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.

Thank You

August 31, 2016
Simply put… the month of August flew by. As I look back at the craziness of the 2016 Iowa State Fair, most of the month feels like a blur. In the upcoming weeks, I plan on recapping special moments of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 2016 Fair experience. 
First and foremost – I want to say THANK YOU to everyone that helps make the Iowa State Fair and the Blue Ribbon Foundation a success!
Thank you to my fellow Iowa State Fair and Blue Ribbon Foundation staff members. Each employee has an important role in making the 11 day event not only happen but an incredible success. Each department works the entire year to make their role perfect. Working together as a team, we make the Iowa State Fair one of the best!
Thank you to our summer interns and part time staff. Each intern individually completes projects that add to the successful summer. I look forward to seeing where each of them ends up after finishing college and starting their own careers. 
A huge thank you to the 400+ volunteers for giving your time to help make our organization’s fundraising efforts possible. With 7 merchandise booths and 6 water stands, our volunteers work from morning until night every day of the Fair.  
Thank you to the generous donors for believing in the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission and supporting our work. The renovations across the Fairgrounds would not be possible without the passion of Fairgoers that want to see the Iowa State Fair stay in tip top condition for future generations. All donations – small and large are valued and greatly appreciated. 
And a personal thank you to my friends and family.  Sometimes I wonder why I choose to have such a crazy job in the summer.  They completely understand that I “disappear” during the month of August. This massive event can also cause a bit of stress at times but my family’s love and support reminds me that I have the best job!
As much as I’ll miss the action of the Iowa State Fair – I’m looking forward to September. 
Kelsey and Audra, summer interns, checking in volunteers for a shift.
The water crew - keeping our booths loaded with water. 
My biggest Fair supporter!

August Come She Will

August 2, 2016

There are eight days until the Iowa State Fair and the Fair looks like it could start tomorrow! It’s amazing to see all of the food stands when I have become so used to seeing the grounds empty.

As others begin to set up, I’m seeing all of my hard work this summer begin to wrap up. I’m approaching the ends of my to-do lists and will make my daily Fair schedule this afternoon! What seemed so far away in May arrived in the blink of an eye.

One of my favorite wrapping up projects is writing the speeches for our Iowans of the Day. The award presentation takes place daily at 2:30 p.m. at the Anne and Billy Riley Stage. Be sure to make time in your daily Fair schedules to hear all about these outstanding Iowans who make their communities a better place to live.

One of my other wrapping up projects includes sending the registration packets for Fairgrounds 5K participants! There is still plenty of time to register before the race on Saturday, August 20. Registration is $40 and includes a Fair admission ticket, $5 in Fair food coupons, a Fairgrounds 5K t-shirt and a free Fair Square coupon.

August has always been one of my favorite months with my birthday and the start of a new school year. This year I have those events to look forward to as well as enjoying eleven days of the most wonderful time of the year. I hope you are all as excited for August 11-21 as I am!


Gathering Ground

July 28, 2016

We are just days away from the Iowa State Fair but who is counting? It is amazing to see the work around the Fairgrounds being done. Yesterday as the interns and I took our lunch on the bleachers of MidAmerican Energy Stage, it came to my attention that we as Fair staff are not the only ones that get to enjoy the preparation of what I call the greatest time of the year. There were two mothers that brought their kids to the park outside our office and had a picnic on the MidAmerican Energy stage, how cool! Every day we see at least one family, if not three or four that utilize the park. The Fairgrounds are more than just a piece of land; it’s a gathering ground for the Des Moines Metro community year-round.

Every day the interns always talk about how we can’t believe the Fair is already here. We have been gearing up for this time since we started, which seems like yesterday! Calls are being made quite frequently to confirm last minute details, mail is being sent, volunteers are confirming their schedules and Iowans of the Day have been selected.  The office has been busy to say the least.

I have been to the Iowa State Fair for the duration of the Fair for the past 14 years and every year it amazes me the new attractions I discover. This year I have been told I get to attend the outhouse races and potentially participate in the celebrity goat milking contest. That’s what I get for raising goats, being put on the spot at a contest in front of a crowd. Needless to say, I think it will be an unforgettable Fair! The newest attraction I am most excited for is the painting class that is going to be offered on Expo Hill. Messy Missy’s has put together seven phenomenal paintings that represent different aspects of the Iowa State Fair. Check out our website for a full schedule of the different painting times. Also be sure to check out our website to register for the 10th annual Fairgrounds 5K, you won’t want to miss out on the fun!

(Outhouse Races 2015)

(2 of the 7 paintings) 


Nothing Compares to My State Fair Souvenirs

July 27, 2016
The last few days the other interns and I have taken our lunch to the “Original and Famous” Bud Tent.  The tent’s not full of people yet, but from an empty picnic table in the shade we can watch the great Iowa State Fair take shape.  Just in our daily half hour breaks we’ve seen the propane tanks get installed on Rock Island, the red fencing go in for the Big Boar and Super Bull, and many people staring at their phones playing Pokemon Go.  
The Foundation specifically is having fun as our merchandise starts to trickle in!  At the Corndog Kickoff my dad was the winner of a silent auction package including a souvenir pennant from the 1958 Iowa State Fair.  While we don’t have any pennants, maybe in 60 years someone will bid on our 2016 items as a reminder of simpler times.  I specifically have my eye on a quarter zip sweatshirt, and maybe starting my own charm bracelet.  I’ve seen how special the charms are to so many Fairgoers, and the Rooster charm for this year is pretty cute! Pictured are a couple of our available hats, bell, piggy bank, and Isabel Bloom Corn sculpture.  These are just a few of the great souvenirs that will be available for this year’s Fair.
2016 Iowa State Fair Souvenirs
We are happy to take orders over the phone for the 2016 pottery piece, Mortar & Pestle, and 2016 Sticks plaque “Giant Slide!”  All other 2016 merchandise will be available at the Fair.  If you need to continue your collection of lapel pins, charms, t-shirts or any other memorabilia, please come see us at one of our seven merchandise booths August 11th through the 21st!

And the Winners are...

July 26, 2016

It’s already been one week since we’ve chosen our Iowans of the Day, and I’m so excited to meet each and every one of them at the Iowa State Fair! This year’s line-up includes outstanding Iowans who have contributed to their individual communities in diverse ways.

Our northern Iowa winners have truly done it all. Together, their list of accomplishments includes publishing 850 articles and six books about the history of Iowa’s Great Lakes, creating the Sturgis Falls Celebration, being a 4H leader for 40 years and organizing an annual celebration on the 4th of July for the community and veterans to enjoy.

Our other hometown heroes are equally as impressive. Their accomplishments include making 3,000 dresses for children in Africa, reopening the community’s closed theatre, being the previous national president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, helping to build a new Fairgrounds and dedicating their life to teaching the community about horticulture.

These individuals will be recognized with their own day at the Fair. He or she will be recognized on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage and presented as an Iowan of the Day daily at 2:30 p.m. Along with accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, they will each receive a cash prize, Grandstand and Iowa State Fair admission tickets and use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart.

I am pleased to present the 2016 Iowans of the Day:

Randy Duncan of Des Moines – Thursday, August 11

Aubrey LaFoy of Arnolds Park – Friday, August 12

Cheryl Wessels of Anita – Saturday, August 13

Steve Smith of Algona – Sunday, August 14

Curt Schwanebeck of Knoxville – Monday, August 15

Richard Vorthmann of Treynor – Tuesday, August 16

Edna Schrandt of Decorah – Wednesday, August 17

Willard Larsen of Camanche – Thursday, August 18

Bob Clark of West Des Moines – Friday, August 19

Rosemary Beach of Cedar Falls – Saturday, August 20

Thank you to all of those who submitted an application, it’s because of you that this great program is able to continue. As a reminder, applications are reviewed for three years. Find out more about this year’s Iowans of the Day at the Iowa State Fair August 11-21!



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!