Guest Blog: Baking Blue Ribbons

March 23, 2022
drewnorton's picture

Dear Lover of the Iowa State Fair,

Did you know that there has never been a comprehensive history written about the wonderful Iowa State Fair Food competitions?  Well we are rectifying that by compiling a book highlighting the history, stories and select recipes that have shaped our Food Department and the Midwest culinary experience, beginning with the very first Fair held in 1854 through 2021.

We, the authors, have teamed up to bring you the Iowa State Fair food experience from both sides of the judging table. Kay has competed and won ribbons at the Fair for more than a decade. Carol has judged and sponsored food competitions for 36 years. Together, we bring our love of the Fair and food, as well as extensive experience from our writing and marketing careers.

The Denny and Candy Elwell Foundation has generously underwritten part of the project.  We are looking to match those funds to publish “Baking Blue Ribbons” in time for this year’s Iowa State Fair. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Food Department.

We are contacting you because:

  • Someone you know might be featured in the book.
  • Your family member might appear in the book.
  • You love food on a stick.
  • You love to cook, eat and collect recipes.
  • You enjoy a good book about a fun part of Iowa’s history.
  • You love to support the Iowa State Fair.

We hope you will join us in bringing the story of the largest Foods Department of any Fair to life!  No donation is too small. If you would like to contribute, and do so before May 1, we will gratefully acknowledge your name in the book.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is assisting in bringing this book to print by coordinating the donations.  The Foundation is responsible for raising funds for the renovation and preservation of the historic Fairgrounds and helped foster the development of the Elwell Family Food Center, home of the Food Department.

Please send your contribution to the Blue Ribbon Foundation at PO Box 57130, Des Moines, IA 50317. In the memo line, note it is for the Fair Book.  As a 501(c)3 non-profit, the Foundation will acknowledge your gift with a receipt letter to use for tax deductibility if applicable.

Thank you so much for helping bring “Baking Blue Ribbons” to all who love our Iowa State Fair!


Kay Smith & Carol McGarvey


*Please note, you can give a donation online. Please email Drew to indicate that you would like the gift to go toward the book project.

If you have specific questions about Baking Blue Ribbons, please email Kay Smith or Carol McGarvey directly. (,