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 $200 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.

Time, Treasure & Talent

November 20, 2023
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Last Friday I attended the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Philanthropy Day Luncheon where the local chapter honored two companies and three individuals. All were recognized for their charitable giving but, more importantly, their spirit of giving. Time, Treasure and Talent are the three T’s spoken about in the non-profit world and all three were present in each of the honorees.

Treasure is obvious and admittedly, quite important, as all organizations need funding in order to fulfill their missions. Renovations to the buildings on the Iowa State Fairgrounds wouldn’t get very far without the funding to purchase the materials and pay for the skilled labor!  The Blue Ribbon Foundation is blessed to have supporters who believe in our mission and share their treasure with us, be it $1 in the Corndog Checkoff, $250 for TAG Team or a major gift that initiates a capital giving campaign.

But Treasure isn’t the only “T” that is vitally important. There are two others in the mix – Talent and Treasure. The talent comes when people who love the Fair step up to share with us a skill they possess. Bill McNarney, a man passionate about the Fair who worked for HUD, offered the Foundation its very first in-kind gift, a set of 15 hand drawn pen and ink sketches of the major buildings on the Fairgrounds. Bill gave the Foundation the rights to use the images for any fundraising purpose. These drawings formed the base of the first merchandise sold by the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. Other shared talents include, but are definitely not limited to, those supporters who help set up our merchandise booths, create the baskets and backdrops for the Corndog Kickoff, develop computer programs, work with database entry and so much more.

The time, oh the time, is where our bread is buttered so well because of all of you who simply love the Iowa State Fair and want to help in its success. Time isn’t just about the 5,200 volunteer hours given during the 2023 Iowa State Fair at our booths or the countless hours asking businesses for a donation to the Corndog Kickoff. It is also about understanding the mission of the Blue Ribbon Foundation and sharing that message with friends and family. It is about bringing new people to the Corndog Kickoff or Iowa State Fair and welcoming them into the “Fair fold,” of including them in your love of Iowa’s greatest event.

At the closing of the luncheon, the speaker encouraged everyone present to take a moment and think about someone who has made an impact on you or your community. And then, to take it that next step and reach out and let them know. So during this week of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you all, each and every one of you who has given of their Time, Talent and Treasure to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. Thank you! Your contribution has made an impact for all of us working, enjoying and loving the great Iowa State Fair.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving – we are thankful for you!

Online Souvenir Auction Open for Viewing

November 1, 2023
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation has sold Iowa State Fair souvenirs as a fundraiser since our organization started 30 years ago. A selection of these souvenirs, and many others, are now open for viewing on the auction site. Check out the site here or use the QR code below to view the items available for bidding. 

The online auction will open for bidding on Thursday, November 9th at 10 AM and will close on Sunday, November 12th at 8 PM.

To bid, you must register as a bidder and provide the required information on the form, including a valid credit card. Winning bidders will receive details on how to pick up their item(s).

Happy bidding and thank you for supporting the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation!

Fall Newsletter: 2003, 2013 and 2023

October 24, 2023
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As the fall newsletter hits mailboxes, here is a brief flashback to what the Blue Ribbon Foundation was doing 10 and 20 years ago. 

What’s happening at the Blue Ribbon Foundation? 

  • This summer, the Foundation hit a fundraising milestone by raising $1 million at the Corndog Kickoff.
  • Popular merchandise items for sale this fall are the Pickleball Paddles and Butter Cow pants. See all the options in the online State Fair Store.
  • An all-time high of 668 Fairgoers volunteered their time during the Fair’s 11 days.
  • Applications are being accepted for next summer’s interns. Deadline to apply is November 30.
  • Staff is preparing for an online Souvenir Auction, starting November 9. 
  • Construction is underway on a historic $25+ million Livestock Barn renovation project – join the fundraising by becoming a “Back the Barns” supporter. 
  • Read the complete Fall 2023 Newsletter

What was the Blue Ribbon Foundation doing 10 years ago?

  • The Foundation introduced Peter Cownie as the Executive Director after he officially started in August.
  • Fairgoers were preparing to run in the 7th annual Fairgrounds 5K. 
  • The Patty and Jim Cownie Cultural Center was undergoing additional improvements.
  • The Corndog Kickoff raised $416,000 with “The Grandest Show Around”, circus theme.
  • 462 volunteers helped during the Iowa State Fair. 
  • An ISF necklace and Butter Cow kite were for sale in the State Fair Store. 

What was the Blue Ribbon Foundation doing 20 years ago?

  • Foundation staff was busy collecting Iowa State Fair memories to be part of the new Richard L. Easter Iowa State Fair Museum Complex. Construction of the new museum was underway and completed before the 2004 Fair.
  • Staff was thrilled with the 7th annual Corndog Kickoff raising $180,000 for future improvements.
  • 402 volunteers stepped up to help the Foundation sell water and merchandise during the Fair.
  • T-shirts and hats were the popular Iowa State Fair souvenirs ready to sell in time for Christmas.

Programs have grown, new projects have developed and things have changed over the years. The loyalty of Blue Ribbon Foundation donors and volunteers continues to grow. Thank you for your support!

Iowa State Fair Souvenir Online Auction

October 18, 2023
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The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation has sold limited edition Iowa State Fair souvenirs as a fundraiser since our organization started 30 years ago. The lapel pin collection started in 1993, while the ornaments and plaques started in 2010.

Check out the lists below to see if your collection is complete. If not, now is your chance!

A selection of these souvenirs, and many others, will be featured in an online auction. Bidding will open on Thursday, November 9 at 10 AM and close on Sunday, November 12 at 8 PM. 

Check the website for updated photos and descriptions of each souvenir. To bid, you must register as a bidder and provide the required information on the form, including a valid credit card number. Winning bidders will receive details on how to pick up their item(s). 

Lapel Pins:
2023: Elwell Family Park
2022: Cattle Barn
2021: Giant Slide
2020: Cup of Cookies
2019: Admission Gate
2018: Fair Food
2017: Blue Ribbon
2016: Grandfather’s Farm
2015: Sheep Barn Terra Cotta
2014: Youth Inn
2013: Tree, Bench, and Lamp Post
2012: Cultural Center
2011: Butter Cow (head shot)
2010: Jacobson Exhibition Center
2009: Elwell Family Food Center
2008: Administration Building
2007: Horse Barn
2006: Museum
2005: Agriculture Building
2004: Grand Gates
2003: Livestock Pavilion
2002: 4-H Building
2001: Varied Industries Building
2000: Pioneer Hall
1999: Double Ferris Wheel
1998: Grandstand
1997: Camper
1996: Ye Old Mill
1995: Brick Pad
1994: Butter Cow
1993: Carousel
Undated: Rebuilding the Dream Pin

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2023: Draft Horse
2022: Fairfield Mascot
2021: Quilt
2020: Bucket of Cookies
2019: Camper
2018: Corndog 
2017: Blue Ribbon
2016: Riley Stage
2015: Giant Slide
2014: Sky Glider
2013: Campgrounds Shuttle
2012: Pepsi Clock
2011: Ye Old Mill
2010: Butter Cow



2023: Collect ‘Em All
2022: Iowa State Fair Peeps
2021: Butter Believe It
2020: Always in my Heart
2019: Have A Grand Ole Time!
2018: The Gang’s All Here!
2017: Midway – Family Time
2016: Giant Slide - Enjoy the Ride
2015: People Watcher
2014: Fair Family Fun and Show Your Pride
2013: Happiness Is and Sky Glider
2012: Little Squeakers and Fairlicious
2011: Love a Fair and Home Grown
2010: Riley Talent Show, Food on a Stick, Ride a Ride, Shear Fun, New Arena

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By the Numbers

October 17, 2023
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation spends each fall reviewing what worked well and where we can continue to improve. We strive to grow each and every year.

 A few 2023 Iowa State Fair highlights and fun facts to share:

  • The Blue Ribbon Foundation sold Iowa State Fair souvenirs as a fundraiser.
    • Total merchandise revenue: $503,236
    • The first day of the Iowa State Fair was the largest sales day.
    • Top 5 items: t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, bee charm, butter cow plush
    • Sold 1409 - $5 magnets
    • Did you miss your ISF souvenir? Check out the online State Fair Store.

  • The Foundation also sold bottles of water at seven booths across the Fairgrounds.
    • Water booth sales were $107,336
    • That’s 4,411 cases of bottled water - 105,864 individual bottles of water handed over to Fairgoers.
    • On average, each of our seven stands sold 1,375 bottles per day.
  • Volunteers:
    • Volunteers staff the merchandise and water booths. They help with the golf cart shuttle, Jake’s Club Hospitality Suite and BINGO.
    • 2023 had a record number of volunteers with 668 Fairlovers giving their time. (589 in 2022)
    • Volunteers filled 1,321 shifts over the course of our 11 day Fair.
    • That’s 5,150 hours!
    • This year, about 70 new people jumped in to volunteer for the Blue Ribbon Foundation. Thank you!

  • Iowan of the Day:
    • These outstanding Iowans from across the state make their individual communities better places to live!
    • Honored 10 Iowans from across the state
    • Age range of honorees – 10 to 97 years old
    • It's never too early to nominate someone for next year. 

  • BINGO:
    • 84 games played
    • 3,838 Fairgoers participated
    • Raised $3,497
  • Woodcarvers’ Auction:
    • Raised: $66,609
    • The Bigfoot sold for $4,510!

Continuing to Grow:

  • Back the Barns:
    • 100 Donors have joined this new fundraising campaign.
    • That’s $300,000 toward improving the historic Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine Barns on the Fairgrounds.
    • Back the Barns” is a way for anyone with a passion for agriculture to support the renovation of the barns on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Providing youth with exceptional facilities in which to compete and showcase their hard work and skills every August is central to the Fair’s mission.
    • 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.  And yep, you really do get a special belt buckle to celebrate your investment in our mission of preserving the Fairgrounds.  It’s a mutual support program – we’ll help hold up your pants; you help hold up our roof.

  • Capital Improvements:
    • Top 6 improvements from 2023:
      • Sheep Barn Phase I
      • Public Safety Building addition
      • Alliant Energy Landing mural
      • Agriculture Building east and north doors
      • Deets Museum Porch repairs
      • Iowa Craft Beer tent concrete floor
    • Crews have already started on new improvements this fall!

Thank you for supporting the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. We are truly thankful that our numbers keep growing in the right direction. The Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dedicated to continuing that legacy. Join our Mission.

Work with Us!

October 9, 2023
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation works year round to plan and prepare for the Iowa State Fair. Each summer, our office grows from a five-person to eight-person staff with the addition of three interns. We couldn’t have a successful Corndog Kickoff or Fair without their help. 

The Foundation’s internship program gives a hands-on opportunity to exercise organizational and administrative skills while obtaining significant experience in business, communication, event management, marketing and public relations. This is not your typical internship. Each intern will be a true member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team, working directly with staff, coordinating select projects, and making sure committed donors have a strong and lasting relationship with the Iowa State Fair.

A special thank you to the 2023 interns – Regan Freland, Faith Kuehl and Macy Loecke. 

Regan was a burst of energy in our office over the summer. She stayed busy organizing hospitality events and promoting the Corndog Kickoff, while providing key communication with current and potentially new donors. She brought her positive attitude and previous Fair experience (working Little Hands on the Farm and as a Dairy Cattle Night Line Girl) to our organization. Thank you, Regan, for your hard work. 


Faith did an incredible job assisting the Sponsorship Director this year by… organizing signage, concert tickets, moving in/out coordination, tracking payments, mapping out space and so, so much more! She helped promote the Back the Barns campaign, Corndog Kickoff auction, and we will never forget the day we placed engraved bricks – she was the victim of bird poop – sorry Faith! Thank you for spending your summer at the Foundation!


Macy spent her 11 days of the Iowa State Fair running between the Iowa of the Day presentation, stocking the merchandise booths and organizing the chainsaw woodcarvings. Macy always had a story to tell staff that would lighten the mood and make us laugh. Just what we needed on the hot July and August days. Thank you Macy! 


Each of these ladies was a key member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s staff. If you know a hard-working, motivated college student who loves the Iowa State Fair, make sure they are aware of the Foundation’s internship opportunities for 2024. 

Learn more about this program. Applications will be accepted until November 30. 

Beautification Project

October 3, 2023
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Did you see the beautiful new murals on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in August? If you missed seeing the unique artwork, come out to the Fairgrounds to look for yourself. Adding the murals to the Fairgrounds were one of the many highlights of the summer – a true beautification project.

A little history for you...

In 1999, a shelter house was built on the Iowa State Fairgrounds to provide a space during the Fair for organizations to host events such as employee appreciation days or family reunions.  The 2,700 square foot building was constructed with treated wood and wood shingles in a quiet location east of the Livestock Pavilion.

After its construction, the shelter house was used extensively.  During the Iowa State Fair there were two rental times available to provide either morning or evening slots.  Waitlists of organizations wanting to utilize it during the Fair was common. The shelter house was also available for rent throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons.  Often it was utilized for events connected with the many horse shows hosted on the Fairgrounds.  

With more than 20 years of wear and tear, combined with Iowa’s winter weather, the shelter house was showing its age and did not meet current Iowa State Fair standards or needs. There was no doubt that upgrades would improve the functionality of the space while making the shelter house attractive as a safe economical location for a family or business event.

In 2022, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation received a generous contribution from Alliant Energy to build a new shelter house, called the Alliant Energy Landing. The new shelter doubled in size, provided paved ADA accessibility points, added LED lighting, and ceiling fans to help air flow on the hot August days. The space around the shelter was paved and the landscape was expanded. The new structure continued to be the only publically available rental space during the Iowa State Fair, now offering a larger venue for more event flexibility.


Alliant Energy gave another charitable contribution in 2023 to add unique artwork to the Alliant Energy Landing. An original mural now graces the concrete retaining wall and was created by local Des Moines artist, James Navarro. Composed of individual panels, they feature different vignettes celebrating what makes Iowa special. The artwork showcases farmland, wind and solar energy, raising livestock and agriculture education by highlighting 4-H and FFA. 

Beautification doesn’t always mean large scale projects. The Alliant Energy Landing also received some smaller improvements that made the space more attractive. Utilizing large pots filled with a variety of greenery and flowers softened the concrete, giving the space a traditional picnic feel that fits in well with the Fairgrounds’ park-like setting.  The addition of modern, ornamental iron trash receptacles shows that updating something as simple as a trash barrel truly can elevate a space. 


The small beautification touches of custom murals, flower pots and modern trash receptacles helped expand the marketability of the structure. Everyone utilizing the facility during their visit to the Iowa State Fair or throughout the year can enjoy the functionality but also an eye-catching visual display in the space. This allows the Iowa State Fairgrounds to continually stand out as a premiere facility for the state of Iowa. 

Thank you again to Alliant Energy for your support of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation.

Iowans of the Day

September 27, 2023
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation has been celebrating the hard work of volunteers across our state since 1997. Volunteering is an integral part of Iowans' lives. Volunteers have the ideas, knowledge and expertise needed to keep our communities moving forward. The Foundation proudly honors outstanding state-wide volunteers with the “Iowan of the Day” award during the Iowa State Fair. 

With the help of Cookies Food Products, the Foundation honored 10 Iowans with a special day of recognition. The winners were celebrated during a presentation on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage and received $200 cash, use of a golf cart for the day, VIP parking, gate admission for four, hotel accommodations at the Des Moines Downtown Marriott, and four tickets to the evening Grandstand show.

Arilyan Steenblock – Panora 
As a junior in high school, Arilyan did her part to help with an issue many young women encounter at some point, finding themselves in need of a feminine hygiene product but not having one on hand. To help solve this issue, she started “Blessing Boxes”. These boxes are stocked with needed products in the girl’s bathroom at her school. Between using some of her own money to keep these boxes filled, and soliciting donations, Arilyan is determined to help with this on-going issue.

LaVerne Quass - Ankeny 
LaVerne is committed to giving back to his community. This is evident from his 20 years of volunteering for Life Serve Blood Center. LaVerne has transported blood to hospitals all over Iowa and into Nebraska as a volunteer driver. He continues to volunteer 25 hours a week at the age of 86.   He is also highly involved in his church. LaVerne is a loyal and helpful friend, graciously aiding his friends with their appointments and outings. 


Nelda Bartels – Lytton 
Nelda is known as the “energizer bunny”. She leads the designing of the face of her town; including the welcome signs as well as the plants she maintains each summer. Nelda continually volunteers to take photos for the annual Lytton Gala Days Celebration. She can be found attending local sporting events as one of the biggest fans. Nelda coordinates activities each year for the Sunday school kids. It’s safe to say that she loves her small town and the great state of Iowa.

John Keeney - Carlisle 
John has been the treasurer for the Warren County Agricultural Association for 15 years as well as a member of the Board of Directors. He has also served as the vice president on the Warren County Fair Association for 15 years. John is a member of the VFW and American Legion. He was a 4-H leader for 16 years along with his 18 years of serving on the Extension Council and Youth Committee. John is an inspiration for his service and dedication to many different organizations in his community. 

De Heaton – Corning 
De averages more than 30 hours a week serving her community through her work at the Corning Opera House as the Executive Director. She oversees maintenance of the building, writes grants and makes sure that entertainment is family friendly. De is a strong advocate for music education and experience. She facilitates many youth activities such as the children’s musical, “Tea Parties”, the annual Polar Express Celebration as well as planning educational activities for students on “early out” days. 

Emma Miller - Goodell 
At ten years old, Emma was with her grandmother at the local cemetery paying their respects to family and close friends by decorating headstones. Emma noticed there was a large tree limb on one of the gravestones. She called her grandpa and he brought tools to help her clean up and make repairs to the area. Emma took initiative and decided to continue this as a community service project. Throughout the last two years she can be found decorating, repairing or cleaning old grave sites in the cemetery. 

Ron Stutsman – Riverside   
Ron is the face of his community. He has served as Chairman of the Board for the Sharon Center United Methodist Church, President of the Iowa 4-H Foundation, and President of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. Ron makes himself (as well as his resources) available whenever needed to his community. He has served on the Hills Bank and Trust Board of Directors, President of Goodwill Industries of SE Iowa and is a member of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce Board. 

Arleen Starman – Burlington 
After losing her husband when he was in hospice care, Arleen was called to help others going through the same thing. She understood what the families were feeling allowing her to help them in a way nobody else could. Arleen healed others as she healed herself through her 3,247 hours of volunteering with hospice over fifteen years. Arleen is well known and loved around her community because of her 27 years of being the middle school secretary. She makes it a point in her life to make everyone feel special.

Bev Michael - Cedar Falls 
Since 1994, the Sartori Memorial Hospital has recorded 6,250 volunteer hours that Bev has contributed. She has managed the gift shop, coordinated blood drives and chaired the teen volunteer committee. Bev has served as the president of the Hospital Auxiliary, held a seat on the Iowa Hospital Auxiliary Board and co-chaired the Sartori Festival of Trees fundraiser for a number of years. She volunteers with the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, Cedar Falls Visitors and Tourism Bureau, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Waterloo Center of the Arts, and Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Elsie Van Beek – Maurice 
As a 15 year old, Elsie has a strong passion for recognizing and thanking veterans. She successfully raised $85,000 through selling cupcakes and soliciting donations to sponsor 83 veterans on an Honor Flight. The veterans had the opportunity to see Arlington National Cemetery along with other special memorials: a day they will never forget. Elsie volunteers with Wreaths across America, Midwest Honor Flight, Key Club (community service organization), Maurice Youth Group and is a junior member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit.

It's never too early to nominate a deserving person for next year's Iowan of the Day Award

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. 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! 

Congratulations again to the 2023 Iowan of the Day winners!

2023 Iowa State Fair Highlights

September 20, 2023
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2023 Iowa State Fair Highlights:

Here are just a few special highlights from the 2023 Iowa State Fair! 

  • The Blue Ribbon Foundation hopes you noticed several new improvements to the Fairgrounds.  The Public Safety building expanded with a 2-story addition and renovations of the existing space will start this fall. The Fairview Tap’s fresh landscape and extended seating was enjoyed by Fairgoers. While the Elwell Family Park’s permanent restrooms were a much needed enhancement to the event space.  

  • The first phase of the livestock barns renovation project is underway! Starting in the Sheep Barn, new air conditioned restrooms were added and underground sanitary water systems upgraded. Join the fundraising by supporting the Back the Barns campaign.

  • The Blue Ribbon Foundation sold $503,000 worth of merchandise during the Iowa State Fair. Top selling items were t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, charms and the Butter Cow stuffed animal. (Merchandise is still available in the online State Fair Store.) More than 105,000 bottles of water were sold! Both of these fundraisers wouldn’t be possible with the help of our outstanding volunteers. 

  • In 2022, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation received a generous $1 million contribution from Alliant Energy to build a new shelter house. The Alliant Energy Landing hosted different events throughout the year. For 2023, Alliant Energy sponsored a mural. The mural is on the Alliant Energy Landing’s retaining wall and was created by local artist, James Navarro. Focusing on agriculture education, several panels line the wall with different vignettes. Thank you so much to James Navarro for bringing his creativity to the Fairgrounds and to Alliant Energy for supporting the Fairground's improvements.

  • Thank you to the Iowa Auctioneers Association for graciously donating the profits from their showcase during the Fair. Auctioneers from across the Midwest showed off their selling skills resulting in a $3,000 donation to the Blue Ribbon Foundation. 

  • Tracy Forbes volunteers in the Blue Ribbon Foundation office every day during the Iowa State Fair (and weekly throughout the year). She goes the extra step to help everyone she can. From answering questions to helping with whatever our staff needs, Tracy deserves all of the praise! She was one of the 2023 Iowa State Fair Everyday Impact Award winners. 

  • Thank you to the late Tim Mallicoat - Concrete Supply Inc., Sonny Hall - Absolute Group and the Iowa Concrete Paving Association for their generosity in donating and facilitating the paved surface at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent. Fairgoers appreciated the update, especially during the rainy day. 

  • The Blue Ribbon Foundation held the annual all-day BINGO fundraiser on the Grand Concourse. A total of 3,838 people played in 84 games of BINGO helping the Blue Ribbon Foundation raise $3,497. 

  • The Woodcarvers' Auction raised $66,609. All proceeds from the auction are dedicated to Our Fair’s Future, the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s endowment fund. A special thank you to Chainsaw Artists - Gary Keenan, T.J. Jenkins and Clint Henik for producing such outstanding pieces of art.  

  • A special thank you to the 2023 Interns - Regan, Faith and Macy! We sure appreciated your hard work all summer long. Check out the 2024 Internship Opportunities.

Where to Find the Blue Ribbon Foundation at the Fair

August 2, 2023
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Nothing Compares to the Iowa State Fair! Make sure to check out the several Blue Ribbon stands across the Fairgrounds! Whether you are looking to purchase merchandise, or need a refreshing bottle of water, we look forward to seeing your smiling faces at the BEST DAYS EVER. 


One way to remember and cherish the memories of the Iowa State Fair forever is through the purchase of Fair merchandise. Proceeds from these items go directly to the renovation and preservation of our beautiful Fairgrounds. Many new pieces can be purchased this year at the Fair! Some of these include:

  • The 2023 pieces:
    •  Isabel Bloom sculpture (Pie)
    •  Pottery Piece (Serving Platter)
    • Iowa State Fair Sticks Plaque
    •  Charm (Bee)
    • 30th anniversary ornament
    • Draft horse ornament
    • T-Shirt (Corn)
    • Lapel Pin (Elwell Family Park)  
  • Hats
  • Pillow cases
  • Pajama pants
  • Mugs
  • Butter cow ornament
  • Car coasters
  • Shot glasses
  • Pickle ball paddle set

Merchandise is sold daily at the Fair from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM at six locations across the Fairgrounds. These include:

  • Service Center (Main 'store')
  • Cattle Barn
  • Little Hands on the Farm
  • Agriculture Building
  • Varied Industries Building
  • Museum (This location features $5 t-shirts from previous Fairs and other previous year’s merchandise alongside this year’s items!)

Be sure to check it out!


Water Bottle Sales

If you’ve visited the Iowa State Fair, you know those 11 days in August can be hot! Be sure to grab a few bottles of water from the seven Blue Ribbon Water Booths across the Fairgrounds! These booths can be found at the:  

  • Service Center
  • Cattle Barn
  • Agriculture Building
  • Riley Stage
  • Little Hands on the Farm
  • Heritage Village
  • Thrill town

Water can be purchased daily for $3 a bottle from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Proceeds from your water purchase go directly to Fairground improvement projects.



Come out to the Grand Concourse on Wednesday, August 16 from 9:00 AM to 7:00 for a classic game of BINGO. For $1 a game, you have the chance to win half of the total earnings collected per game. The proceeds will go to support the Foundation’s mission. Celebrity guests will help call out the Bingo numbers throughout the day. These celebrities may include Fair Board members; so you won’t want to miss this fun opportunity!


Improvements to See

Thanks to many generous donors, the Iowa State Fair is constantly seeing renovations and improvements to help ensure the Fairgrounds keep its rich historical elements while also staying up to date. Take note of this year’s projects at the 2023 Iowa State Fair!

  • Pioneer Hall
    • Crews have finished repairing each side of Pioneer Hall's exterior and have finished the project by rebuilding the main doors.
  • Fairview Tap
    • Fairview Tap expanded its patio to provide more outside seating, allowing Fairgoers to take advantage of the beautiful scenery and view.
  • Agriculture building
    • The north and east doors of the Agriculture Building have been replaced with proper craftsmanship to match its historic style.
  • Back the Barns Campaign
    • Major work has started on the Sheep Barn's terra cotta tiles over entrances, renovations to restrooms and offices as well as restorations on the archways, column heads and east entrance murals.
  • Public Safety Building
    • The Public Safety Building added a new two-story addition. The second phase of this project will include renovation of the existing space, scheduled to be completed in 2024.
  • Elwell Family Park
    • Elwell Family Park upgraded to add permanent restrooms to the space. This will enhance the Fairgoer experience and create opportunities for more entertainment in the future!
  • Craft Beer Tent
    • Thank you to the late Tim Mallicoat - Concrete Supply Inc., Sonny Hall - Absolute Group and the Iowa Concrete Paving Association for their efforts and generosity in donating and facilitating the beautiful new surface at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent for all Fairgoers to enjoy. Be sure to enjoy the new space at the 2023 Iowa State Fair!
  • Alliant Energy Landing mural
    • Last year the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation received a generous $1 million contribution from Alliant Energy to build a new shelter on the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Thank you so much to Alliant Energy for their kind contribution. The shelter hosted many different events throughout the Fair last year and will continue to be used this Fair and throughout the entire year. One new improvement this year includes Alliant Energy's sponsorship of a mural.
    • The mural is painted on the retaining wall of the Alliant Energy Landing by local artist and Fair-lover James Navarro. Focusing on agriculture education, several panels will line the wall with different vignettes. Thank you so much to James Navarro for bringing his creativity to the Fairgrounds and to Alliant Energy for supporting the Fairground's improvements.

The Iowa State Fair holds high value to many people. That is what makes the continuous renovation efforts so special. Thank you to everyone involved who makes sure the Iowa State Fairgrounds can be enjoyed for many years to come!


Concrete Statue

  • The 2023 Concrete Statue contest features a tractor. The Blue Ribbon Foundation partnered with Sticks to create the design this year. Our tractor will be available to purchase at the Woodcarvers' Auction on Sunday, August 20 at 3:30 PM in the Penningroth Media Center in the John & Emily Putney Family Cattle Barn.


Iowa Auctioneer Contest

The Iowa State Blue Ribbon Foundation is happy to announce we are collaborating with the Iowa Auctioneers Association for their annual auctioneer contest at the Fair. Auctioneers from across the Midwest will be putting their selling skills to the test in the Iowa Auctioneers Association Bid Calling Finals.

This event will take place on Tuesday, August 15, from 9 AM to 12 PM on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage. Iowa auctioneers will be auctioning off various items to the public, with all proceeds going to the Blue Ribbon Foundation. Mark your calendar and grab a bidding number to enjoy this fast moving show!


Woodcarvers’ Auction

Come out and enjoy the thrill of watching Gary Keenan and T.J. Jenkins use chainsaws to carve masterpieces out of wood at the Iowa State Fair! With that, you also have the opportunity to take one of these unique carvings home. The Blue Ribbon Foundation hosts this auction as a hybrid with some items sold in person and others online.

In Person Live Auction:

  • Final Sunday of the Fair - 3:30 PM
  • Penningroth Media Center, John & Emily Putney Family Cattle Barn

Online Auction:

  • Online bidding opens on the second Saturday of the Fair at 10 AM
  • Closes on the final Sunday of the Fair at 5:30 PM

Fairgoers are invited to watch the wooden creations emerge as Keenan and Jenkins carve four times over the duration of the Fair at 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 3:30 PM, and 5:30 PM. This will take place between the First Church and Pioneer Hall.


There are many things to do and see at the 2023 Iowa State Fair that you won’t want to miss!