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.

Meet Francesca, the 2016 Donor Relations Intern!

May 12, 2016

Hello, I’m Francesca Mittag!


Growing up on a small acreage outside of Parkersburg, Iowa, where my family currently runs a boer goat operation, has been one of the biggest blessings. The influence of agriculture has been deeply embedded into my roots for as long as I can remember. From showing livestock, exhibiting projects and camping at the local county fair, to winning a national livestock show, we have done it all. While all that has been wonderful, my most memorable moments come from spending time at the great, Iowa State Fair. Whether it’s being in the livestock barn, making countless memories with new and old friends or enjoying food on a stick, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a family tradition. 


The Iowa State Fair is one of my favorite things, but wearing cardinal and gold while cheering on the Cyclones is a close second. Going into my senior year at Iowa State University, majoring in Agriculture Communications, I can’t think of a better second “family” to be a part of. I am an active member of the Iowa State University Block and Bridle Club where I served as the 2015-2016 Goat interest group president, a philanthropy committee member and currently am a tri-chair for the Little North American showmanship contest. Block and Bridle has given me a broad cross-section of opportunities and I can’t wait to see what my senior year brings.


I have the pleasure of being the summer 2016 donor relations intern for the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. I have jumped right into my projects and I can tell you, it’s going to be an exciting summer! I will be working with Peter and Drew a majority of my time on a variety of different activities and events with again, donors as my primary focus. I have been designing items for the Corndog Kickoff and Legislative Day, and have begun sorting concert club tickets to the incredible entertainment acts the 2016 Iowa State Fair has to offer. The office has been in full swing as all the interns are in place.


I look forward to meeting many new faces this summer and sharing in our “locally grown” traditions.



(Posing with my family for a photo!)

(Me on the right!) 

Have a great day! 


Meet the Volunteer Relations Intern

May 11, 2016
I’m Kelsey Warfield, and I am the 2016 volunteer relations intern! 
I will be a junior at Iowa State University this fall, working towards an event management degree, with a minor in dance. I hope to someday blend these two passions by planning events for an association or nonprofit that focuses on dance.  
Dancing in the parade, and on numerous stages throughout the Fairgrounds was always fun, but it’s not where my love with the Iowa State Fair began. My dad will proudly tell you that he carried me all over my first Fair, because he refused to bring the stroller for a ten month old. I remember watching the Cowgirl Queen crowning in awe, sobbing at the top of the giant slide when I realized my phobia of heights, and falling in love with corn dogs. Actually, The Iowa State Fair is probably responsible for my hatred of school food that lasted until middle school. In kindergarten, we got a lunch menu for the month. I was so excited that my favorite food, corn dogs, would be one of our first meals at school. This corn dog, however, this was not at all a Campbell’s corn dog! Needless to say, I went hungry that day, and never ate a corndog outside of the Fair ever again.  Despite the school lunch fiasco, I have grown to love the Fair more and more every year.
This summer I will be working with all of the volunteers for our many events! This includes the Corndog Kickoff, the Fairgrounds 5K, and of course, the Iowa State Fair. I was so happy on my first day to see that I already had a full email inbox of people wanting to help! As a volunteer you help the Blue Ribbon Foundation make the most impact possible with the funds available. Our giving programs are a great way to leave your name on the fairgrounds, but I like to think that volunteering leaves just as large of an impact.  A friendly smile can change the world! If you’d like to get involved, send me an email at  I can’t wait to meet all of our incredible volunteers!
Wax hands at the Fair (I'm on the right!)

Spotlight on 2015 Iowan of the Day winner Jary Quandt

May 10, 2016

As all the Blue Ribbon Foundation interns are in this week, it marks the first week of summer! Working full time has given me plenty of time to chip away at my Iowan of the Day to do list.

One project I’ve started is reviewing the Iowan of the Day applications from previous years. It’s amazing to see how many selfless people live in Iowa and strive to make this state even better.

One example is 2015 winner Jary Quandt from Westside, Iowa! Jary is the Feed Production Supervisor for FAC cooperative in Arcadia, Iowa. He also started his own lawn care business in 1986 that he is still running today. Through all of this Jary still manages to deliver the Sunday newspaper.

Jary is very active in his local church by serving on the pastoral relations committee and helping with Vacation Bible School. Jary shows up early every Sunday to unlock the church and prepare communion before the services begin.

Serving the public in many ways, Jary is on the Westside City Council and focuses on economic development. Jary has also served for over 25 years as a volunteer fire fighter, and organized a New Year’s Eve steak supper to raise money for the Westside Fire Department. As if this wasn’t enough, Jary also helps during football games and manage a little league team.

Jary’s community can rely on Jary to help whenever they need it. In turn, Jary got to reap the benefits of being an Iowan of the Day at the 2015 Iowa State Fair!

“The experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity and showed me that Iowans really do appreciate things you do for them. The event was very well organized and it was an honor to be a part of the Iowan of the Day program,” Jary said.

If you know anyone who volunteers their time to make their community a better place, consider nominating them as the Iowan of the Day!


Big things are Happening

May 9, 2016
Over the last two weeks I have been quite busy, not only at the Foundation, but in my spare time as well. We have been receiving many auction donations for the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction. Of course we are still accepting auction items, so if you know of a great piece that showcases the “locally grown” theme of the Kickoff, please consider donating to our event.
In my spare time over the last few weeks, I have been busy working on graduating from college! I have been finishing up final papers and presenting about the great learning opportunities I have had while here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  This last Saturday, I walked across the stage along with some of my closest friends, to get the diploma I have been working so hard for. I have many people to thank, including my parents and the staff here at the Foundation. I have learned a lot since starting here and it is great to see some results of my work so far. 
Today also marks the first day with all four interns in the office. I am excited to see how the Foundation will benefit from the wonderful people in addition. Please remember to send in auction items by this Friday, May 13th for recognition in the auction booklet. Patron donations will be accepted until the week prior to the Corndog Kickoff. The sooner the better with patron donations, so you will be recognized in our event materials. Please feel free to check out our website for further details.
Only 2 months left until the Corndog Kickoff, are you ready?

Gift ideas and update

May 2, 2016

May is a busy and wonderful month of the year! Weekends are filled with graduation ceremonies and parties as graduates embark on the next adventure of their lives. Check out the Iowa State Fair store to order your graduation gift!

Mother’s Day is also this Sunday. If you’re looking for a way to honor the mothers in your life, the Iowa State Fair store has plenty of merchandise to get your mom in preparation for the Iowa State Fair! If your mom has gone above and beyond to care for not only her family, but her community, consider nominating her as an Iowan of the Day.

I sent out the last mailings for the Iowan of the Day today, so I get to check off another item on my summer to-do list. Finals are this week for Iowa State students and the rest of the summer interns for the Blue Ribbon Foundation start working full-time next week! I can’t wait for the summer ahead.

The more I work at the fair, the more I familiarize myself with the grounds. Last week I got to take a walk to the Youth Inn to check out the progress made on the renovation. It’s amazing how much I never noticed about the fair before.

If you haven’t already, be sure to mark your calendars for August 11-21, and I’ll see you at the fair!


First Iowan of the Day nomination

April 26, 2016

Wow, where has time gone? Next week is finals and also my last week as being a part time intern! The closer we get to August 11, the busier our office gets!

One way were getting more busy is through auction donations for the Corndog Kickoff. It seems as if there is something for everyone, sports tickets for both Cyclones and Hawkeyes, golf rounds all across Iowa and tickets to Knoxville Nationals. We have donations from Thelma's, known for the world's best ice cream sandwiches in my opinion and items from the self-proclaimed "Greatest store in the universe" by Raygun. To add to the list are donations of art, tickets to concerts and tours of breweries. The Corndog Kickoff truly has it all!

To my pleasant surprise, I received my first Iowan of the Day nomination! I have attached an image of the mailing because I am in awe of the beautiful penmanship, handwriting is a lost art for my generation and its the first time I am sad to see it go. Aside from that, its never too early to nominate someone as the Iowan of the Day and I love reading through the applications! It's amazing to see how many communities thrive because of the people in it.

I hope you have all had time to enjoy this beautiful weather, which makes studying for finals that much harder.




ABC's to the Corndog Kickoff Part 2

April 21, 2016
Last week, I highlighted twelve items that have been donated to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Corndog Kickoff and Fair Food Grazing Party. This week, I will finish out my ABC’s to the Corndog Kickoff. With the help of local businesses, surrounding companies, and even other state fairs, we have some fantastic items to auction off this year! We are always looking for that unique piece that would stand out in our auction. Along with the unique pieces, we are also in need of anything that would go great in a silent auction package, or that is in line with the “Locally Grown” theme.
M is for the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, which donated a Family Fun Pack consisting of admission tickets to the Minnesota State Fair and coupon book.
N is for Michael Nieters, who contributed three hand carved statues that are sure to show the true craftsmanship of this Iowan. 
O is for Old Time Portraits, which donated a portrait to be taken during the 2016 Iowa State Fair. Be sure to stop by the Foundation water stand right next door to Old Time Portraits and pick up a bottle of Mountain Valley Spring Water, while using this donation. 
P is for Peace Tree Brewing. This local brewery donated a behind the scenes tour and tasting of their craft beers. No better way to show your support for a “locally grown” product than with this auction item. 
Q is for Quilted Gardens & Nursery, which donated a Northwind Maple Tree, and a Christmas Wreath to make your holidays even more special.
R is for Raygun. Raygun has put their mark on Iowa and Kansas with crowd pleasing apparel and books that show a unique view on the history of each state. These items are sure to catch your eye in an auction package this year.
S is for the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club. The 4-Hers have created many Iowa-themed items that highlight the work that they do in their community. 
T is for Thelma’s Treats, which donated a dozen of their coveted cookies. These are sure to please any crowd at your next holiday or party.
U is for the University of Iowa Athletic Department, which donated 2 tickets to the Iowa vs. Dakota State football game and 2 tickets to a Men’s Basketball weeknight Big10 game. 
V is for the Van & Bonnie Show and iHeart Media which donated an exclusive “sit-in” on the morning talk show. Be sure to say hello to our media partners at WHO Radio while there. 
W is for Wild Rose Entertainment, which donated a fantastic package. Included is dinner for two at Coaches Corner, a two-night stay, slot play at their Jefferson location and apparel to make the weekend getaway even more memorable. 
As you can see, I don’t currently have anything for X, Y, or Z. If you know of anyone that would be willing donate an item to help me finish out my list, please direct them to our website. If there is an item that doesn’t start with those letters, the Foundation will gladly accept the donation. If you have any questions about anything I have mentioned, please feel free to contact us using our contact form
These are just a few of the many great gift cards, and certificates that will make up the auction packages. 

Nominate Someone for Iowan of the Day!

April 19, 2016

The more I work in the office, the more interesting things happen.

Governor Branstad stopped by to use the phone, which caught me a little off guard needless to say.

And the more I send mailings about the Iowan of the Day program, the more responses I receive! It’s never too early to nominate and after you send those nominations my way, tell all of your friends to nominate someone they know as well. The more the merrier! If you’re not sure who to nominate, we are seeking community members who go above and beyond the call to volunteer. We want anyone who is passionate about making the world around them a better place and someone who lives Iowa values on a daily basis.

Today I think I finally came up with a theme for my media kits and the warm weather has me worrying less about finals and more about the summer ahead. I'm sure the warm weather also has farmers looking ahead as planting season begins! In the words of my father, planting is a sprint and harvest is a marathon, so good luck to all farmers out there.


ABC's to the Corndog Kickoff

April 15, 2016
As donations for the 20th Annual Corndog Kickoff come in, I can start to realize how big of a job it is to organize this event and how much work is put into making the auction one to remember. On Monday this last week, I counted 35 donations to come in and that is just a drop in the bucket compared to all of the great donations we have received for the Kickoff. Of course as the Corndog Kickoff approaches, we are still accepting donation and patron forms. If you know of a potential auction donation or potential patron, please urge them to visit our website or contact us. We are always looking for that unique piece that would stand out in our auction. Along with the unique pieces, we are also in need of anything that would go great in a silent auction package, or that is in line with the “Locally Grown” theme. I can give you a glimpse of what we already have for donations, in my ABC’s of the Corndog Kickoff.
A is for the Ankeny Golf and Country Club, which donated a round of golf at one of the more exclusive clubs around.
B is for a ride in Tom Brien’s “Blue Ribbon Cadillac” during the 2016 Iowa State Fair Parade. 
C is for Casey’s General Stores, they have donated gas cards to go in many of our auction packages so you can have free travel to the great destinations throughout Iowa. 
D is for Bob Dorr and the Blue Band, no better way to support a “locally grown” band then through this auction. 
E is for Elrod Timber, out of Ankeny, Sam and Jamie are local artists highlighting Iowa in their work. 
F is for the Fox Ridge Golf Course, which donated a round of golf at one of the most picturesque courses I have had the opportunity to play.
G is for the Grout Museum District in Waterloo, Iowa. Make sure to visit my alma mater while you see the great exhibits throughout the entire museum complex.  
H is for Hoyt Sherman Place, which donated four tickets to a show at the historic venue. 
I is for Iowa State University Athletic Department, which generously donated 4 suite-level tickets to the ISU vs. Oklahoma football game.
J is for the John Wayne Birthplace Museum; experience what it is like to live the life of John Wayne with these great tickets.
K is for Knoxville Raceway which donated tickets to the Knoxville Nationals. Make August that much better by going to the Knoxville Nationals before heading back to Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair!
L is for the Logan-Missouri Valley Country Club; make sure to add Logan, IA to your next trip by hitting the links at this prestigious golf club. 
These are just a few of the fantastic auction items donated to the Corndog Kickoff. Next week I will finish out the ABC’s of the Corndog Kickoff. Please go check out the donor’s websites and Facebook pages that are linked to their names! I look forward to see what else the Corndog Kickoff has in store. 
A few more items to go in auction packages for this year's Corndog Kickoff!

Intern Firsts

April 12, 2016

Another day, another dollar.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation received a package today for the Corndog Kickoff that was my favorite of all we have received, and will probably show my true journalistic colors. It was the “Directory of Iowa’s Best Ma & Pa Restaurants,” and, “Our Iowa, Picture-Perfect Views of Its Beauty and Bounty,” both publications that stemmed from the magazine Our Iowa. I’m personally a fan of this magazine since it was started by Iowa State Alumni Roy Reiman. Looking through one issue provides so many reasons why we should be proud to be from Iowa. If you haven’t considered attending the Corndog Kickoff, you should! Aside from this package the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been receiving so many more.

Today was a pretty special day for me as I sent out my first mailings asking for Iowan of the Day nominations! As I pressed the send button I had a surprisingly satisfactory feeling. I’m looking forward to reading all of the nominations I will receive soon. Nominations are being accepted until July 1, so there is still plenty of time to nominate someone you know! Ask your friends to nominate, post on social media about the Blue Ribbon Foundation and maybe you can see someone you know have their hard work and community mindedness pay off.

As the end of the summer approaches, the more questions about the Iowa State Fair I have! Marcus, the sponsor relations intern and I had a nice conversation today about what this summer entails. Marcus has previously served on the water patrol for the Iowa State Fair. Be sure to mark your calendars from August 11-21 and look out for me when you’re at the Fair!