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 $195 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.

Construction is Underway!

June 2, 2023
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I can’t believe it’s already June! Before we know it the best eleven days of the year will be here. My time at the Foundation has been moving along quickly as we dive deeper into preparation for the Corndog Kickoff and the Fair. With the Fair quickly approaching, the Fairgrounds are buzzing with excitement as updates are being made; one in particular is the sheep barn.

The Foundation’s ‘Back the Barns’ campaign has officially begun its renovation, starting with the sheep barn. This past week a lot of excitement has be seen as renovations really became noticeable. The barn restoration includes multiple upgrades; restoring brick and terracotta masonry, remodeling the office area, installing new underground storm sewer piping, reroofing all lower level roofing areas, remodeling existing restrooms and adding restrooms to meet code, repainting, and providing sun-shading for the show arena. 

The ‘Back the Barns’ campaign is a $25 million, multiyear project to restore and renovate the famous livestock barns on the Fairgrounds. This project started this spring with the sheep barn and will continue with the cattle, horse, and swine barns over the years. ‘Back the Barns’ reigns closely with me as I grew up showing cattle at the Fair!

If you want to support this barn restoration and guarantee the tradition of showing livestock at the Iowa State Fair continues to thrive in amazing facilities, you can become a member of the campaign today. To become a member, you can pledge $1,000 annually for three years to support these outstanding showmen at the Fair. If you wish to become a member and donate to the “Back the Barns” online at or call the Foundation’s office at (515) 262-3111 Ext. 371. 

Growing up in the agriculture industry and showing at the Fair has taught me so much in my lifetime. The ‘Back the Barns’ campaign is a key element in continuing to help shape the showmen into the next generation of the agriculture industry!

Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern

P.S. Enjoy some throwback pictures of me showing J

Blue Ribbon Merchandise

June 1, 2023
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Happy June! I can’t believe it’s already June, but it’s an exciting time as things start to ramp up for the summer. Make sure to grab your favorite shirt or shirts if you can’t decide! Our T-shirt contest winning shirt and other finalists are on sale from today until June 16th. The winning design will be for sale during the Iowa State Fair in our merchandise booths. 

With the wide range of t-shirt designs and styles, you’ll be sure to find something for everyone in the family to wear. If T-shirts aren’t your thing, we also offer many other merchandise items such as charms, socks, salsa, BBQ sauce, plaques, prints, lapel pins, Isabel Bloom pieces and much more. These items can be found on our website under the “State Fair Store” tab and “apparel.” We have many great options!

We will also be adding some new items to our merchandise line at the Fair this year. One of my personal favorites being the Butter Cow pillow cover. If you’re a big Butter Cow fan too, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for this piece as I’m sure it will be a hit. All of the new merchandise items will be available during the Iowa State Fair and on our website this fall. 

With all of the exciting things we have coming up on our calendar such as the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction, and of course the Iowa State Fair, we will always welcome and appreciate any help. If you are interested in volunteering, or contributing to the Blue Ribbon Foundation, call us at 515-262-3111 (Extension 371). We look forward to speaking with you and your generosity is greatly appreciated!

T-shirt Contest Sale Store Link:

-Macy Loecke, Public Relations Intern 



A Look Back at the Past Newsletters

May 30, 2023
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With June quickly approaching, the countdown to the Fair is on. (In all reality, does the countdown to the Fair ever truly end? – We look forward to it all year round!) Although I have only been with the Foundation for a few weeks now, I have already been involved with a number of tasks. Most recently, I got the opportunity to write the donor highlight section of the newsletter. While in search for inspiration, I decided to look back on past newsletters. I found myself engulfed in reading the history behind the Foundation and everything that has happened in the past. I decided to reflect and highlight what the newsletter had written about from both 10 and 20 years ago.

What was going on 10 years ago? (2013)

  • Renovations
    • Cultural Center
      • Many of you know this building as a wonderful exhibit space for Iowans to showcase their talents. Many years ago, this space was a designated dormitory.


  • Donor Profile: Don and Cheryl Timmins
    • This pair had many different levels of involvement in the Fair growing up. As they got older, this continued. As members of the 1854 Society and Fan Fair, this couple felt strongly about the preservation of the Fairgrounds. On top of that, Don and Cheryl have been able to leave their legacy behind for many generations to come with the purchase of a brick, lamppost, and a tree. Don and Cheryl continue to donate to the Blue Ribbon Foundation today – helping with many important improvement projects – especially for youth.


  • Interns
    • Carly Grenfell
      • Public relations
    • Kristine Millbrandt
      • Special events
    • Kaitlin Ricke
      • Special Projects


  • Corndog Kickoff
    • As an intern, one of your main responsibilities is helping with the Corndog Kickoff. As I was flipping through the pages of past newsletters, it was so fun seeing the different themes over the years. Back in 2013, “The Grandest Show Around” was the Foundation’s 17th annual auction. This year the event will be held July 8th and will be a spinoff of Jimmy Buffets “Margaritaville.” You won’t want to miss out on a “Corndog in Paradise.”


What about 20 years ago? (2003)

  • Renovations
    • The Foundation was busy in the Spring of 2003 with many renovations being done.
      • The Livestock Pavilion got a new roof,
      • The Legacy Terrace got a new water feature,
      • A concrete retaining wall was put up east of the Cattle Barn,
      • A new safe shelter was added to the campgrounds,
      • And the Swine Barn got a new roof as well


  • Donor Profile: Campbell’s Concessions
    • If you know the Iowa State Fair, you know Campbell’s Concessions. They have had a presence at the Fair since the 1920’s. Ever since then, they have been a loyal supporter of the Fair and the Foundation. Originally named, “Little Concessions,” Calvin Campbell and Helen Little purchased and renamed the company, “Campbell’s Concessions.” We are so thankful for the generous donations they have made over the years and continue to do so. 


  • Interns
    • Kate McKenna
      • Public relations
    • Kendra Brown
      • Event planning


  • Iowan of the Day
    • A lot has changed over the years, but plenty has stayed the same as well. Recognizing outstanding Iowans is one of those things that will never get old. Since 1997, The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products partner to honor these exceptional Iowans at the Fair each year. These individuals personify the greatness of Iowa with a strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others, and an extreme sense of Iowa pride. In the spring of 2003, the Blue Ribbon Foundation was looking for the next Iowans of the Day. Fast forward to 20 years later, we are still doing the same. If you have someone in mind, be sure to nominate this individual by July 1st for the recognition they deserve. 

Only 71 more days until the Fair!

- Donor Relations Intern, Regan Freland

Corndog Kickoff Sneak Peek

May 26, 2023
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Happy Friday! Things are starting to get busy for us as we count down the days until our Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and of course…the Fair! After recently starting full time, I can tell you that no two days have been the same which makes the job even more fun. As you may have seen in Faith’s blog, we recently placed more engraved bricks and what a day that was. It was a lot of fun and you really don’t understand what goes into that process until you’re a part of it firsthand. Hard work, but I will say they’re looking sharp. I encourage everyone to take a closer look at the bricks, plenty of history there!

We are fortunate to receive support for our Corndog Kickoff Benefit through auction donations. We have received some very generous donations and of course we will continue to welcome donations as our event gets closer. I won’t give too much away, but I will say I believe there is something for everybody with our variety of items. Just another reason to attend! So, let’s highlight a few…

This year’s theme for the Corndog Kickoff is “A Corndog in Paradise.” If you like this theme, you’ll be sure to LOVE this auction item. How does a stay in the Blue Island Villa on the island of Turks and Caicos sound? Well, I’m happy to tell you this breathtaking trip will be up for grabs at our auction. Don’t miss it!

Maybe you’re like me and always wanting to add some stylish pieces to your closet. If so, take note of some gorgeous Vera Bradley pieces we have up for grabs. You will love the style and quality that these pieces provide, and they are sure to add that extra pop of color or style that you might be missing!

For all the grill masters, you’ll want to keep this Weber Grilling Package on your radar. Equipped with a large variety of spices and rubs, grilling tools and shakers, you’ll be the favorite neighbor in no time with your new flavorful creations and ideas. Soon, you’ll be making friends from all around the block!

These are just a few of the fantastic items we have to offer at our upcoming event. The Kickoff is highly anticipated around here and hopefully for everyone reading this too. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Saturday, July 8th. We are extremely excited to see everyone again this year. To see how you can help, contact our office at 515-262-311 EXT. 371. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

-Macy Loecke, Public Relations Intern



The Gift that Keeps on Giving

May 25, 2023
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Summer is finally here, and I am officially working full-time in the office! Through my time here so far, I have gotten to do many different things in preparation for the best eleven days of the year! These tasks include answering the phones, responding to emails, attending meetings, and working on various projects and campaigns, from “Back the Barns” to finding local bakers to be featured at this year’s Corndog Kickoff event. One fun task I recently got to help with is laying the newly engraved bricks across the Fairgrounds!

Brick by brick is what we were saying as we fit these bricks in their spot just right to be showcased at this year’s Fair. This can be a tough task at times, don’t worry luck was on our side as I got a little gift on my head from a bird above! As the wise tale says, if a bird poops on your head it’s a sign of good luck and boy it was as the bricks fit perfectly after that!

Each year my family and I walk around the Fairgrounds looking at the bricks to see if we can spot anyone we recognize. I always wonder how they got those new bricks into the grounds. Well, now I can say I know and was able to be a part of the process! Buying a brick is just one of the many ways you can be a bigger part of the Iowa State Fair and restore memories for many years.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation has many ways you can be a part of creating those everlasting memories through our giving programs. These giving programs all go towards financing the renovation projects and improvement of the Fairgrounds, so you are creating fond memories and helping the Fair through donating. There are many ways to give, from buying a brick to being a part of the block-by-block program to beautifying the environment by adding a tree to the Fairgrounds. If you want to enhance your engagement with the fair, you can learn more about our ways to give by visiting our website at, calling the Foundation’s office at (515) 262-3111 Ext. 371, or stopping by the office. We are located on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in the Earth Home (under the wind turbine, by the Cultural Center and Fun Forest). We are open Monday – Friday from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.

My time here at the Foundation has been the absolute best so far! I have gained and learned so much thus far in my short time. I am so excited for what the rest of the summer has in store and to dive deeper into my projects and preparation for the Fair!

- Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern


Making Memories at The Iowa State Fair

May 22, 2023
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Thirty years have come and gone since the creation of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. Back in 1993, the Foundation was established to conduct a major capital campaign for the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds dedicated to ensuring the Iowa State Fair’s future. I would say the Foundation has done just that.

This is one of the many reasons why the Iowa State Fair is so special to me. Some of the most memorable moments in my life were days spent at the Fair, and I am fortunate enough to have never missed a year of it. I remember countless hours spent walking around the Fairgrounds with my grandpa. He would take me to his favorite spots at the Fair – the ones that just so happened to hold the most history. It was here we would find a bench, take a seat, and I would listen to what the buildings and barns meant to him. One of the most meaningful places my grandpa and I shared on the Fairgrounds were the barns, specifically the Cattle Barn. I was fortunate enough to grow up on a generational dairy farm in which we would show our cattle at the State Fair. There was nothing that filled my grandpa with more pride and joy than watching his grandchildren continue his legacy. I am sure most exhibitors know this feeling.

I always felt very connected to these stories, buildings, barns and the Fair as a whole, considering it was in these exact spots where my grandpa made his Fair memories many years prior. Without the Blue Ribbon Foundation and generous donors who make it all possible, these memories my grandpa and I shared together wouldn’t be the same.

No matter what your connection is to the Fair, memories and history are being made, even if you don’t realize it at the time. Like my grandpa shared with me, the Fair provides lasting stories that you take with you your whole life.

Thinking about these memories, there have been many improvements made over these past 30 years to ensure the Fair maintains its rich history while also ensuring its future. The Blue Ribbon Foundation is continuing this conservation by creating a program in recognition of the immense pride shown by our livestock exhibitors. “Back the Barns” is a campaign that will include a $25 million renovation to the livestock barns. Each structure will have dedicated restorations in areas that are vitally needed such as roofing, flooring, electrical, restrooms and tuckpointing to name a few. Members of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s, “Back the Barns” campaign are those generous donors who have pledged $1,000 per year for 3 years in support of the Iowa State Fair’s historic livestock barn restoration project. Your membership can be paid in many ways:

  • A one-time $3,000 gift
  • An annual gift of $1,000 for a 3 year term
  • Quarterly gifts of $250 for a 3 year term

With this donation, you will receive a commemorative belt buckle that not only holds up your pants, but is also a symbol of your generosity in supporting the next generation! In addition to your one-of-a-kind belt buckle, your name will be listed on a plaque recognizing donors when the project is complete. Please consider backing our barns by joining in this campaign to enhance the Fairgoer experience and help ensure those lasting memories can be continued for many years to come.

I know I am beyond thankful I was able to create and share such special memories with my grandfather. This campaign will allow many others to create their own for years to come.

Like the Back the Barns Campaign, there are many other great giving opportunities you can be a part of to help maintain the Fair’s history and ensure its future. Check them out here


Thank you for your support!

  • Regan Freland

Donor Relations Intern





Local bakers, we need you!

May 19, 2023
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Bakers, bakers, where are you? The Foundation is introducing a new exciting opportunity for local bakers to participate in this year’s Corndog Kickoff event. We are asking for 25 local homemade bakers to make their favorite creations to be donated and auctioned off at the event. Currently, we have 10 of the 25 bakers we are looking for and want to fill up the rest of those sweet spots!

With each of these sweet treats, we ask for every item to be an auction package. Here is an explanation of what we are asking for:

  • Amount to bake
    • Enough to serve a table of eight and make an attractive package
  • Delivery of your items to the event
    • On Friday, July 7 between 9:00am & 4:00pm
    • On Saturday, July 8 between 9:00am & 12:00pm
    • Bring to the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds
      • Use the south overhead door to enter
  • Presentation
    • Have your item ready to set out on a table to be displayed and auctioned off
    • Covered, as there will be over 2,000 people there

The Corndog Kickoff is a great event to be a part of as all of the funds raised go towards the Fairgrounds renovations as well as it is a great night out with family and friends. We are searching for 15 more local bakers who want to showcase their best sweet creations! If you are interested in donating a baked good to the Corndog Kickoff auction or know someone who you think would be interested, please contact me, Faith, at or call (515) 262-3111 Ext. 379.

- Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern

Nominate someone you know!

May 18, 2023
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Things are heating up inside and outside of the office. It is officially summer for the interns and we are now all together and getting settled in. With the days passing by, that means that one of our favorite Iowa State Fair traditions is fast approaching. This tradition being our Iowan of the Day program. Iowan of the Day has been around 25 years and now we are asking for your help.

While many of you are familiar with the Iowan of the Day, some may not be. “Iowan of the Day” is a way of honoring outstanding Iowans each year at the Iowa State Fair. We are searching for individuals across the state who exemplify a strong work ethic, high levels of volunteerism and an exceptional sense of Iowa pride. 10 winners will be selected and each will receive a day of recognition at the Fair.

 On top of that, winners will receive a variety of prizes to make their day at the fair extra special. It will truly be the Best Days Ever for these outstanding Iowans. Nominations are due Saturday, July 1st. Nomination forms can be found on our website. Even if your Iowan doesn’t take the cake this year, they will be considered for 3 years after the submission of a nomination. Selected Iowans will receive:

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

If someone you know is deserving of this recognition, we want to hear about them. Make sure to do your part in nominating them and honoring them in true Iowa fashion. For more information on the Iowan of the Day or any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Macy at or by calling: 515-262-3111, with an extension of 378. We are excited to hear from you!

Dining Delights!

May 16, 2023
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Here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, there are many ways to give back to the Fair! Our key fundraising component is the Corndog Kickoff. This special event will be held on July 8th and is filled with auction packages, entertainment and all your favorite Fair foods.

Many activities are held at this event, with one of the biggest hits being “Dining Delights.” Attendees donate $20 to pick a mystery gift card of $25 or higher to a number of different restaurants in Iowa! This is a great way to discover a new restaurant or have a night out at one of your favorite places. What’s even better? You are directly supporting the future of the Fair while you’re at it! It doesn’t get much better than that.

Do you have a specific restaurant in mind that you would love for someone to try? A hidden favorite in your hometown? You can support them by buying a gift card and donating it to the Blue Ribbon Foundation for the Dining Delights activity.

Want to help out but don’t have the time to get out and purchase a gift card? Feel free to send in a donation and we can handle the rest for you!

Are you thinking you would like to be a part of this fun? You can be! There is still plenty of time to purchase your tickets to the 2023 Corndog Kickoff or reserve a table by becoming a Patron. We would love to see you there.

Thank you for your support!

- Regan Freland, Donor Relations Intern

Corndog Kickoff Games

May 1, 2023
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Happy May Day! Last week I highlighted some of our upcoming events, one of them being the annual Corndog Kickoff Auction. While I’m sure most of you are aware of the Benefit Auction being the main component of this fundraiser, you may not know some of the other things we are offering. So, let me fill you in!

If you like good food and you’re not afraid to try something new, Dining Delights sounds like the perfect thing for you. This is a foodie’s dream! It involves gift cards to different restaurants around the state. For $20, participants will be able to draw a mystery gift card as their prize. We are currently welcoming gift card donations. We ask for gift cards with a $25 value. We would appreciate these donations from restaurants or if you have a favorite restaurant you want to share maybe you would consider donating a gift card from it. This way, you can support your local businesses as well as our foundation AND share your favorite restaurant with someone who might love it and share with someone else! Who knows, maybe you will draw one of your old favorites or end up trying something new that you may not have before!

If you’re always up for surprises, the Mystery Prize Game is probably for you. All you have to do is purchase a mystery envelope at the event for $15. Make sure you grab yours right when you get there though, as we will only be selling 250 envelopes. There is over $2400 worth of prizes, don’t miss out!

Some prizes in the Mystery Prize Game will include:

-2 ISF Grand Stand Tickets of your choice

-VIP Parking

-On-Grounds Parking

-$5 ISF merchandise coupon

-$5 in ISF food vouchers

-Admission Ticket

-Ye Old Mill Ride Ticket

-Sky Glider Ride Ticket

-Giant Slide Ride Ticket

-Free Bottle of Water

-Cup of Cookies Voucher


No matter which envelope you get, every envelope is a winner so nobody goes home empty handed!

Halfway through the live auction, we will be playing a 50/50 raffle game. You may purchase a souvenir bandana or “rag’’ for just $10 to participate. During the game, you will either hold it up in the air or down by your side. The auctioneer will be flipping a coin, heads being rags up and tails rags down. If you choose correctly, you can remain standing and will continue to play. If you choose wrong, you sit down. The game will go on until there is one lucky person left standing. Our winner will receive half of the amount raised from rag sales. In 2022, our winner took home $3,925! You could go from rags to riches!

If you’re looking for something new at the Corndog Kickoff and have a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. This year we will be having a Dessert Auction as another way to raise funds for the foundation. 25 treats from local bakers will be up for grabs so keep your eyes out for your favorite dessert!

Anyone that wants their sweet treat featured in this year’s auction can contact Faith at: or by calling the Foundation at 515-262-3111 (EXT. 379).

We are excited to offer these games again this year and believe there is truly something for everyone at this event. If you have any questions, or are interested in contributing to the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can be reached at 515-262-3111 (EXT 378.) We hope to see many old and new faces this year and hope many of you are ready for a night to remember in July!

-Macy loecke, Public Relations Intern