that are great, but to me there are none comparable to the Iowa State Fair.

As the staff at the Blue Ribbon Foundation works hard to prepare for the State Fair, I am getting anxious to see what this year has in store. This year is going to be a bit different for me as I will be seeing the Fair from a different perspective. I am so excited to be a part of the team that helps this place run. Come out and enjoy the fair August 11-21.


(My Family and I at the Corndog Kickoff)


Iowa State Fair Painting Class

July 12, 2016

The office took a sigh of relief after the close of the Corndog Kickoff. It was amazing to see the success of an event after spending so many hours of preparation.

With the Corndog Kickoff behind us, we now look ahead to the Iowa State Fair! This year, Fairgoers can participate in a painting class that is taking place daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m on Expo Hill, with a rain location at the Oman Family Youth Inn.

Missy Pieters of Messy Missy’s in Marshalltown, Iowa, will be teaching the class every day during the fair except for Tuesday, August 16 and the morning of Thursday, August 18.  The $35 registration fee includes the canvas, brushes and paints for the hour and a half class where you will learn to paint an aspect of the Iowa State Fair.

Classes hold up to 40 participants and on-site registration is available 30 minutes before each class. Fairgoers can also register for a class at the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s merchandise trailer located on Grand Avenue on the northwest corner of the Administration Building.

With so much to look forward to at the Fair, I am becoming more anxious to announce our Iowan of the Day winners! There is still so much to prepare for them and I appreciate each application I have received.

Thank you for all of your support and I’ll see you August 11-21 at the Iowa State Fair!


Exceeding Expectations

July 11, 2016
After many months of prep, planning and hard work, it is sad to say the 20th Annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party has come to a close. Beyond the eight staff members that worked countless hours to make the event a success, it was the volunteers and the patrons that truly made this year’s Corndog Kickoff the best yet!
With over 2,000 people in attendance, and some of our most dedicated donors, this year’s Corndog Kickoff will be known for breaking records. Last year’s Kickoff set a new standard, and this year’s shattered the mold. While the final tally is still being figured, we know that the Kickoff raised over $600,000. Being involved in the organization, planning and the behind the scenes work, it was great to see the auction conclude with such great enthusiasm!  
As we are putting our follow-up lists and things to look for next year together, the staff here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation wants to thank everyone for their contributions at this year’s Corndog Kickoff. Whether you volunteered, attended, donated items, bidded and/or enjoyed the great Fair foods available, the 20th Annual Corndog Kickoff could not have been the success that it was without your help! THANK YOU!!!!
Rags to Riches 2016!!!

The Story Behind a Hometown Tradition

July 5, 2016

I hope everyone enjoyed Independence Day and ate their fair share of hot dogs. This Saturday you can enjoy a corndog by attending the Corndog Kickoff! The office has been much busier this morning preparing for the event after the long weekend.

As I continue highlighting past Iowans of the Day, I am amazed by how many Iowans have impacted their communities. One couple, Richard and Juanita Schillig from Bettendorf, Iowa, started a tradition that has continued since 1994.

The Schilligs started the 5K fundraiser “Run with Carl,” to honor their son’s life and his love of running. The race grew to include a 5 mile run, 5K walk/run, a one mile run and a half mile fun run. The money raised at the event goes to the Carl D. Schillig memorial fund that provides scholarships to Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf High School graduates. Through the memorial, over 30 students have benefitted from the $4000 raised.

The couple is also involved in numerous community organizations including S.U.M.M.I.T., a program to help troubled youth by exposing them to possible career opportunities, and their local church through cooking meals for various events. The couple was also awarded the Humanitarian Award from the Cornbelt Running Club for their volunteer work and community mindedness.

The deadline to choose Iowans of the Day has passed, but I can’t wait to see which ten Iowans will be recognized at the 2016 Iowa State Fair! Now the fourth of July has passed, the Iowa State Fair is right around the corner and I have so much work to do to prepare for our winners. But first, we have to get through the Kickoff. See you July 9!


Good Times and Good Guys!

June 30, 2016

As I sit and reflect on the week that we have had here in the office, I can’t help but realize how great this place truly is. The Iowa State Fair had an all staff meeting where we got to learn the ins and outs of the Fair before it starts. We talked about the value of each employee, volunteer, and individual that walks through the gates of the Fairgrounds. Without one piece of the puzzle, the State Fair wouldn’t be complete.

One thing I really enjoy about working on the Fairgrounds this summer is seeing the different events that utilize this beautiful piece of land. We are in the office working on Corndog Kickoff items while hundreds of other people are working all across the Fairgrounds to prepare for the Goodguys 25th Heartland Nationals car show that starts tomorrow. This is an event where over 4,000 Rods, Customs, Classics, Muscle Cars and Trucks built before 1972 will be showcased for 3 days. While we take pride in the State Fair, these people take pride in their cars!

The Sky Glider is put together, various vendors are in place and the security is running this week at the Fairgrounds. With that combination, there is only one thing I think of, the great Iowa State Fair! While there are only 41 days left until the Fair, we are getting a sneak peak of the craziness. Thousands of people will flood the gates of the Fairgrounds starting tomorrow, July 1 through Sunday, July 3. Stop out to see some of the coolest cars around. Also, Corndog Kickoff tickets go up to $100 each tomorrow so be sure to purchase them today at the discounted price.