2022 Iowa State Fair Recap: August 20, 21

October 10, 2022
drewnorton's picture

The last weekend of the Iowa State Fair is bittersweet. It’s a mix of exhaustion, more hustle and a little bit melancholy that it’s all almost over.

Our final Iowan of the Day was on Saturday. (The Fair is months away but it’s never too early to think about nominating the outstanding volunteer in your community. You can celebrate your hometown hero in a special way at the 2023 Iowa State Fair.)

Jeannine Liljedahl – Essex: For 20 years, Jeannine has volunteered with the Community Food Pantry. She is the co-founder and director of the Little Red Wagon where meals are delivered to homebound residents. She manages approximately 100 volunteers and serves up to 2,000 meals every year. Jeannine assists her community by serving as a board member for Southview Village for low rent housing, is an active Foundation member and gift shop volunteer at the Shenandoah Medical Center, and is a part of PEO, the Shenandoah Book Club and the Essex Study and Service Club.

On Saturday, August 20 the Fairgrounds welcomed the largest crowd in history – 128,298! We know some of those Fairgoers attended the demolition derby in the Elwell Family Park. Crowds enjoyed the further enhancements to the space. The grandstand increased by 1,000 seats, while a roof and a press box were added to the structure. The Elwell Family Park also hosted a truck & tractor pull and short course motorsport racing throughout the Fair.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation participated in the concrete statue contest and placed 3rd in the professional category. Twenty-six entries from various artists were entered in the contest. Artists had the task of painting a traditional barn. Thank you to Sticks for painting our barn. It was beautiful and sold at the Woodcarvers’ Auction for $11,000.

On Sunday, August 21 the Woodcarvers’ Auction raised a new fundraising record of $79,137. 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 and T.J. Jenkins for producing such outstanding pieces of art. 

During the Woodcarvers’ Auction, Peter Cownie (Blue Ribbon Foundation Executive Director) and Gary Slater (Iowa State Fair CEO and Fair Manager) announced an upcoming improvement project. Over the next several years, the livestock barns will undergo a historic $25 million renovation. The Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine barns will be renovated from top to bottom with updated roofing, flooring, lighting, restrooms, and offices. Each barn will have additional upgrades for specific needs.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation received a $5 million donation from the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation to begin the renovation project. Iowa Select Farms and Jeff & Deb Hansen have committed $2 million specifically for the Swine barn portion of the renovation. The Foundation will also receive $12 million from the state’s “Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.” All Iowans are welcome to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts needed to complete the project. Make your donation online today. 

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is a small buy mighty team. Thank you to the interns, volunteers and the other Iowa State Fair staff that help make our organization run smoothly. The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to preserve and improve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds wouldn’t be possible with the support of our donors.


THANK YOU for attending the Iowa State Fair and for buying a t-shirt, bottle of water or an engraved brick. The list of creative ways to support our organization is endless. Every donation of any size is important.  

Thank you for trusting the Blue Ribbon Foundation to make the needed improvements to YOUR beloved Iowa State Fairgrounds ensuring your family will enjoy the tradition for many years.