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 $160 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.

Lapel Pins & Pottery & Charms - Oh My!

July 23, 2018
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The Iowa State Fair is a mere 16 days away! With so much to see, do, and eat, the Fair never ceases to create unique, lifelong memories for first-timers and long-time Fairgoers alike. Some guests choose to commemorate their experiences at Iowa’s biggest event with special merchandise items from the Blue Ribbon Foundation, reminding them of time spent with friends at that year’s Fair or continuing a long-time family tradition to “collect ‘em all!” Pottery, Lapel Pins, and Charms are some of the items that continue to find new, artistic ways to represent different aspects of the Fair each year. Curious to see if you did indeed “collect ‘em all” or interested in starting a yearly tradition for you and your family? Below, you will find the entire lists of Pottery, Lapel Pins, and Charms from each year’s Iowa State Fair!


The Iowa State Fair Pottery has been one of the most popular collections for Fair-lovers to enjoy. Starting in 1996, the original pottery piece took the form of a utensil jar and has since transformed into 23 various other shapes, such as a flower pot, a butter churn, and last year’s famous piggy bank. This year, we continue the Pottery tradition with a dinner-worthy plate! Pre-order your 2018 Pottery piece before August 1st by calling the Blue Ribbon Foundation, or find us at one of our six merchandise locations during the Fair!

1996 – Utensil Jar
1997 – Pie Plate
1998 – Porringer (bowl with a spout and a handle)
1999 – Covered Bean Pot
2000 – Butter Crock
2001 – 2-Quart Pitcher
2002 – Flower Pot
2003 – Bowl
2004 – Bread Pan
2005 – Baking Dish
2006 – Utensil Holder
2007 – Vase
2008 – Pottery Pot
2009 – Wine Chiller
2010 – Butter Churn
2011 – Small Beehive Jug
2012 – Compost Pot
2013 – Stein
2014 – Oval Pitcher
2015 – Square Canister
2016 – Mortar & Pestle
2017 – Piggy Bank
2018 – Plate


Lapel Pins:

Dating back to 1993, Lapel Pins are timeless tokens that Fairgoers of all ages can enjoy, displaying them in a shadow box on their fireplace mantles or sporting proudly on their shirts, hats, or backpacks! Find the new 2018 Lapel Pin at our merchandise booths during the Fair or online at the State Fair Store!

1993 – Carousel
1994 – Butter Cow
1995 – Brick
1996 – Ye Old Mill
1997 – Campgrounds
1998 – Grandstand
1999 – Ferris Wheel
2000 – Pioneer Hall
2001 – Varied Industries Building
2002 – 4-H Building
2003 – Livestock Pavilion
2004 – Grand Gates
2005 – Agriculture Building
2006 – Polk County Building/Museum
2007 – Horse Barn
2008 – Administration Building
2009 – Elwell Family Food Center
2010 – Jacobson Exhibition Center
2011 – Butter Cow (head shot)
2012 – Cultural Center
2013 – BRF 20th anniversary (bench, lamp, tree, brick)
2014 – Youth Inn
2015 – Sheep Barn
2016 – Grandfather’s Barn
2017 – Blue Ribbon
2018 – Fair Food
Undated – “Rebuilding the Dream”



For those of you who enjoy a bit of “bling” on their wrists, do we have just the collectible for you…Charm bracelets were first introduced at the Blue Ribbon Foundation in 2008 with both gold and silver options. That year, six Fair charms were released at our store, and every year since, a new charm has been created in both gold and silver to add to the bracelets. As a lover of miniatures myself, these charms are the perfect keepsakes to remember your favorite aspects of the Fair—all at the turn of your wrist! To fill up the rest of your charm bracelet, visit us at the Fair or at the State Fair Store!

2008 – Corndog, Corn, Tractor, Barn, Blue Ribbon, Butter Cow
2009 – Pig
2010 – Sky Glider
2011 – Cherry Pie
2012 – Lemonade
2013 – Horse
2014 – Double Ferris Wheel
2015 – Sheep
2016 – Rooster
2017 – Ye Old Mill Boat
2018 – Music Note



2018 Iowans of the Day

July 18, 2018
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation began the Iowan of the Day award in 1997 to honor those Iowans that truly go above and beyond. The program continues to honor Iowan’s across the state who have made a difference in the lives of others, while upholding the characteristics associated with Iowa- dependability, integrity, hard work and a sense of community.

“We are honored to recognize these tremendous individuals as Iowan of the Day,” said Peter Cownie, Executive Director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. “Their volunteerism, dedication and service to their community, and to the state of Iowa, make each deserving of this honor.”

2018 Iowan of the Day recipients:

Sheri Avis Horner of West Des Moines- Thursday, August 9th
Ron Hunerdosse of Fairfield- Friday, August 10th
Deb Kosters of Sibley- Saturday, August 11th
Gayle Bortz of Chariton-  Sunday, August 12th
Howard Hammond of Slater- Monday, August 13th
Gary Fulton of Marshalltown- Tuesday, August 14th
Keith Carlson of Stratford- Wednesday, August 15th
Ralph Hodson of Ackworth- Thursday, August 16th
Sid Morris of Cedar Falls- Friday, August 17th
Brenda Lee Larkey of Low Moor- Saturday, August 18th

Each winner will have a day of recognition at the Iowa State Fair. He or she will be recognized on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage and presented as an Iowan of the Day. Along with accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, they will receive a cash prize, Grandstand and Iowa State Fair admission tickets and use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart.



Cheers for Volunteering at the Iowa State Fair!

July 17, 2018
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The countdown is on, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is in full gear getting ready for the Iowa State Fair! Today, we will be hosting our annual Volunteer Reception to help prepare our dedicated volunteers (and ourselves!) for the upcoming Fair. With a meal catered by Campbell’s, a “virtual tour” of the Fairgrounds, and a “goodie bag” for each of our volunteers, tonight is sure to be a blast.

For the last 25 years, volunteers have helped the Foundation raise $138 million in funds to preserve and renovate the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Last year, we had more than 500 volunteers devote over 2,500 hours during the 11 days of the Fair, selling bottled water, merchandise, and Fair Squares. This year, we expect to have even more volunteers helping us make the Fair a memorable experience for the more than one million guests who attend.

Some of the perks of volunteerism include: free gate admission for the day, free parking, and a specialty Blue Ribbon Foundation Volunteer T-shirt made by Broken Arrow! Would you and a friend or family member like to volunteer for this year’s Fair? We still have a few open spots left on our Volunteer Schedule that you can sign up for, so please contact Julianna at 515-262-3111 ext. 379 or at for more details.

For those of you who are volunteering, we look forward to seeing you tonight! For those of you who have yet to experience the thrills of volunteering, we hope to see you at the Fair!



Some pictures of our 2017 water booth volunteers!

See you in 25 days!

July 13, 2018
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There’s 25 days until the Iowa State Fair! Make sure you have these 25 items on your Iowa State Fair bucket list! 

1. New Fair Square- Krispy Kokonut made with chocolate and toasted coconut. Don’t let the coconut scare you away- us interns have had our fair share!

2. Add new Iowa State Fair charms to your charm bracelet with a new Iowa State Fair themed charm and a music note.

3. Outhouse Races- On Tuesday, August 14th catch the Blue Ribbon Foundation outhouse racing down Grand Avenue.

4. Thank you to Sandra Freeman Downie for her $1 million donation to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation so we can continue to make the Iowa State Fair a place Iowan’s can be proud of. 

5. Painting Class- Test out your creative side by painting your favorite Iowa State Fair scene. Sign up here to reserve your spot!

6. More than 100 new bricks were laid over the summer, check them out! If you want one, purchase it here!

7. Take home your very own memorabilia with this hand-crafted pottery plate.

8. Iowan of the Day- Look out for these 10 special people on golf carts and on the Bill Riley Stage every day at 2:00 p.m.

9. Come ready every day to check out the “Day of Fair” sponsors- they will be sure to educate you on their business and/or organization through hands on activities.

10. Our lapel pin will look great on anyone- featuring your favorite Iowa State Fair foods.

11. Isabel Bloom- This perfectly crafted hand-made pig is essential décor for any home. Find it at one of our 5 merchandise locations.

12. Volunteers- The Blue Ribbon Foundation would not function as efficiently without our 500+ dedicated volunteers! Find these people working tirelessly in the red shirts.

13. Relax on a bench- gifted by a generous donor. These can be found all around the Iowa State Fair.

14. Grandstand- Attend one of the eleven nights of entertainment at the NEW Kum and Go Stage with an additional 4,000 seats!

15. Behind every plaque is a story- find the plaques on trees around the Iowa State Fair.

16. An original favorite- make sure you test out again the original and peanut butter fair squares!

17. Bingo on Grand- B4 you get too busy, play a game of B-I-N-G-O for only $1.00 with the chance of winning ½ the total amount collected per game. Held on Wednesday, August 15th from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

18. You can’t leave the Iowa State Fair without purchasing a new Iowa State Fair t-shirt! Find it at many of our merchadise stands. 

19. Iowa State Fair Sticks Plaque commemorates all of the favorite animals that you can find at the Iowa State Fair.

20. The Blue Ribbon Foundation is excited to be a 2018 recipient of the Prairie Meadows Legacy Grant program for a $600,000 contribution.

21. Milking Parlor- The new glass in the milking parlor allows for better visualization of the milking process. Educational and fun!

22. Legislative Day- Run into your representative on Thursday, August 16th at the Iowa State Fair. All Representatives will be recognized during the Iowan of the Day program at 2:00 p.m. on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage. 

23. Wood Carvers Auction- Bid on the wood sculptors’ hard work during the fair at the 2018 Woodcarver’s Auction.

24. Christmas in August- A corndog ornament would look perfect on your Christmas tree. Find it at many of our merchandise locations.

25. Water- Perfect for those hot MOMENTS.

Be sure to share your Iowa State Fair MOMENTS with us by tagging the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation with your pictures on Facebook.  We can’t wait to see the streets filled with people, all enjoying the Iowa State Fair.

-Macy and Savannah 


Continued Success at the 22nd Annual Corndog Kickoff

July 11, 2018
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What a weekend! Doesn’t it feel great when something you’ve been working so hard toward finally comes to fruition? And doesn’t it feel even greater when a multitude of people were there with you, supporting you, enjoying it with you, and helping you through every step of the process? Well, we sure are grateful for every single person who helped make the 22nd Corndog Kickoff a wonderful success!

With about 2,000 attendees, more than 100 night-of volunteers, over 20 food vendors, and countless behind-the-scenes donors, volunteers, and staff, we enjoyed a night full of fabulous foods, lively entertainment, and all sorts of fun! The Blue Ribbon Foundation is humbled to announce that this year’s Kickoff has raised a total of $542,000, raising the event’s grand total to over $6.2 million—all of which goes toward preserving and renovating our Iowa State Fairgrounds! Without all of the generous donations, support, and time given from those people listed above, none of this would be possible.

Some of the highlights from the night include:

• A total of 250 Silent Auction packages and 34 Live Auction packages filled the VI Building on Saturday. Check out a few of them below!


• The Fair foods were flying off of the tables and into the hands of hungry guests faster than ever before this year! Some of the popular items included: Corndogs, Pork Chops On-A-Stick, Kettle Corn, Smoked Brisket & Bacon Mac N’ Cheese, and much more. Liked what you tasted? Enjoy them and much more at the Fair in one month!


• New merchandise items were also very popular at the Kickoff, such as the 19th Edition Cookbook with recipes from the 2016 and 2017 Iowa State Fairs. You can order yours at our online State Fair Store.

• For only a $100 raffle ticket, the lucky winner of our Winner’s Choice Raffle chose the Farm to Fair Table Live Auction item as a prize—what a deal!

• The auction item everyone was curious about…our 12 foot tall metal rooster did find a home Saturday night. Though he won’t be waking up any nearby neighbors with his crow, he is sure to bring a pop of color amongst his new wildlife friends. Mr. Rooster, you will be missed.


• A dazzling fireworks display lit up the night sky after the completion of the Live Auction. What a perfect view this would have been while relaxing at the top of the Sky Glider!


Stay tuned for more pictures and news from Saturday night. Thank you again to all of those who made this year our best Kickoff yet!


Corndog Kickoff TONIGHT!

July 7, 2018
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THE DAY IS HERE! After hours and hours of preparation, ensuring the smallest of details are perfectly planned, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is excited to host our 22nd annual Corndog Kickoff TONIGHT!!

Decorations are set, packages are placed, and volunteers and staff are ready for a night full of fun for all! Whether you are coming to sample all of your favorite Fair food before the Iowa State Fair, bid on the 12 FOOT tall rooster, watch the live band or just enjoy a night on the Fairgrounds, we can promise you, you will not leave disappointed!

Check out some of our pictures from all of the set up! If you don’t have tickets, don’t worry! You can purchase them at the doors. See everyone at 6:30 at the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds!

-Macy Evans


Corndog Kickoff & July 4th - A Week of Celebration!

July 3, 2018
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This week, it’s all about the Corndog Kickoff! Since yesterday, many volunteers have been helping us here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation to transport auction packages, set up displays, and get the Varied Industries building ready for a night of adventure! The decorating committee volunteers are ensuring that All Roads Lead to the Iowa State Fair with road sign, suitcase, and license plate decorations galore; and we are starting to feel that thrill of the Fair as the VI exhibit floor quickly comes to life.

As we prepare for the Kickoff, we cannot forget to take some time to celebrate Independence Day and remember all that our great country has to offer—freedom to enjoy time with family and friends; freedom to work and celebrate community; and freedom to eat delicious American foods! We hope everyone spends time tomorrow to relax and celebrate the freedom with which our country is blessed!

But don’t stop the holiday fun on a Wednesday—continue the party with us on Saturday, July 7th at 6:30 p.m.! Enjoy more dazzling displays of fireworks and all of the food, entertainment, and joys of what makes the Iowa State Fair a true representation of America.

Tickets are still available for purchase online or at the doors of the Varied Industries Building on Kickoff night starting at 5:30 p.m.



2018 Good Guys Car Show

June 29, 2018
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An Iowa treasure, the Iowa State Fairgrounds is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Fairgrounds annually attracts more than a million people from all over the world.  This weekend, people are cruising the streets of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds in classic cars as they celebrate the Good Guys Car Show!

Today, the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff strolled the streets and admired the beauty of the Fairgrounds. We admired the history around us, reminiscing about iconic moments that have taken place here, and took a look at some fancy cars! It was neat to see the pride and admiration in the owners as they talked about their cars. 

Just as the owners took pride in their cars, the Fairgrounds is a place any Iowan can be proud of. When you donate to one of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s giving programs, you are investing in the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds - One of Iowa’s most celebrated tradition! 



June 27, 2018
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ONLY 4 MORE DAYS to submit your favorite volunteer’s application to be recognized at the 2018 Iowa State Fair by being named the Iowan of the Day! The Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products collaborate annually to ensure that the individuals that go above and beyond in everything that they do, get one special day off at the 2018 Iowa State Fair! We look for people with a strong work ethic, dedication to improving their own communities and a sense of pride in who they are and where they come from: Iowa!

When asking Rosemary Beach, 2016 Iowan of the Day, about her favorite part she explained, “To find out I had been nominated as Iowan of the Day and have all the special events to look forward to. And then, get to do them!” As an Iowan of the Day Rosemary got VIP parking, a golf cart, four admission and grandstand tickets for family and friends, accommodations at the Des Moines Marriot hotel, recognition on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage, and $200 cash! “Such fun, a great day!”

It is not too late for you to bust out an application! Nomination forms and supplemental material are due by July 1. Deserving individuals deserve a day off, and you can do that for them! Don’t wait- nominate them today!



Introducing the New 2018 Fair Square...

June 25, 2018
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For its 9th year, the Blue Ribbon Foundation will be treating Fairgoers to one of their most-loved foods on stick. With gooey marshmallows, crackling crisped rice, and different flavors to satisfy all appetites, the “Fair Square” is a true Fair time delicacy found only at the Iowa State Fair! Fair Squares come in three flavors: original rice krispy, peanut butter, and one surprise flavor each year. In 2017 we celebrated the Blue Ribbon's 25th anniversary with a Birthday Cake flavor. This year, travel to your own tropical paradise with the new 2018 Fair Square: Krispy Kokonut!

A plain rice krispy square is topped with a thick layer of chocolate and then garnished with toasted coconut to take your taste buds on a trip to the ocean shore—in Iowa! Krispy Kokonut landed in the office just a couple of weeks ago for a taste test by the Blue Ribbon staff, and this moist rice krispy treat passed with flying colors—even amongst those of us who aren’t huge coconut fans! This flavor truly took me back to my time in Florida, where my brother would climb up palm trees, gather a few coconuts, and serve my family a hydrating afternoon snack. (Don’t believe me? Check out the picture below. :) ) When the Florida heat reaches Iowa during the Fair, this flavor will be the perfect, refreshing getaway.

Whether you prefer the tried-and-true original and classic PB or are up for a new adventure, you can find all of these delicious flavors at the Fair Square booth northwest of the Administration building. There you’ll meet some of our smiling volunteers and enjoy another aspect of what makes our Fair the best, and most delicious, vacation Iowa has to offer!