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.

Recipes

November 7, 2016
The Iowa State Fair hosts the largest food department of any state fair and continued to grow this past August by adding 31 new food contests at the Elwell Family Food Center. More than 9,925 entries were submitted for judging - divided into 203 divisions and 809 classes. A record breaking 197 pies were entered. There was a total of 649 exhibitors featured in the food department for the 2016 Fair and $72,700 worth of premiums distributed.
 
These award winning recipes are showcased in the official Iowa State Fair cookbook. The Blue Ribbon Foundation currently has the 16th, 17th and 18th edition cookbooks for sale. You’ll discover fresh, new ideas for everything from main dishes to appetizers, pies to cakes, soups to salads, desserts to snacks. These cookbooks represent the talented and dedicated food department exhibitors.
 
Packed with recipes for anyone’s taste and culinary skill level, this book is perfect for the novice cook or experienced chef. I was thumbing through the newest edition and found two recipes that might give a twist to your upcoming Thanksgiving meal – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars and Sour Cream & Onion Turkey Meatballs. As I prepare to host my very first Thanksgiving dinner – I’m looking for any and all suggestions to make my cooking experience fun and unique. 
 
The very first Iowa State Fair Cookbook, Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Recipes, was released in 1983. While the book has evolved over the years, its purpose has remained the same; to highlight the Iowa State Fair Food Department.
 
One very special person in the food department is Arlette Hollister.  Arlette has been a mainstay in the food department at the Iowa State Fair for nearly 30 years. Arlette and her family have been attending the Iowa State Fair for more than 50 years, and she has spent every Fair since the summer of 1986 as the Food Department Superintendent. Through Arlette's efforts, the food department has grown from 27 divisions to 228 divisions and entries have increased from 4,053 to 10,597.
 
Arlette helps coordinate the Foundation’s special food judging Corndog Kickoff packages. This year’s winners helped judge the “Seafood Prepared in the Heartland” contest and the “Tassel Ridge Creation” contest. These were just two of the five judging opportunities that attendees could bid on during the silent auction. Keep this in mind for the 2017 Corndog Kickoff, there are sure to be different food judging packages available at the July event.  
 
The Iowa State Fair is 275 days away, leaving plenty of time to spend in the kitchen perfecting a new recipe. Let one of these cookbooks be your guide for delicious food from Iowa’s favorite summer activity!
 
 
 
 
One of my favorite things to see in the food department is the fancy decorated cakes. 
 
 

November Calendar

November 1, 2016

It is the first day of November and a beautiful 72 degrees outside. I love this weather!

Yesterday I was able to finish laying the engraved bricks. With inscriptions of “1st State Fair” and “Food Family & Fun Traditions”, the engraved bricks are just one of the many ways to commemorate your love of the Iowa State Fair. There were also several “In Memory of” bricks. Families celebrate loved ones by honoring their memory on the Fairgrounds.

Engraved bricks will be placed again in the summer. Check out the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s website for a complete list of giving programs. This is the perfect was to show your love of the Iowa State Fair while supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission.  Side note: Engraved bricks would make excellent Christmas presents for any Fairgoers on your list.

This week my computer’s hard drive malfunctioned. Fortunately all of the information is saved, but I am without my computer until the problem is fixed. I’ve moved my work to a summer intern’s desk. It’s the same desk I sat at when I was an intern five years ago. Each year the internship program continues to grow and develop with each student that fills the position. I’m excited to see more applications this month.

As I look ahead to the weeks of November, the calendar is filling up. The Foundation will start making plans for our annual Holiday Party, organize our end-of-year giving efforts and have the first brainstorming session about the 2017 Corndog Kickoff. (Save the date for July 8!)

This fall, the Fan Fair program is back in action for 2017. Once again, for each $150 contribution made to the Fan Fair program, you become eligible to purchase 2 Grandstand show tickets during a special presale. I’m excited to hear who will be taking the stage in August.

In only 9 shorts days, I will take a personal vacation to Orlando. I’m excited for a change of scenery even with this gorgeous weather. At the end of the month - Peter, Gina and other State Fair staff will attend the International Association of Fairs & Expositions Convention is Las Vegas.  The Annual Convention is the largest event serving fairs, shows, exhibitions, and expositions. Convention attendees network and learn from each other and top professionals during the intensive four days of workshops, special seminars, round table discussions, and social events.

Just a reminder, the Fairgrounds are open year round to the public. Feel free to swing through the grounds to see changing leaves on the trees or current construction projects. Don’t forget to stop by our office to say hello. 

 

Internship Opportunities

October 24, 2016

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is currently promoting our upcoming internship opportunities. We hope to hire two spring semester/summer interns and two summer interns. DISCLAIMER: This is not your typical internship.

Each intern will become a true member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team, having direct responsibility for integral Foundation programs with the goal of making sure committed donors have a strong and lasting relationship with the Iowa State Fair. The Foundation would not be successful without the help of our summer interns. Since the internship program started in 1993, the positions have adjusted to fit our growing needs. Below is an outline of the current positions:

  • Public Relations: Publicize and coordinate the Iowan of the Day program. Promote other events with various communication materials.
  • Donor Relations: Coordinate special events, donor communications and correspondence with the corporate sector.
  • Volunteer Relations: Schedule and manage more than 600 volunteers for three events.
  • Business Relations: Oversee the logistics of the water program including management of summer staff, orders, distribution, and warehouse organization.

An important aspect to a Foundation internship is that each student is able utilize their existing skills when completing a project. Interns work independently and have the opportunity to take ownership of a specific task. At the same time, we challenge our interns to expand their skills by completing projects they might not have previous knowledge of. (As a staff, we do our best to prepare students for the real world working environment.)

There is a wide range of tasks each summer intern will complete including social media, marketing initiatives, organization of fundraising auction, coordination of Fairgrounds 5K race, designing merchandise and other event materials. An intern will organize the Woodcarver’s Auction, coordinate the Fair Squares, create event invitations and advertising materials.

I’ve stayed in touch with a few previous interns and I did a little digging to see where other Foundation interns are currently working: Amazon, Lessing-Flynn, Webspec Design, Fourge Social, Schwan’s, United State Senate, Russell, Kansas State Navigators, Target, Keller Williams Realty, American Heart Association, Wells Fargo, Chamber of Commerce, Corner Post Marketing Communications, Iowa 4-H Foundation…the list goes on and on.

After graduation, some interns completed graduate school, some moved across the country and some stayed in Iowa to start their career. There are several previous interns that now volunteer with the Foundation or have other connections to the Iowa State Fair – sponsors, exhibitors or just avid Fairgoers!

If you know of a college student looking for an internship, encourage them to apply. (Applications will be accepted until December 31.) 

A few intern pictures:

 

Fall Newsletter: 1996, 2006 and 2016

October 17, 2016
The Blue Ribbon Foundation recently published its fall newsletter. It highlights the 2016 Iowa State Fair including the social painting class, Iowan of the Day winners, Fairgrounds 5K results and a thank you to our volunteers. The issue recaps the Corndog Kickoff, promotes upcoming internship opportunities and focuses on future renovation projects with Pioneer Hall and the Midway. In the donor profile section, West Bank is featured for their support. Also included is a shopping section with special State Fair merchandise for the upcoming holiday season. Be sure to read this newsletter and the other quarterly editions on our website. 
 
I get excited each time a newsletter is printed because it emphasizes the Foundation’s mission and our progress of preserving the Fairgrounds for future generations. I believe it is important to know where you have been in order to continue to grow for the future.  I decided to pull out the fall newsletters from 10 and 20 years ago to see what the Blue Ribbon Foundation was working on. 
 
The 2006 newsletter highlighted the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s relationship with Bill McNarney. Bill gave the Foundation its very first gift by volunteering his time to draw 15 of the Fairgrounds buildings. The Foundation used those images on note cards, post cards and sold prints. Bill passed away after the 2006 Iowa State Fair but left a wonderful legacy with the McNarney Prints. 
 
Ten years ago the Blue Ribbon Foundation celebrated the new Susan Knapp Amphitheater and groundbreaking for the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. Iowa businessman and philanthropist Bill Knapp continues to be a supporter of the Foundation. 
 
Fairgoers could order a copy of the 13th edition Iowa State Fair cookbook. (We are now selling our 18th edition!) Morris Grabau was featured in the donor profile. Today, Morris is still a member of the 1854 Society and continues to volunteer. 
 
The 1996 Iowa State Fair was filled with Blue Ribbon Foundation success. That year’s fall newsletter highlighted the christening of the renovated Ye Old Mill and the expanded Anne and Bill Riley stage. The Pella Plaza was created and the re-opening of the Farm Bureau Pioneer Hall
 
William and Betty Andrus were showcased in the donor profile. A donation of $109,000 was given by the Iowa Bankers Association for improvements to the 4-H Building. Popular merchandise items 20 years ago included the Ye Old Mill lapel pin, a carousel ornament, t-shirts and hats. (How many people have a complete lapel pin collection?)
 
Growing Statistics:
1996: 102 volunteers helped generate $31,500 during the Iowa State Fair. 
2006: 480 volunteers and $352,000 was raised in water and merchandise sales. 
2016: 600 volunteers and $736,000 was raised with merchandise, water and Fair Square sales.
 
Many things have changed in the last 20 years. New merchandise, new projects, new staff…the list could go on and on. One thing has remained the same - our dedicated volunteers and loyal donors. As the Blue Ribbon Foundation continues to grow over the next 20 years – we thank you for the continued support! 
 
  
 

Fall Activities

October 11, 2016
The Iowa State Fairgrounds are visited by more than a million people during 11 days in August. So what happens the other 354 days of the year?  
 
Immediately following the Iowa State Fair, the Fairgrounds hosted horse shows, a flea market, a swap meet, an RV show, 5K run, craft show, fundraisers and weddings. Each weekend in the month of October is the same. The barns and buildings across the grounds are booked. It’s amazing that because our facilities are in top notch condition, they can be utilized year round. 
 
One of my favorite fall activities is watching football. This past weekend, I went to a Minnesota Vikings football game in their new stadium in Minneapolis. The facility was incredible. It was a beautiful fall afternoon - the sun was shining and allowed natural light inside the stadium though the glass walls and roof. The structure had an industrial design, incorporated technology, and didn’t skip the “wow” factor!  I would guess the stadium will be used for more than just football games throughout the year. 
 
The Iowa State Fairgrounds have a unique situation. Not only have we added new structures but have also update historic buildings. Each building on the 445 acres plays an important role. Encapsulating Fair memories, traditions and Iowa’s agricultural heritage while also representing the growth for the future.  As the renovaton and construction project “wish list” continues to expand – we are thankful for our donors that support the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission.  
 
This fall, the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff continues to create notes about the positives of the 2016 Fair and ways to improve for 2017. The fall newsletter with updates will be mailed next week. The online State Fair Store has been updated with leftover merchandise from August. One popular item this fall has been the quarter zip shirts. The long sleeve shirt is gray and black with "Iowa State Fair" embroidered in the left chest. The ladies fit is accented with pink and the men’s is accented with neon green. 
 
Over the next few weeks, I will promote our internship program for the spring and summer. You can help us spread the word to area college students that love the Fair and want to be part of the fundraising action. Soon we’ll start planning for our annual holiday party, membership program renewals and end of year giving.
 
With 300 days until the next Iowa State Fair - the Foundation won’t have trouble staying busy! 
 
The calendar of events of the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the month of October. 
 
Leaves are starting to change color across the Fairgrounds. 
 
The Vikings new stadium. 
 
 
Men's Quarter Zip Shirt
Ladies Quarter Zip Shirt
 
 
 
 
 

2016 Iowa State Fair Recap – August 20 and 21

October 4, 2016
Blue Ribbon Foundation staff kicked off the final weekend of the Iowa State Fair with an early morning on Saturday, August 20…4:30 am early! As we prepared for the 10th annual Fairgrounds 5K starting at 7 am – there was something unique about watching the sun rise on the Fairgrounds.  It’s quiet and calm, unlike any other time.  Despite the rain, 293 Fairgoers participated in the race. The route led runners up the hills of the campgrounds, around the iconic buildings and alongside food concessionaires - it gave participants a new perspective of the Fairgrounds. With the help of our sponsor, West Bank, volunteers and participants, the Foundation raised $19,220. 
 
On Saturday afternoon, the Foundation honored our 10th and final Iowan of the Day. Although many people may not know Rosemary Beach by name, they may be familiar with the event she started in 1976. Thanks to Rosemary, Cedar Falls has hosted the Sturgis Falls Celebration for the past 41 years where thousands of Cedar Valley residents and visitors pour into Cedar Falls every spring. Rosemary is involved in much more outside of the Sturgis Falls Celebration. She serves as the retired director of the Cedar Falls Historical Society and volunteers for the Cedar Falls Community Theatre, the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau, the Cedar Falls Questers and the Cedar Falls Representative Citizen Committee. 
 
One special event took place on the final Sunday of the Fair – the Woodcarver’s Auction. Fairgoers watched A.J. Lutter and Gary Kennan’s masterpieces unfold four times a day during the Fair. This year the woodcarving pair sculpted 40 items including big foot, Herky, Cy and even a cobra.  As tradition, the Grand and Reserve Champion Meats including ham, bacon and dried beef are also sold during the auction. 
 
Again this year, the Blue Ribbon Foundation participated in the sculpture painting contest. Our 3rd place “Building a Blue Ribbon Future” sculpture designed by Sticks sold for $1000 during the auction.  The Woodcarver’s Auction was a complete success with proceeds totaling $38,300 for Fairgrounds renovations. To date, the auction has raised a total of $689,000.
 
Looking back at the long days the staff and interns worked during the Fair is unbelievable. I want to personally thank each of the interns for stepping up to the challenge of joining our staff. This is not your typical internship. Each intern becomes a true member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team. Each is directly responsible for making sure committed donors have a strong and lasting relationship with the Iowa State Fair. As a previous intern myself – the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s internship program is an incredible learning opportunity, hard work and so much fun! 
 
The last day of the Iowa State Fair is bittersweet. I’m exhausted after 11 straight days of working practically nonstop to make sure every aspect of the Fair is successful. I’m proud of myself and the entire Iowa State Fair team for executing an event that more than a million people attended. The Iowa State Fair is so special because it only comes once a year for a short number of days.    
 
As the 2016 Iowa State Fair becomes a memory – I look forward to August. Over the next 300 days, we’ll plan the fun, food, entertainment and with the 2017 theme “Nothing Compares to State Fair Thrills” – we won’t disappoint!
 
Fairgrounds 5K on Saturday, August 20
 
Rosemary Beach of Cedar Falls
 
Cy and Herky woodcarvings
 
Crowd for Woodcarver's Auction
 
“Building a Blue Ribbon Future” sculpture
 
 
(After each Fair - I struggle to find pictures of the full time staff. Try again next year!)
Quick selfie with Robin
 
Gina posing at a selfie station
 
Peter making annoucements at the Woodcarver's Auction with the auctioneer, Al Conover.
 
 
 
 

2016 Iowa State Fair Recap – August 18 and 19

September 27, 2016

As the Iowa State Fair continued into the final weekend, the Blue Ribbon Foundation rolled through Thursday and Friday with our daily activities and some exciting additions.

On the second Thursday, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosted Legislative Appreciation Day. It’s a day for our state’s senators and representatives to enjoy the sights of the Fair and our chance to thank each of them for the continued support. Following lunch, the Legislators took a tour of the Fairgrounds to see the renovations and progress the Foundation is making to preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation was proud to honor two outstanding individuals on Thursday and Friday. With an award presentation on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage, the crowds gathered to watch the talent show were also able to learn about special Iowans and the Foundation’s work.

Willard Larsen of Camanche was a history teacher and athletic coach for 33 years. He is a member of the Camanche High School Hall of Fame committee and active in his church. Willard is a Master Gardener, serves on the Master Gardener’s advisory board, co-chairman of three gardening events and chairs the Clinton County Fair Vegetable Contest. Willard educates area youth about horticulture through programs like Enviro Kids and Plant Partners.

In 1950, Bob Clark of West Des Moines became the chapter president of the Des Moines Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and nine years later became the national president. Since then, Bob has volunteered with the American Heart Association for 48 years and served executive roles for the Principal Charity Classic, United Way and the Drake Relays. Even at 90 years old, Bob continues to volunteer and encourages those around him to do the same.

One of my favorite things to see on the second Friday of the Fair is the Clydesdale and Percheron Horse Shows. I’m still amazed at the size of these animals. It’s awesome to hear the click clock of hooves on the pavement outside of the horse barn and watch the 6 horse hitch competitors prepare. Each day of the Fair, a popular place to watch the horse shows is in Jake’s Club, the second floor VIP area of the Jacobson Exhibition Center.

The Club features a full bar as well as a variety of food options. Balcony box seating is available in addition to comfortable couches. I’m sure the 75 current members would agree that Jake’s Club is a prime location to bring guests and entertain clients. The Iowa State Fair paid tribute to Richard Jacobson inside the atrium of the Exhibition Center with a beautiful display of Mr. Jacobson’s memorabilia and a showcase of his philanthropic life.

On the second Thursday and Friday of the Fair, sales at the Fair Square trailer were booming! This year, in addition to the original and peanut butter, a new flavor – salted caramel was added to the mix. These tasty treats are sold for $2.50 and as a fundraiser generated $36,000 for the Foundation. A special thank you to our volunteers for sticking/serving each dessert on a stick and to the Fairgoers for eating them up!

Stay tuned for more 2016 Iowa State Fair highlights.  

Peter annoucing the names of Legislators

 

Willard Larsen of Camanche 

 

Bob Clark of West Des Moines 

 

Fair Square volunteers

 

Fair Square Trailer

 

Memorial for Richard Jacobson  

 

2016 Iowa State Fair Recap – August 15, 16 & 17

September 20, 2016
By the time Monday of the Fair arrived, the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff could finally take a breath. We’ve made it through the first four busiest days! 
 
Instead of running around to check on Fair Squares, merchandise or water sales – I could briskly walk! It was all hands on deck to run the Foundation’s water program. The Blue Ribbon Foundation sold water to concessionaires in addition to Fairgoers at our water stands. An average Fairgoer might not realize that by buying a bottle of water, they are supporting our cause. The history of the relationship between the Fair and those unique green Mt. Valley Spring Water bottles started in 1995. Crystal Clear began selling water on the Fairgrounds in a small booth along Grand Avenue. In 1997, the Blue Ribbon Foundation and Crystal Clear Water formed a partnership and the water sales became a fundraiser. 
 
Each staff member, intern and summer staffer have developed a routine by Monday.  By having a handle on your specific role, there is time for a little fun. On Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Ribbon Foundation participated in the Outhouse Races. During the race, teams pushed the outhouses down the street, completed a set of obstacles and raced back to the starting point. Thank you to Stivers Ford Lincoln of Waukee for building our outhouse. And an even bigger thank you for the donors that represented the Foundation in the event. 
 
The Blue Ribbon Foundation honored another 3 individuals as Iowan of the Day winners. Curt Schwanebeck is known as a Knoxville jewel and helped to reopen the local theatre.  He helps with the Community Easter Egg Hunt, makes dolls for children in hospitals and organizes community fun fairs. Curt is also involved in his church and volunteers at the Science Center of Iowa.  
 
Richard Vorthmann of Treynor has served 35 years as a township trustee and clerk, co-chairman of the Treynor school reorganization committee and helped build the first tanker truck for the local fire department. Richard has also been involved in his church and served as the president of the Town and Country Club. Richard has been instrumental in overseeing the Treynor Can Kennel, a can redemption center that has raised more than $135,000 for local youth programs. 
 
Edna Schrandt of Decorah has served more than 40 years as a 4-H leader and volunteer for Pony Express Riders of Iowa, an organization that raises money for Camp Sunnyside. Edna has also volunteered over 25 years with United Way and has been recognized for her contributions through several awards.
 
Each Fair, the Blue Ribbon Foundation trys to find new and creative ways to engage donors. As far as creativity goes – we knocked it out of the park this year with the first ever social painting class. Missy Sharer-Pieters of Messy Missy’s Painting Studio & Gallery in Marshalltown instructed groups of Fairgoers to paint their own personal canvas with Iowa State Fair inspired art. 
 
With 230 participants throughout the 11 days, Fairgoers showed off their talents while supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission. The total proceeds of $5,200 were 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 renovations and maintenance improvements to the Fairgrounds, ensuring the Fair will be a grand tradition for generations to come. 
 
As the Fair continued through the week, it became even more important to try some of the new foods. I ate the Ice Cream Nachos, Not Your Mamma’s Taco, and the Pride of Iowa Wrap. All were incredibly delicious.  It brings a new meaning to the word “teamwork” when you are splitting a massive breakfast quesadilla or cheese curds with your coworkers. 
 
Stay tuned for more 2016 Iowa State Fair highlights.  
 
Water crew members kept the water ice cold
 
Blue Ribbon Foundation Outhouse Race
 
Huge crowds on Grand Avenue for the Outhouse Race
 
Curt Schwanebeck - Knoxville, IA 
 
Richard Vorthmann - Treynor, IA
 
Edna Schrandt - Decorah, IA
 
The first painting class was held on Expo Hill
 
The painting class was moved to the Youth Inn because of quick drying paint
 
Interns, Francesca and Audra enjoying Pork Chops on a Stick
 
My favorite tenderloin stand on the Fairgrounds

2016 Iowa State Fair Recap – August 13 and August 14

September 13, 2016
The first Saturday and Sunday of the Iowa State Fair are huge attendance days with more than 211,000 people coming to the Fairgrounds. The Blue Ribbon Foundation prides itself on providing the very best customer service to the guests that are interacting with our merchandise, water and Fair Square booths. 
 
Who is on the front-line representing the Foundation? Our one-of-a-kind volunteers. This year, our volunteers wore bright purple “Keep Calm, You’re at the Iowa State Fair” t-shirts. You could easily spot our helpers through the crowds, each with a smile on their face. These 600 dedicated Fairgoers gave more than 5,500 hours of their time to help with our mission to raise funds for future renovations. 
 
Spread across the Fairgrounds we had volunteers selling merchandise and staffing water booths. The sweetest volunteer spot was definitely the Fair Square trailer, sticking the tasty rice krispy treats onto sticks. We can't forget the volunteers driving the 1854 Society golf cart shuttle or helping with the Fairgrounds 5K. 
 
Our volunteers are not only helpful to customers but also knowledgeable about the Blue Ribbon Foundation. They share information on what improvements have been made and what projects will be next. I’ve even seen volunteers help donors find their engraved bricks. Volunteers are truly part of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team. More information about volunteer opportunities for the 2017 Iowa State Fair will be available in May. 
 
The Foundation was pleased to honor Iowan of the Day winners Cheryl Wessels of Anita and Steve Smith of Algona. Cheryl is most noted in her community for making 3,000 dresses for the “Little Dresses for Africa” program. She continues to recruit the help of other communities to give to this organization that brings relief to distressed children in Africa. Steve Smtih is a member of the American Legion, Friends of the American Legion, Patriot Guard and the Civil Air Patrol and volunteers with “Hunting with Heroes,” a program that helps disabled veterans learn to hunt again.
 
On the first Sunday of the Fair, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosted a brunch for our 1854 Society members. This set of donors absolutely loves the Iowa State Fair! Each supporter believes in the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s work and gives annually to help us continue to move forward. 
 
The 1854 Society was created in commemoration of the Iowa State Fair sesquicentennial. Funds raised by the 1854 Society helped renovate the Richard L. Easter Museum Complex and donations continue to provide archival quality storage needed for proper preservation of the museum’s historic pieces. 
 
With a $1,854 initial membership fee to join this exclusive fundraising group, you receive elite benefits including an engraved granite paver at the Museum, gate admission for 2 each day of the Fair, VIP parking, access to a Hospitality Suite, exclusive golf cart shuttle access, and more. 
 
Throughout the Fair, I wish I had more time to chat with individual volunteers and donors. I love hearing their personal stories, memories, and why they are passionate about the Iowa State Fair. This bond Iowan’s share is more than just an event in August - it’s a treasured tradition that every Iowan can be proud of. 
 
Stay tuned for more 2016 Iowa State Fair highlights.  
 
Volunteers selling merchandise at a trailer on Grand Avenue. 
 
Volunteers selling water in front of the Service Center. 
 
Peter Cownie, Foundation Executive Director, and Audra Kincart, Summer Intern, honoring Cheryl Wessels of Anita. 
 
Blue Ribbon Foundation staff, an Iowa State Fair Board Member, and friends celebrating Steve Smith of Algona. 
 
1854 Society Brunch at the Farm Bureau Shelter House.
 
 

2016 Iowa State Fair Recap – August 11 and 12

September 7, 2016

The first day of the Fair is filled with mixed emotions – excitement, nervousness, and your adrenalin is pumping as a staff member.

We kicked off the day with Opening Ceremonies held in the updated Oman Family Youth Inn. This three phase/three year renovation project included a replaced roof, air conditioning, remolded bathrooms and new mattress for the bunk beds.  New entrances with extended walkways were added, updated fire alarm systems were installed and the building is now fully handicap accessible because of the elevators. 

To finish the project the windows were replaced, improvements were made to the main floor stage area and an enhanced kitchen facility was added. New landscaping and a paved parking lot completed the north side of the building.

In addition to the generous gift from the Oman family, the Iowa Legislature appropriated a total of $3.15 million to this renovation. The Blue Ribbon Foundation also received a $25,000 grant from Prairie Meadows through its Community Betterment Grant Program. It takes support from the entire state to keep buildings like the Youth Inn available for future FFA and 4-H’ers.

During the first day, we honored Iowan of the Day, Randy Duncan. Randy is a Des Moines native who attended the University of Iowa on a football scholarship. Randy led the Hawkeyes to a Rose Bowl victory in 1959 against California, was placed second for the Heisman trophy and broke a school record formerly held by Nile Kinnick.  Described as humble, Randy raised a family and practiced as a lawyer in Des Moines. In 2012, Randy was diagnosed with brain cancer with less than a year to survive. Four years later, Randy is still fighting and serving as an inspiration for others.

To cap off the first day of the Fair, crowds gathered at the MidAmerican Energy Stage for “Symphony on a Stick”, a performance by the Des Moines Symphony.

On Friday of the Iowa State Fair our merchandise booths were hopping! The Blue Ribbon Foundation sold t-shirts, hats, and official State Fair collectibles as a fundraiser.  Each year Fairgoers collect the Christmas ornament, pottery piece and State Fair plaque. The 18th Edition Cookbook was for sale this year and I wonder how many cookbook enthusiasts have the entire collection. Check out the online State Fair Store for leftover merchandise available for sale. Although we don’t have an official store throughout the year, you can purchase merchandise at our office on the Fairgrounds.

For me, the first two days of the Iowa State Fair are the longest days yet go by the fastest. Despite the rain, hot and humid weather - the Fairgrounds were full of people. My first food item was a crescenti sandwich – one of my favorites. As I developed my routine for the 11 day event, most of the time I was on the move.

Stay tuned for more 2016 Iowa State Fair highlights.  

 

Opening Ceremonies at the Youth Inn.

Randy Duncan's family and friends honoring him as Iowan of the Day.

Crowd watching the "Symphony on a Stick" performance. 

Fairgoers shopping for merchandise.

 

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