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 $150 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.

A Look at the Past- Campgrounds Edition

July 21, 2017
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There is something about pitching a tent or hanging out in a camper for a weekend that revives families from the outside world. Most of the time, you’d find a family at a state park or lake, but this year during August 10-20, you’ll be able to find MANY campers at the Iowa State Fairgrounds enjoying 11 full days of excitement.


The Blue Ribbon Foundation has played an active part in updating the campgrounds. We want fairgoers to have the best experience during their stay and create lasting memories.

Over the past 25 years we have had an incredible support system and we thank you for your continued support. You can continue to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation in preserving and restoring areas on the Fairgrounds such as the campground for years to come by donating to our 25th anniversary campaign at With your help we can continue to make our Fairgrounds a beautiful place.


The 2017 Iowan of the Day Winners Have Been Selected!

July 19, 2017
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The 2017 Iowan of the Day recipients have been chosen! I am so excited to meet these individuals who have made an impressive impact on the state of Iowa. The recipients strongly represent the entire state, as the winners come from all regions. 

From main streets receiving a remodel and a designation, libraries being updated and built, to U.S. Marine Corps veterans being honored for their service, these Iowans have truly demonstrated their love and passion for our state. Iowa is in good hands with these individuals whom are also working to better our environment with improved conservation methods and strategies.

Our youth have great leaders to look up to. The recipients are continuously creating sporting, educational and community events to get children involved. Each of the ten recipients brings a unique way of life to their community, and as a group they are exemplifying the qualities that Iowans possess!

I am pleased to present the ten Iowan of the Day  recipients for the 2017 Iowa State Fair:

Carolyn Scott of Bloomfield, IA-Thursday, August 10
Shirley Geadelmann of Clarence, IA-Friday, August 11
Donald Bries of Dubuque, IA –Saturday, August 12
Ron Bell of Mondamin, IA-Sunday, August 13
Marian McQuaid of Guthrie Center, IA- Monday, August 14
Patricia Nelson of Winterset, IA – Tuesday, August 15
Mary Doak of Grundy Center, IA – Wednesday, August 16
Marty Braster of Centerville, IA- Thursday, August 17
Chris Fox of Johnston, IA-Friday, August 18
Bernard Becker of Lakota, IA- Saturday, August 19

Plan to attend each of the winner’s presentation at the 2017 Iowa State Fair, taking place on the Anne & Bill Riley stage at 2: 30 P.M. each day. Thank you to those who nominated an Iowan in their community! Each nomination is considered for three years. We will see you in 21 days!


THANK YOU- Corndog Kickoff 2017

July 14, 2017
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Nearly 2,000 Iowa State Fair supporters gathered for a night of fun, food and fundraising. The Blue Ribbon Foundation auctioned off 31 live and 231 silent auction packages for totals of $149,550 and $68,090, respectively. The Patron contributions totaled $282,350. The remaining funds consisted of tickets and merchandise sales.

The success of the Corndog Kickoff would not be possible without your help. Thank you to our attendees, volunteers, donors, and concessionaires for supporting our event. With your help, we will continue to renovate and preserve the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Blue Ribbon Foundation thanks you for your continued support.


Celebrate 25 Years of the Blue Ribbon Foundation with New Book

July 13, 2017
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation was established by the State Fair Board in 1993 to conduct a major capital campaign for the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Since its creation, the Foundation has been a key component of the Fair raising an amazing $135 million. The amazing journey the last 25 years is now being celebrated with a new book.

A Great State Fair: The Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Revival of the Iowa State Fair, by William B. Friedricks, takes you behind the scenes of the roller coaster ride of ups and downs of the Iowa State Fair’s long history, leading up to the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the remarkable revival it brought about the Iowa State Fairgrounds, now bigger and better than ever. The paperback book consists of 172 pages and includes over 40 photographs and illustrations. It will be sold for $20 at our merchandise booths during the Fair.

Along with the new book, the Foundation is also hosting a 25th Anniversary Campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to celebrate our history while creating awareness about our mission for the future. The proceeds of this campaign will be 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, building enhancements and maintenance to the Fairgrounds, ensuring the Fair will be a grand tradition for generations to come. 

The success of the Blue Ribbon Foundation the last 25 years would not be possible without all of you. Thank you for coming along this amazing journey with us, and being a part of the Fair that we all know and love.



The cover of A Great State Fair: The Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Revival of the Iowa State Fair

And the New Fair Square Flavor Is...

July 12, 2017
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation began selling Fair Squares in 2010, and ever since the rice krispy treat on a stick has been a hit! Have you tried all of our flavors? From the original rice krispy flavor or peanut butter, to the Graham Champion with cocoa krispies and golden grahams, we have had a wide variety!

Our previous flavors have been Nothing Spared, the basic rice krispy treat with M&M’s, potato chips, Oreos, toffee and pretzels. Fair-berry Crunch consisted of crisp rice cereal, marshmallows and strawberry puree. Chocolate Marshmallow Malt was made with butter, marshmallows, chocolate chips, cocoa puffs and malted milk powder. Salted Caramel was a delicious mix of sweet and salty with regular rice krispy treat drizzled with chocolate, caramel and salty goodness.

In honor of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 25th Anniversary, we wanted to celebrate! Join us at the Fair to celebrate with a piece of “cake” with a Birthday Cake Fair Square!

You can find the Fair Square booth North West of the Administration building. Fair Squares are $2.50 each. We can’t wait to see you at the Fair to help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary!



A Look at the Past- Pioneer and Ag Hall Edition

July 11, 2017
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Iowa is known for agriculture. We are a state that prides ourselves on the contributions we make to agriculture in society. Stepping on to the Fairgrounds, that is clearly evident as seen in all 4H, FFA, and other exhibitor’s projects. Whether your work is showcased in a show ring, on a rack, on a plate, or in a vase, agriculture surrounds every corner of the Iowa State Fair. Many of these entries can be found in the John Deere Agriculture Building or Pioneer Hall.


Green thumb and beekeeper exhibitors showcase all of their hard work in the Agriculture Hall. This hall was one of the first buildings on the Fairgrounds to be renovated from wood frame to permanent brick and stone. The beautiful rotunda arks that preface each entrance have been restored and decorated with shells of stone. This building is quite popular during the fair because of what lies inside. The famous butter cow and jumbo vegetable displays can be found here. The Agriculture building is also home to my favorite display, the Iowa FFA Foundation. Multiple blue jackets from chapters all over the state of Iowa are hung each telling its own story.


Pioneer Hall is the only original building built for the 1886 Fair that still remains. The history comes alive from the inside. Many artifact and antiques are located here.


Each building has a purpose and a story. At the Blue Ribbon Foundation, we strive to keep the history and stories living on each year for fairgoers to experience by providing funding to restore and enhance the areas. Your support over the past 25 years has been extraordinary and we look forward to the years to come. Continue supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation by donating to our 25th anniversary campaign at


Tiny But Mighty Heirloom Popcorn

June 29, 2017
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We’re excited to have Tiny But Mighty Heirloom Popcorn at the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction on July 8th to share their delicious Non-GMO popcorn! This tiny popcorn comes from Iowa and was discovered in the 1850s. Tiny But Mighty is doing a #TinyMatters Giveaway to help spread the word and inspire people to do tiny things that make a mighty difference. You can win a year’s supply of their heirloom popcorn, a tiny drone with video and tons of other healthy and fun prizes totaling $6,000 in value. Join the giveaway at Hurry, because the giveaway ends July 4th!

Not only will Tiny But Mighty be serving popcorn at the Corndog Kickoff, but they will also have a silent auction package for you to bid on! Here are the details:

Package #105: No Floss Needed

Amazing taste and no floss needed with this Heirloom popcorn discovered in the 1850s. Grown in Iowa, the popcorn has never been modified or hybridized.

• Within this Tiny But Mighty Heirloom popcorn basket you get three 1.25 lb. bags of unpopped kernels and two 3-pack cartons of Spicy Southwest microwave popcorn.
• Want popcorn on the go? Here are a selection of 4 oz snack packs of popped corn in white cheddar, sea salt and butter flavors.
Donated by Tiny But Mighty Popcorn

If you haven’t yet, make sure to secure your spot at the Corndog Kickoff by purchasing tickets online or calling the Foundation office at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371. Can’t wait to see you there!



A Side Rail

June 28, 2017
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The Iowa State Fair has a long history of projects that bring change to the Fairgrounds. Over the years as our society transitioned, so has the Fairgrounds. Before vehicles and shuttle busses, Fairgoers traveled to Des Moines via trains, arriving at the spur built to the south side of the Fairgrounds. Gradually, automobiles became the primary mode of transportation and the use of trains faded, leaving the railroad track to never see a train again.  In recent years, the railroad tracks were becoming a nuisance to the maintenance crews who cleared the roads of snow. The rails stuck out, causing the blade of the snowplow to hit the tracks, damaging the blade. Dating back to 1898, the rails were just removed this past year from the parking lot area south of the Fairgrounds.

Randy Schnebbe of RS Welding in Victor, IA was searching for a unique item to donate to the Corndog Kickoff. After coming across the rails, he chose to incorporate them into a memorable piece of furniture. Randy used his creative skills to create a unique sofa table that is truly one of a kind.

The rails from the track were created into the base of the sofa table, showcasing their wear and tear. The table top is a lightly veined marble, a rare find that is no longer commercially available. The marble was mined in Iran and cut in Italy and consists of a creamy white color with veins of gray and sienna, which pick up the colors found in the rails.

Plan to attend the Corndog Kickoff on July 8 to bid on this beautiful piece of furniture that will add a piece of Iowa State Fair history to your home. This table is package #28 of the live auction, which will begin promptly at 8 P.M. This is a specially designed table you won’t find anywhere else. Don’t miss your chance to add this elegant piece to your home!

To purchase Corndog Kickoff tickets, call the Blue Ribbon Foundation at 515-262-3111 ext. 371 or online at


The stunning marble that is the top of the table. 




Fairgoers exited the train and began walking to the Fairgrounds to enjoy the great, Iowa State Fair! 


A Look at the Past- 25th Anniversary Cultural Center and Photography Edition

June 27, 2017
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Pictures capture some of the most iconic memories. The stories that lie behind a photograph showcase amazing history and generate captivating emotions. Each year, thousands of photographers enter more than 3,600 pictures in the State Fair. Those photos are showcased in the Cultural Center. The talented individuals who capture the pictures are the reason we can figuratively look back at the changes the Blue Ribbon has had the opportunity to be a part of.



The Cultural Center has some history itself. Before it was the now Patty and Jim Cownie Cultural Center, it was the 4-H Club Girls’ Dormitory. The Cultural Center took on transformations that included new lighting, removing some interior walls, adding new display cases and painting the building inside and out. The Cultural Center now holds a spread of art for Iowan artisans. The Iowa State Fair’s art show is the state’s largest.



The Blue Ribbon Foundation continues to honor our Fair’s history by being a reliable source of funding for renovations and building enhancements. Help up celebrate our 25th year anniversary campaign by donating to the Foundation. We thank you for your involvement now and your continued support in the future.


The Iowa State Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dediated to continuing that legacy. We invite you to join a community of generosity and become even more involved with the fair you know and love. 



Our Wonderful Staff

June 26, 2017
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Take a look at who was featured in the Iowa State Fair Staff Newsletter!

Peter Cownie, Executive Director - Joining the Foundation in 2013, Peter oversees all daily operations.

Robin Taylor, Assistant Director - Joining the Foundation in 1999, Robin Oversees the merchandise, volunteer, and planned giving programs. She also works with accounts and coordinates the Corndog Kickoff Auction.

Meg Courter, Sponsorship Director - Joining the Foundation in April 2017, Meg manages our dozens of Iowa State Fair sponsors.

Drew Norton, Communications Director - Joining the Foundation in 2013, Drew directs the Foundation's communication efforts. She plans special events including the Corndog Kickoff, as well a manages various giving programs, membership programs, and the Iowan of the Day program

Life as an intern can be challenging but when you have these four professionals to look up to it becomes quite the ride!