Iowan of the Day

Since 1997, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products partner to honor outstanding Iowans at each year’s Iowa State Fair. We look for individuals across the state who personify the greatness of Iowa with a strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others, and an exceptional sense of Iowa pride.

Every year, 10 nominees are named Iowan of the Day, receiving a special day of recognition at the Fair. As Iowan of the Day, winners receive the following:

  • Four Iowa State Fair admission tickets
  • An introduction on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage
  • Four Grandstand show tickets for their day
  • Privilege to use the Iowan of the Day golf cart for the day
  • VIP parking
  • Accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown
  • $200 cash

View a full list of the past Iowans of the Day since the program's inception in 1997.

Do you know someone who commits their life to bettering your community? Someone who deserves to be acknowledged for their efforts? Be sure they receive the recognition they deserve! Nominate your shining star by July 1 for this year’s Fair.

Download a nomination form here. Forms can also be requested by calling 515-262-3111 ext. 371. All nominations are considered for 3 years.

Nominees must be residents of Iowa. Each nomination is evaluated on a number of things, including community involvement, volunteerism, personal achievements, and involvement with youth to name a few. Nominators should provide us with supplemental materials that emphasize these areas such as testimonials, photos, newspaper articles and letters of recommendation. Any information that shows our judges the greatness of your nominee is welcomed! A sample nomination application from 2010 is available here. Or, watch our nomination video to see what to include!

Jody Reynolds – Des Moines
Jody joined the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., and worked in Vietnam and South Korea. She was among the first American women to serve in the Vietnam War - an experience that no doubt fueled her lifelong desire to always serve others. Jody and her husband Stan became involved with Variety - The Children’s Charity. The couple has devoted their lives to serving children who are sick or have special needs. Jody’s passion and drive led her to become the first female president of Variety - The Children’s Charity of Iowa and the first female president of Variety International. Jody helped raise over $100 million in her lifetime for Variety.
Carol Jebens - Delhi
Carol has been part of organizing and volunteering for the annual Easter egg hunt, blood drives and Christmas tree lightings. She also takes care of the local cemetery as well as numerous park and memorial projects. Carol has led the way for fundraising on behalf of Camp Courageous, the local fire department and EMT, and the baseball and soccer leagues in her community. Carol routinely collects food and donations for the local food pantry and gives generously to her school’s “Dollars for Scholars” program. She is also an active volunteer with “Change a Child’s Story” literacy project, which involves reading with children on Wednesday mornings and then in the evening at the public library.
Buffi Honeck – State Center
Buffi has dedicated countless hours to the improvement of State Center. She serves as a board member of the Gutekunst Public Library where she co-wrote a grant that provides free access to patrons of the library to several central Iowa educational/cultural sites. Buffi is a member of several civic organizations and serves on numerous boards. Most notably, Buffi has chaired the Rose Festival Board for seven years and arranged for the Bill Riley Talent Search to be at the town’s festival for the first time this year. She also holds positions on the Rose Garden Board as well as Parks and Recreation and played an important role in the procurement and installation of a splash pad at the Kauffman City Park in State Center.
Aaron Van Beek – Sioux Center
At the age of 20, Aaron had a vision to bring Honor Flights to his area. As a junior in college, he had already brought Wreaths Across America to his hometown, ensuring that no Veteran is forgotten. Aaron’s foresight and passion to give back to his American Heroes is overwhelming. The Midwest Honor Flight was accepted into the National Honor Flight Network in March of 2017. Aaron has orchestrated four successful missions so far, serving over 300 Veterans. The details and logistics that go into an honor flight is a massive undertaking. He volunteers approximately 200 hours every month just with this project. Aaron is also heavily involved as a volunteer with Boy Scouts, Sons of the American Legion and Wreaths Across America.
Kelsey Bumsted – Solon
Kelsey is an exemplary role model and prominent leader in her small town of Solon, Iowa who endlessly volunteers for the betterment of her community and its residents. Kelsey is “ALL IN” for Solon Community Schools and has served in many different capacities from PTO treasurer, or working at the book fair, to volunteering as a resource for Kindergarten round up, all for the success of Solon Community School District. In addition to her support of the school, Kelsey is known for her work and efforts for making Solon a better place to live. She is active within the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Board. In doing so, she has been instrumental in breaking ground for Solon’s new Splash Pad and Batting Cages.
Warren Van Dyke – Greene
Warren has always believed strongly in supporting his community and church. Through the years he has helped with the first and second “Good Old River Days” festival, held positions as state director and president of the Iowa Jaycee’s, served as a board member on Lake Odessa Duck’s Unlimited and started a Pheasant Forever chapter in Lousia County. Having a passion for education, Warren served for six years on the school board. He also donated to flood relief in Greene County with the Butler County Pork Promoters, an organization that Warren has been a proud member of for 20+ years. The pork promoters also give donations to local food banks and gives out scholarships in their community.
Richard McClure - Sidney
Dick retired in 2000 after working for the ISU Extension Service for 43 years. During those years, he took 4-Hers to Washington D.C. 12 times to attend the Citizenship/Washington Focus learning experience. Dick received the Iowa State Fair Hall of Fame award in 2005, recognizing a person for their contributions to the 4-H program. He also started Two County Dusters Equestrian Drill Team. During retirement Dick was part of a food grade corn corporation called Quality Iowa Maize (QIM). He has also been a member of the local Masons and Shrine organizations. Lastly, Dick is a member of the Home Town Pride organization and Chairman of the Boot project.
Pat and Nancy Corkrean - Winterset
Pat and Nancy Corkrean are truly pillars of Madison County. They are successful entrepreneurs, leaders of several non-profit organizations in Madison County and are primarily responsible for St. Joseph Catholic Church having a new building with room for expansion. As the Corkrean’s business ventures succeeded, their amount of community investment increased. Most of the new housing built in the Winterset area are Corkrean homes. Winterset’s new hotel is also a product of their efforts; even the local photos in the rooms were taken by Nancy. Pat and Nancy also played a critical part in the organization and fundraising efforts to open the John Wayne Birthplace Museum and the Iowa Quilt Museum.
Mary (Kimberly) Rueter - DeWitt
Retired from her position as general manager and managing editor of her community newspaper, the (DeWitt) Observer, Mary had a career of more than 41 years. Her experience in the newspaper field cultivated an interest in transparency and openness in government as well as the need for freedom of information. Mary has a long history of volunteerism, ranging from 16 years as a member of the Mississippi Bend AEA board of directors and long-time service on local education and hospital foundations. She also served on the DeWitt Chamber and Development Company’s board of director’s committee and was president of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation.
Vicki Lage - Perry   
Vicki was the Perry representative for Youth for Understanding (YFU) for eight years in the 1990s. As a volunteer, she recruited host families for foreign exchange students in the local school district and helped plan activities for the students and families in her area. The Lage family also hosted four students themselves. In 2000, Vicki became involved with the Iowa State Fair and the Blue Ribbon Foundation. She was active with the planning of the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction as well as volunteering at the Fair. Above are just a few highlights of Vicki’s life as a volunteer. More recently, Vicki has spent hours serving at local businesses including the Lutheran Home, Spring Valley Assisted Living Facility, Hotel Pattee, and La Poste.

Joy Thiel - Reinbeck    
After retiring from teaching in 1997, Joy began volunteering full-time and has yet to retire from this endeavor. Joy spends her time volunteering at Allen Hospital in the gift shop, sewing kid’s caps for surgeries and has served two years on the volunteer advocate committee. Along with her extensive involvement in the Allen Hospital, she has also helped at the Reinbeck Park View Manor Nursing Home, coordinating monthly activities, and uses her sewing abilities to help mend clothes for the residents. Joy coordinated, organized, and computerized the elementary library at Immanuel Lutheran School in Waterloo. When the school closed, Joy moved the library to Valley Lutheran School in Cedar Falls where she continues to help with story time and book check out. Joy involves herself in Mosaic Haven LLC, helping special needs children and adults by putting together manipulatives to facilitate learning for motor skills related to self-care. 

Kris and Steve Gunderson - Odebolt   
The Gunderson duo demonstrates the epitome of service. After Kris retired from teaching in 2012, she became a founding member and chairperson of the Community Basket, a traveling food pantry in Sac and Ida counties working to fight food insecurity in rural communities. Steve served as the President of the Odebolt Cemetery Board for 15 years, ensuring Cemetery trees are trimmed and the lawn is maintained. Kris and Steve led seven mission trips through the Appalachia Service Project. As members of the Odebolt United Methodist Church, both have served on almost every committee. Kris is a steering committee member of 100 People Who Care in Sac County with a mission of gifting to charities and non-profits serving Sac County  

Gregg Obren - Clinton  
Gregg Obren has served the Clinton community for the last few decades through many different roles. While carrying the responsibilities as the Director of Parks and Recreation, Greg always found time to pursue his hobby of volunteering. From helping out with youth sports to serving on the church and school board, he spends his free time looking for ways to impact his hometown of Clinton, Iowa. After retiring, Gregg was able to dedicate even more of his time to volunteering. He has served on many different community committees and boards including Clinton Trees Forever, Clinton 4th of July Committee, Meadowview Pool and the RAGBRAI Welcome Committee just to name a few. 

Jody Rudolph – Anita
A strong work ethic, dependability, and integrity were just a couple of the words used to describe Jody in her nomination for Iowan of the Day. Jody’s love for music has led her to use her talents for serving the community and getting others involved while she’s at it.  Jody regularly brings students to perform music at many different places around the community including Caring Acres Nursing and Rehab Center, American Legion, and various women’s meetings. Along with her involvement with the youth, Jody secures local musicians and speakers for the Memorial Day programs held at Evergreen Cemetery and Caring Acres. For many years, she has taken charge and organized the annual live nativity scene called “Walk through a Winter Wonderland” at Anita businesses and Anita Sale Barn. This includes lining up volunteers, livestock, costumes, and music to ensure the event is a success. Jody dedicated much of her time to playing the organ at several area churches on the weekends, and has for weddings and funerals. 

Julie Hitchins - Marshalltown   
Julie is a well-respected leader in the Marshalltown Community, continuously going out of her way for the betterment of the community. Along with her leadership as the executive director of the Community Foundation of Marshall County, she dedicates her talent and energy to many different nonprofit organizations including Child Abuse Prevention Services, P.E.O. Chapter of Marshalltown, Vision Marshalltown and Rotary-International. Her leadership in the Marshalltown community does not stop there as she is quick to respond when disaster strikes. When the derecho hit, Julie took the time to clean up the Riverview Cemetery, and found ways the Community Foundation could assist in the impact it had on the community. She contacted family members, friends, and co-workers to get donations flowing to help mitigate the damage the derecho had done. 

Georgia Campbell – Berwick 
Georgia has decades under her belt of sharing her gifts with others. After recovering from polio when she was young, she discovered a deep passion for horses. Throughout her life, she has transformed that passion into service by working with handicapped and underprivileged children as a riding instructor. From a very early age, Georgia was serving her community and has not stopped well into her 80’s. As a lifetime volunteer, Georgia served as a 4-H Leader for over twenty years and served on both the Polk Fair Board and Iowa Horse Show Association Board. From her time spent with the youth she has received a plethora of awards over her lifetime including Hometown Hero, Volunteer of the year from Flying Arrow Saddle Club, Adult Sportsmanship trophy, and special merit award. 

Janet Wissler – Oelwein 
Janet’s dedication to community service has been described as “tireless”. She not only shows initiatives on countless projects, but also supports others’ ideas. From holding every major office in Lions Club, to leading the Community Garden in Oelwein, she is an unstoppable force when it comes to the pursuit of community betterment. Her extensive community outreach includes collecting books to give children at Old Tyme Christmas, leading a group that provides recipes, cookbooks, and food samples to Food Bank recipients, and delivering food to shut-ins for Meals on Wheels. From serving as treasurer to heading up recruitment and kitchen duty for all funeral lunches, Janet has served her church in many capacities. When COVID hit, Janet worked to ensure church was a safe atmosphere for attendees. 

Bill and Connie Ridgley - Panora  
Bill and Connie were instrumental in the establishment of Tori’s Angels, a lifesaving effort created for a child with a heart defect. Now Tori’s Angles benefits children not only in Guthrie County, but also throughout Iowa. Tori’s Angels sponsors children with life threatening medical conditions through various fundraising efforts. Along with the Ridgley’s tremendous work with Tori’s Angels, they are also actively involved in their community including serving as Lions Club President, youth activities through their church, supporting county libraries and volunteering for Make a Wish. At the events they help with, Bill and Connie are known to be the first ones to come and the last ones to leave, always helping to prepare the food and clean up after. 

Carol Messer – Yarmouth 
From volunteering at the State Fair to advocating for agriculture, Carol Messer could easily be described as someone with deep Iowa roots. Carol spent many years advocating for women’s agriculture issues on a county, state and nation level with the Farm Bureau. Carol has advocated for agriculture on a local level by presenting Ag in the Classroom for students in Mediapolis and Farm Safety Camp at the Des Moines County Fairgrounds. At the State Fair, Carol and her late husband Emmet volunteered in the Open Class Food Department for over 50 years. In her local community, Carol has served as a 4-H leader, been on the extension council, and has judged numerous 4-H shows. In her church, she has been involved as a Sunday school teacher, youth camp counselor, and youth leader. 

Barbara Kniff McCulla - Pella   
Barbara was described in her nomination as someone who has the ability to connect with new people that she meets and immediately establish a common bond. Barbara has used these abilities to be successful in her business as the owner of KLK Construction and ViewPointe Development in Pella, and as an active member of her community. Outside of her successful career, Barbara is involved in numerous organizations with various local, state, and national associations. Barb is active in the Pella community as she helps out with the Christian Opportunity Center providing housing, employment, and support for handicapped individuals. She also is the Chairman of the Pella Community Foundation Board, and assisted in establishing a Teen Challenge for women home. Barb’s faith is evident in her involvement from helping to launch a women’s ministry group to involvement in her local church.