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.

Investing in Our Volunteers

June 29, 2016
While the weather has cooled off a little the last couple of days, summer is most definitely upon us!  With the all Fair staff meeting already a day behind us, plans are well underway for the Fair's busiest season. 
With only 10 days left until the Corndog Kickoff, the Foundation is hard at work finalizing everything.  This week we started moving some items into the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building, and the intern to-do list got much longer.  Luckily Audra and I got a jumpstart on the Spin Wheel.  It is ready to go, and so are the great prizes.  For only $5 you can spin the Wheel, and to prepare you for the Midway, everyone’s a winner! When you spin, the wheel will stop and you win whatever you land on.  Up for grabs this year are It’s a Fair Life games, Sticks plaques, a poster print set of the buildings around the Fairgrounds, and many more fun prizes!
Being the Volunteer Relations intern however, much of my job for the Kickoff is completed once all of the volunteers are scheduled.  Of course I’ll be doing more the week and day of, but if the Kickoff is 10 days away, the Volunteer Reception is only 15 days away!  July 14th at 6:00 pm in the Elwell Family Food Center all of our volunteers will come together to enjoy a meal, and learn more about their important roles during the Fair.  Amidst a flurry of Corndog Kickoff activity, I’m busy putting this event together for our volunteers.  
Campbell’s catering has a menu ready, the trams are reserved for the Fair tour, and very soon we will have t-shirts!  This reception is meant not only to inform or “train” our volunteers, but to thank them.  I have had the pleasure of speaking to a few on the phone or through email, and I look forward to meeting even more of the volunteers in person!
If you are a volunteer and have not yet RSVP’d for the Volunteer Reception, you can either email Kelsey or call (515)262-3111 ext. 379.  You won’t want to miss it!
Water Booth Volunteers in 2008
A few of our Water Booth Volunteers in 2008

It's OUR State Fair

June 28, 2016

This morning, the entire Iowa State Fair staff attended a planning meeting for the 2016 Iowa State Fair. At this meeting, we talked about everything from the new Fair foods to the safety plan for the Iowa State Fair. One of the main points that stuck with me was the impact that each individual has on the Iowa State Fair. Not only the many employees that work at the Fair throughout the year, but the hundreds of thousands attendees each day of the Fair.

I think I can apply that to the Corndog Kickoff as well. The idea that each one of the staff here, the volunteers, the donors and the patrons of the event all have an individual role to make the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party one of the Des Moines Register’s Top Things to do in July.

It is hard to think that the Corndog Kickoff is only 10 days away with how much we have yet to do. This Thursday, June 30th is the last day to buy the reduced price tickets for the Kickoff, starting July 1st, ticket prices increase to $100, so make sure you get your tickets now. Along with the tickets, make sure to pick up one or two of the Winner’s Choice Raffle tickets to have a chance to win one of the first five Live Auction packages for only $100! See you all at the Corndog Kickoff.



Crossing Off Tasks on the Checklist

June 27, 2016

It’s hard to believe that even though the Corndog Kickoff is under two weeks away, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has already started preparing for the event!

The first task we crossed off our checklist is organizing the garage to take items to the Varied Industries building. Many hands truly do make light work, the task, with over 200 auction packages to prepare for, flew by.

Throughout this, we were able to see the Fairgrounds a little more full as other people prepare for the GoodGuy’s car show this Friday.

Plus we got to see all of our awesome auction packages available for bid! One live auction package is a visit to the North Caroline State Fair October 13-23. A box of state fair merchandise came in the mail today that even got me excited to go to their fair! The auction package includes four gate admission tickets, an on-grounds parking pass, two plane tickets and a four night stay at the Summit Hospitality hotel.

The trip also has $200 worth of food certificates and passes to several museums near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Another vacation available through the silent auction is a trip to the Wonderful World of Disney! The package includes four one-day passes to Walt Disney World in Florida as well as Disney souvenirs.

If traveling isn’t your cup of tea, come to the Corndog Kickoff to bid on a package that is! Tickets are still available, so order yours today. Even though my first Corndog Kickoff will be as an employee, I can’t wait to see everything the event has to offer. See you July 9 at the Varied Industries Building!


Are You Feeling Lucky?

June 23, 2016

The Corndog Kickoff is only 15 days away. Can you believe it?! Everyone in the office, including myself, has been busy bees working to get everything prepared for the big event. It is incredible the amount of support the Blue Ribbon Foundation has received in auction donations. They are phenomenal and you won’t want to miss the opportunity to land one of the amazing packages available at the Corndog Kickoff.

New at the Corndog Kickoff this year is the Winner’s Choice raffle and it’s as good as it sounds. This is your chance to claim a live auction package before the bidding even begins. There are five spectacular live auction packages that the lucky winner will get to choose from.

#1 An ironic feature of the Iowa State Fair, take home one of the Sky Glider’s chairs. This chair is a cheerful red. Donated by the Blue Ribbon Foundation

#2 Release your creative side with a painting class for 10 at the Iowa State Fair. Top of the Vine will provide the location and 20 drink tickets. Donated by Messy Missy’s and Top of the Vine

#3 Roam the countryside in a 24’ Class C motorhome for a week with 500 miles and $200 in Casey’s gift cards included in the package. Donated by Ed Garner’s Autorama RV Center, Inc and Casey’s General Stores

#4 This vibrant quilt was made using the Jack and Jill pattern. Long-arm quilted, this piece of art is perfect for a queensized bed as it is 86”x 95”. Donated by Ginny Freyermuth

#5 A handcrafted table with narrow, but taller center support, holding a shorter, cantilevered top. The top is locally cut Walnut, with Oak and Canary wood in the base. Donated by Schwartzkopf Fine Woodworking

Winner’s Choice raffle tickets are $100 each and only 100 tickets will be sold! This is your chance to take home an auction package at an unbelievable value. What a deal! Winner’s Choice Raffle tickets can be purchased by calling the Blue Ribbon Foundation at (800) 450-3732 or at the event. You must be present to claim your package. What are you waiting for, call today to reserve your ticket!


Blue Ribbon Recipes

June 22, 2016
Driving past the Grandstand to get to work this morning was different than usual.  There was a food vendor set up, getting ready for the Goodguys car show.  While the Fair is so much more than food, the two have become synonimous.  The first food stand is exciting, and now I want a tenderloin for lunch, but the Food Competition at the Iowa State Fair has been going on much longer than our obsession with deep fat fryers.  
In 1983 the Iowa State Fair published the first prize winning recipe cookbook.  The purpose has remained the same, to showcase the Iowa State Fair Food Department and the talent that makes it the largest competitive food department of any state fair.  This year's competition will feature 203 divisions and 809 classes.
As a college junior with no cooking skills, I can honestly say I’ve never studied a cookbook before today.  Looking through the best of the prize winning recipes from 2014 and 2015 though has spiked my interest.  There are options for everyone. The recipes range from appetizers, salads, main dishes, breads, and desserts.  Personally I’m most interested in the Chocolate Fried Chicken.  The carb lover in me also wants to try all 63 pages of breads.  If you’re looking to stay on a diet before pigging out at the Fair though, healthy choices are included.  Such as the cleverly named “Kale, Caesar!” salad that won 1st place in 2014 in the Healthy Creations (Featuring Kale) division.  
The 18th Edition Iowa State Fair Cookbook can now be ordered on our website, and purchased at the Fair. Cookbooks are $15 a piece.  If you’d like even more prize winning recipes, the 18th and 17th editions can be purchased together for $25.  
Purchase your Iowa State Fair Cookbook now to give yourself a headstart on your Fair food experience! 

Two Weeks Left to Nominate an Iowan of the Day

June 21, 2016

Yesterday was the first day of summer and we sure felt it at the Blue Ribbon Foundation! Now that summer has started, people are getting prepared for the Iowa State Fair and our office saw more visitors than it has since I’ve been an intern.

As summer progresses, the deadline to submit Iowan of the Day nominations is approaching fast! Nominations are due a week from Friday and I can’t wait to read all about Iowa’s local Olympians.

One gold medalist was last year’s Iowan of the Day, Bret Mace, from Estherville, Iowa. Mace is known as a family man, dedicated employee, church member, 4H supporter and volunteer.

Mace has been a lifelong member of his church and expanded his role by becoming an usher, greeter and volunteer where he works on the church’s garage sale. Mace also serves on the church’s board of trustees.

Also active in the community, Mace is a member of the Kiwanis and Elk’s Club and supports education through serving on the scholarship selection committee. Mace works as a foreman for the Estherville Power Plant and is said to just be one call away. As if this wasn’t enough, Mace also served as a volunteer firefighter for 25 years.

Mace is heavily involved in 4H as the president of the 4H Youth Committee and vice president of the Emmet County Fair Board. Through these positions, Mace contributes his skills as grounds maintenance and off-season events volunteer.  

There are countless Iowans who go above and beyond to make their communities a better place. If you know someone who exemplifies a strong work ethic, dedication to their hometown and a strong sense of Iowa pride, nominate them today for Iowan of the Day!


Runners and Volunteers

June 20, 2016
With all of the items coming in for the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and all of the plans in full swing, it is hard to think about the Iowa State Fair! Only two months from today, the second Saturday of the Fair has a lot to offer. One of the best things about the Iowa State Fair is the Fairgrounds 5K! Running or volunteering for the Fairgrounds 5K gives you the unique opportunity to see the Fairgrounds without the 100,000 attendees. It’s an early morning, but with registration or with volunteering, you get gate admission, a t-shirt and other exclusive benefits. 
We are currently in need of some route volunteers and are accepting registration forms for the Fairgrounds 5K. Please use the online registration or the online volunteer form to sign up for this fun Fair activity! The runners will run down the Grand Concourse, through the hills of the Campgrounds, and along Rock Island, seeing all the best parts of the Fair – food vendors, campers and livestock. 
As a fundraiser for the Blue Ribbon Foundation, it is critical for 10th annual Fairgrounds 5K to make an impact on this year’s Fair. To find more information about running in the 5K or volunteering for the 5K, visit our Fairgrounds 5K page. 
Along with the Fairgrounds 5K, the Iowa State Fair has many more things to offer the whole family! Check out the Fair Schedule page of the Iowa State Fair website as they finalize the daily schedule. Make sure to look into the new foods announced and to get ready for this year’s Iowa State Fair!
Nothing Compares!
2015 Fairgrounds 5K route

Green Thumbs

June 16, 2016

 No matter what time of year you step foot onto the fairgrounds, it always looks fabulous. There are many people behind the scenes that work to make the Iowa State Fairgrounds presentable for every person to enjoy. The Discovery Garden is one of the newly renovated areas of the Fair that you are going to want to check out. Located near the Agriculture Building, The Discovery Garden is maintained by the Polk County Master Gardeners.

Recently the Blue Ribbon Foundation received a Prairie Meadows $30,000 Community Betterment Grant toward The Discovery Garden improvements. Since 1995, Prairie Meadows has provided more than $68 million in Community Betterment Grants. This program is geared towards non-profit organizations located in the state of Iowa, and they also have to meet one of the many requirements listed on their application.

The Master Gardeners have been working hard to get the area planted and in tip-top shape for all Fairgoers. Be sure to stop by and see the fascinating scenery that is in the heart of the Fairgrounds. While the gardeners have been busy in The Discovery Garden, I’ve been busy completing media kits for the Corndog Kickoff.

Meanwhile, the office has seen a lot of activity with people dropping off Corndog Kickoff auction packages. I can’t wait to see you all on July 9th at the 20th annual Corndog Kickoff. Be sure to purchase your tickets!



Volunteer for the Corndog Kickoff

June 15, 2016
The Corndog Kickoff is quickly approaching!  Saturday, July 9 will be here before we know it! Ticket orders are being sent in, media kits are getting finished, and auction packages are coming together.  My piece of the Corndog Kickoff puzzle is scheduling all of the volunteers. Last year over 80 volunteers helped make the Kickoff a success!  
I am still receiving volunteer registration forms in the mail every day, but at this time we still have about 30 open positions.  As a volunteer you are required to attend a mandatory volunteer orientation at 5:30 pm on Thursday, July 7.  At this meeting volunteers will learn more about their positions to help ensure they enjoy the event and it runs smoothly.  It should not last longer than one hour. Volunteers will also receive a complimentary t-shirt to wear the night of the event.
To explain all that our Kickoff volunteers do would take all day. One position that I will highlight however, is our Photography Assistants.  These volunteers direct guests to the photo backdrops.  They also make sure that guests receive an order form, and assist the professional photographer pose guests for their photo.  
If you are interested in volunteering for the Corndog Kickoff, you can contact me at (515)262-3111 ext. 379, or Kelsey@BlueRibbonFoundation.Org.  I look forward to meeting all of our Corndog Kickoff volunteers!
2015 Kickoff Volunteers
2015 Corndog Kickoff Volunteers!

Nominate a "Local Olympian" today!

June 14, 2016

This week marks a much calmer week without the World Pork Expo on the Fairgrounds. As strange as it was to see the Fairgrounds filled, it’s just as strange to see the Fairgrounds bare again too.

Two weeks from this Friday marks the last day to submit Iowan of the Day nominations. As much as I’ve loved reading through old nominations, I can’t wait to see this year’s Iowan of the Day winners.

Caroline Lehman of New London, Iowa is the fifth and halfway point of my 2015 Iowan of the Day spotlights.

Lehman is best known for her work as curator for the Dover Museum in New London. Lehman creates exhibits and goes above and beyond to educate the New London community about Iowa’s history. Through the State Historical Society of Iowa, Lehman worked to bring a traveling exhibit about Iowa’s involvement in the Civil War to New London. Lehman was also influential in getting a railroad depot moved across Iowa to place in the Dover Museum’s railroad collection.

If this wasn’t enough, Lehman served as a committee chair for the 175th annual celebration of New London’s founding. During the celebration, the event honored local veterans and brought the community together.

Lehman also volunteers with her church, works with the local wellness center, serves as secretary of the Henry County Historic Preservation Commission and prepares food for shut-ins and funeral dinners. Lehman’s work has not gone unnoticed by the community as she was recognized as Citizen of the Year in 2009.

People from across Iowa do outstanding things for their community and through this program we’re striving to “celebrate local Olympians.” If you know of someone who deserves recognition, consider nominating them as Iowan of the Day! I would love to see more applications than I have been receiving and would appreciate your help in spreading the word. Tell your friends, family and coworkers to nominate a community member today!