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.

23 Years of Volunteers

May 25, 2016
My days, and the Fair Volunteer Schedule, are starting to fill as more Volunteer Registration Forms are submitted.  Every volunteer is appreciated and makes a difference. They also all have their own story.  
Most forms are submitted online, or delivered in the mail, but an occasional volunteer will come in to the office to explain their form to me in person.  In the past three days I have met two volunteers, and received countless registration forms, from people who have been volunteering longer than I’ve been alive.  The Blue Ribbon Foundation has a dedicated volunteer base that has been growing since the Foundation’s creation in 1993.  I was born in November of 1995, so I missed many volunteers’ first three Fairs as Blue Ribbon Foundation Volunteers.  Many things have changed in the last 23 years!
When the Foundation was created, Whitney Houston was on the top of the charts with the now classic, “I Will Always Love You.”  The stuffed animal we all thought would make us rich, Beanie Babies, was first released.  The world was also introduced to Mrs. Doubtfire, and journeyed to Jurassic Park for the first time.  Who knows, maybe this week’s top song “One Dance” by Drake featuring Wizkid & Kyla, will be a song that everyone knows in 2039.  We might actually finally be rich from those Beanie Babies, and Captain America: Civil War might play once a month on cable television.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know our volunteers that have been around since 1993, and I look forward to meeting all of the volunteers that have submitted their very first registration forms.  If you’d like the 2039 intern to write about your dedication in 23 years, registration can be done online!
Just to be safe, continue to save your Beanie Babies!

Outstanding Iowan

May 24, 2016

As I highlight our past Iowan of the Day winners, it is amazing to think how much time and effort these individuals have put in to make our state even better.

This week I chose to highlight a fellow southern Iowan and Seymour High School teacher, Shawn Tait, from Exline, Iowa.

Shawn serves as the prom sponsor for Seymour High and spends her time volunteering with the Boy Scouts soap box derby, serving at Exline Recreation Committee dinners, chaperoning for FFA and being an active member of her church. Shawn was named the Exline Citizen of the Year in 2013.

The 30 members of the Exline Ramblers 4H Club call Shawn their leader. Shawn has been the driving force in getting the club involved in big ways, including cleaning roadsides through the Adopt-A-Highway program.

Shawn makes sure 4H’ers have a project to submit each year and teaches her club how to sew. As a 4H leader, Shawn has had to help with everything from posters to livestock to birdhouses.

The Exline Ramblers 4H Club received a grant for new benches in the Exline City Park, thanks to Shawn’s encouragement. 16 benches made of recycled plastic were also placed at the Appanoose County Fairgrounds.

Shawn also plans service projects for her 4H club where one year, the Ramblers visited a local nursing home to throw a Christmas party. With all of this going on, Shawn somehow manages to plan overnight camp outs and attend her 4H’ers competitions at the county fair.

The deadline for Iowan of the Day isn’t until July 1, so there is still plenty of time to nominate someone who goes above and beyond to give back to their communities! If you know someone like Shawn, consider nominating them today.

How Many Days Left?

May 23, 2016
Since I started as an intern here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation in mid-January, I have spent most of my lunch breaks at the nearby Subway. I have recently started bringing in my lunch, but when I frequented the same Subway, the employees would occasionally ask me how many days left until the 2016 Iowa State Fair and I would always answer, too many! When I did not go to Subway for my lunch today, I was reminded that we only have 79 days left! 
79 days left until the biggest event in the state and only 79 days left until corndogs, lemonade and the Giant Slide! Speaking of days left, we have 88 days left until the 5K and only 46 days left until the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction. We are putting final touches on the auction booklet and just sent out the invitation. Tickets for the event are now available for purchase and will remain available until the night of the event. Please make sure to purchase tickets early for our special pricing, and come celebrate the greatest parts of the Iowa State Fair 33 days early. You can purchase tickets on our Corndog Kickoff Tickets page. 
As we are finalizing the auction booklet, we are still accepting donations to be added to the silent auction. Please visit our auction page to see further information, and descriptions of the packages. Thank you to our volunteers that have served on the committees and thank you to the donors of items, without your contribution, the Corndog Kickoff could not have grown into the great event it is!
Patrons enjoying the 2014 Corndog Kickoff. Im sure they cannot wait either! 

Gathering on Grand with Francesca

May 19, 2016

The office has been in full swing and the wheels have been turning. My passion for the Iowa State Fair continues to grow while being a part of the “inside” team. We are 83 days away from the fair, but who’s counting? I often get asked why my love for the Iowa State Fair is so great, and here are the top five reasons.

1. The People: The Iowa State Fair is an event that brings in nearly or over 100,000 people every single day. There are very diverse crowds, especially with attendance reaching a record breaking 115,959 one day, last year. Some may come from a small town farm, some may come from a large city, but they all share one thing in common, the love for the great Iowa State Fair. For most people the Fair is a learning experience. Whether it’s learning about agriculture or the newest trends in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building, there is always something new to take in. Sometimes my best conversations occur with people who are interested in knowing why we do what we do at the Fair.

2. Camping: This means 11 days with great people! One of my favorite childhood memories was living in our camper in the blazing, August heat on the Iowa State Fairgrounds right across from the Swine Barn and Youth Inn (until they moved exhibitor camping up the hill). Camping in the exhibitor lot with livestock friends was the highlight of my summer. I would pack my clothes mid-July and cry when it was time to leave the Fair. Since I knew the Fairgrounds like the back of my hand, my parents let me run around with friends that were the same way. We loved it. This was our style of vacationing.

3. Livestock Shows: Come August I was ready to show off what I had prepared all summer, my livestock. Late nights and early mornings were real at our house just to walk that animal. Iowa is blessed with the livestock quality at competitions. In order to compete, you have to put in the time to make that animal great. Blood, sweat and tears are definitely shed at least once during preparation days. Although winning is nice, it isn’t everything. The friends and memories that are made during these years of our lives are far above the trophy, banner or picture that will sit and collect dust. Without your livestock “family” the Fair wouldn’t be as congenial as it is. These people are special tools in a tool kit and are resources that you can use to better yourself and the livestock. Whether people realize it or not, they wouldn’t be who they are today without the people that helped them up yesterday from a bad day in the show ring.

4. Food on a Stick: Who doesn’t love food, especially on a stick? Food on a stick has become a staple to the Iowa State Fair. People don’t talk about the plain hamburger they got from a random stand, rather they usually talk about the food on a stick that they inhaled so fast they couldn’t enjoy it. There are nearly 75 different foods you can get on a stick at the Iowa State Fair. Every year they come up with a new item to feature, and it keeps getting better. One of my favorite foods on a stick is the pork chop. The Iowa Pork Producers do an excellent job preparing these. If you walk away from the fair hungry, you didn’t look hard enough. There are food stands for everyone.

5. Traditions: There are many traditions within the limits of the Iowa State Fairgrounds, including the nationally acclaimed butter cow. The talent that goes into sculpting something so unique is incredible. Along with the butter cow, other “must do” traditions include contests, riding the Ye Old Mill and cruising down the Giant Slide. Whether it’s the first or the fiftieth time people come to the Fair, a fun time is to be had. With a group of your best friends, roaring laughter can be heard by the Giant Slide. After cruising down the slide, annual contests are a great way to spend your day. They include everything from a cow chip throwing, yodeling, hog calling to a pie baking contest. The best part is that they accommodate every age and are open to the public.

Wow! It was tough deciding my top five reasons why I love the fair, because I know I could write many more. There is a reason why the Iowa State Fair is one of the top State Fair’s in the country: IT’S GREAT! The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s goal is to maintain the Fairgrounds so all of the things people love at the State Fair can be continued.  Well, I better get back to working on the media kit for the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party. Be sure to get your tickets!



Big Personalities, Bigger Hearts

May 18, 2016
Well, all of the interns made it to week two!  We’re all fully submerged in our projects, and we’re starting to get things done in the office.  
Already I have had innumerous emails, and phone calls from our dedicated volunteers.  Many were replied to with “I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get a response to you, this is my first week in the office.”  Because I started receiving emails in March!  I’ve learned quickly that our volunteers have big personalities, and bigger hearts.  
Today is a big day for me, because the box of volunteer letters that has been sitting on my desk since Friday is leaving for the post office!  One of my first tasks in the office was to create the volunteer letter, and registration materials for the 2016 Fair.  I became acquainted with the Fair’s printing department, learned that there is a machine that folds paper, and learned that it takes an 8 hour work day to stuff 480 envelopes. 
If you don’t receive a volunteer letter in the next week, we would still love to have you join us at the Fair!  Online registration will open Friday.  Just like the paper forms, scheduling will happen on a first come, first serve basis.  I can’t wait to start filling in the schedule! 

Iowan of the Day Hints

May 17, 2016

As the Iowan of the Day deadline approaches on July 1, I am in awe of all of our past winners!

Take 2015 winner Steven Palmer as an example. Steven is a retired law enforcer from Urbandale, Iowa who served in the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and in the Polk County Attorney’s Office as an investigator. Steven is also a veteran in both the United States Coast Guard and Army.  

While in the police force, Steven created a program to help children recovered during drug arrests. Through this, Steven received an award that recognizes outstanding work to keep youth off drugs. Steven also served as the regional coordinator for the Law Enforcement torch runners for eight years.

“Steve is a man of heart,” is one phrase a nominator used to describe Steven. Steven has spent 20 years volunteering with Special Olympics and is currently President of the Board of Directors. Steven has traveled as far as China to help with the World Games and was instrumental in raising more than $110,000 for Special Olympics Iowa!

As if this wasn’t enough, Steven is a member of the Za-Ga-Zig Shriners and the Masonic Temple where he received the grandmaster membership award.  
Like Steven, all of our Iowan of the Day winners since 1997 have done monumental things in their communities.

There is still plenty of time to nominate someone who makes the world around them a better place! Here are helpful hints if you plan on sending in an application:
1)    Submit an organized and neat application.
2)    Think of ways to set your nominee apart. This could be from outstanding letters of recommendation to any coverage on your nominee.
3)    Don’t be afraid to resubmit material! Applications are reviewed for three years and the more material the merrier.

Well, back to work for me. I can’t wait to read all of the Iowan of the Day applications submitted!


Golf Season

May 16, 2016
This year’s annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party will feature some great items that are sure to show you what Iowa has to offer. Just secured today are some passes to the 2017 Principal Charity Classic. These include admission, and access for two to exclusive club areas on the 13th and 16th greens. We have these passes for Saturday and Sunday for 2017! These items are great, because they highlight the talent of local Iowans while showcasing another great charity.
The Birdies for Charity fundraiser is held during the Principal Charity Classic. This unique fundraiser was created to help those organizations in the area with raising money. The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is one of those organizations that are benefitting from the 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. The Blue Ribbon Foundation will receive 100% of every donation collected and receive a 10% match for all pledges made through the program. Find out more about this by visiting the Birdies for Charity page on our website. 
Continue to show your support for the Foundation and your love of golf by looking for exclusive Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation golf balls at this year’s Iowa State Fair. Please make sure to check our website for updates on silent auction packages and Corndog Kickoff event materials in the next few weeks! 

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!