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.

Be a Part of It All!

May 27, 2022
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Have you ever wanted to be a part of the Fair…but not as a visitor? Wanted to see a bit of the ‘behind the scenes’ of the Iowa State Fair? Or are you interested in donating to the Blue Ribbon Foundation but can’t quite pull the trigger? Consider volunteering with the Blue Ribbon Foundation this August at the Iowa State Fair! Each year, over 500 people volunteer a bit of their time to helping the Fair run smoothly. This is a great way to get involved with the Fair, and be a part of a bigger cause.

As a Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteer, you can help with many different things around the Fairgrounds! Some volunteers will be stationed at booths selling water. Others will help sell the Iowa State Fair merchandise. Another set of volunteers will help with BINGO! No matter what position you have, you can leave knowing that you were a part of making the 2022 Iowa State Fair run smoothly.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation cannot be as successful as it is without the help of volunteers. The Foundation has 5 full time staff members and 3 interns. With this in mind, it’s easy to conclude why we need help come Fairtime. Most Fair visitors will not interact with one of us, but the chance they buy a bottle of water or check out a merchandise booth are pretty high. During the Fair, the volunteers are the face of the Blue Ribbon Foundation.

There are many benefits of volunteering at the Fair. You will get to meet great people, and represent an event that you love. Additionally, you can know that all the sales you helped make go to the renovation and preservation of the Fairgrounds. That’s right, the proceeds of the merchandise sales, water sales, and of the BINGO game all go to a good cause. Who doesn’t want to help with something like that? In thanks for volunteering, you will also receive complimentary parking and admission for the Fair on the day you volunteer.

Make sure to mark your calendars, signups to volunteer go live next week on Wednesday June 1st. If you have any questions about volunteering, contact Meg at 515-262-3111 ext. 370, or check out the Volunteer section under Events on our website.

-Laura Noehren, Business Relations Intern

What do previous Iowan of the Day Winners have to say about their experience? Let’s find out!

May 25, 2022
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The 25th anniversary is approaching for the Iowan of the Day Program. Since 1997, this program has celebrated more than 240 Iowans and we are so excited to celebrate 10 more at the 2022 Iowa State Fair.

The Iowans that have been celebrated in the past are amazing. They demonstrate what it truly means to be Iowan and they represent our state well. These individuals have made an incredible impact on those in their communities and have demonstrated hard work, integrity, and dignity amongst those around them.

I reached out to some previous Iowan of the Day winners to hear their highlights from their days of recognition and here is what they have to say…

Barbara Kniff McCulla of Pella was recognized in 2021. “I loved the opportunity to be an Iowan of the Day!” Barb enjoyed meeting new people and telling others about the importance of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. “I want my 12 grandchildren to always have the chance to explore and attend the State Fair and in buying a brick for each of them, I hope that they feel as connected to the State Fair as I do!”

Chris Fox of Johnston was recognized in 2017. “My favorite experience as Iowan of the Day was the presentation at the Bill Riley Stage and use of the golf cart”.

The Iowan of the Day winners receive several prizes including Recognition on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage, four admission tickets, four Grandstand show tickets on their recognition day, accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, $200 cash, VIP parking and privilege to use the Iowan of the Day golf cart.

Chris adds, “If you’re hesitating to make a nomination because you feel that person may accomplish more later, or they may not have accomplished as much as others, do it anyway. If they don't get picked and they accomplish more you can add to the original nomination and resubmit next year. Don't worry about the competition. If you think someone is worthy you should at least try.” All nominations from 2018, 2019, and 2021 are being reconsidered (there were no nominations in 2020). If you nominated someone during those years and they accomplished more, feel free to send more supplemental materials like Chris said!

Julie Hitchins of Marshalltown was also recognized in 2021. “My favorite experience was the ability to really experience everything related to the fair – we are not frequent attendees – the cash and golf cart made that possible.  I got to connect with a lot of people (especially from where I grew up) & some dear friends surprised me by attending.” Julie wasn’t even aware the award existed when she got the call. “Iowans are just humble and don’t seek recognition for their good deeds,” she added.

Just like Julie said, Iowans do things out of the goodness of their hearts and aren’t usually recognized for their efforts. However, the Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies BBQ Food Products think these Iowans deserve the recognition.  So, if you know someone who volunteers, makes a difference in their community, helps those around them, demonstrates integrity, dependability, or is a dedicated hard-worker, please consider nominating them! The nominations we have received so far are incredible. It is amazing to hear the stories of individuals across the state and how they are making an impact on their communities. Let’s keep celebrating those outstanding Iowans! J

All nominations are due July 1 and forms can be found on our website. All nominees must currently reside in Iowa.

- Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern

Time for an Update!

May 23, 2022
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As construction continues on a couple of projects this summer, I thought this would be a great time to give an update! Alliant Energy gave a very generous $1 million donation to fund the new Alliant Energy Landing that will double in size compared to the previous shelter. The open-air facility will include craftsman style columns, higher ceilings with fans, two paved ADA-compliant accessibility points, LED lighting, asphalt shingles and expanded landscaping.

This is a picture of the project today and the second photo is what the finished project will look like!


It may not look like much now, but our crew is working hard to make sure this project will be done just in time for the 2022 Iowa State Fair! My job as the Donor Relations Intern includes hosting some events at this shelter, so I am very excited to see how it turns out!

The second project our crew is working hard on is the expansion of Elwell Family Park. Denny and Candy Elwell’s contribution created the new event venue last year. For 2022, the grandstand will increase by 1,000 seats, while a roof and a press box will be added to the structure. The Elwell Family Park will host two days of truck and tractor pulls during the Iowa State Fair.

Here are a few pictures of the project today with a model of the finished renovation!


Over the next few months, another section of Agriculture Building roof will be replaced and routine maintenance completed throughout several buildings. Thank you for joining our mission to renovate and preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Baking Blue Ribbons - 168 Years of Tradition!

May 19, 2022
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Ever since I was a little girl I have thoroughly enjoyed baking. Whether it was cookies, coffee cake, or chiffon cake, I have always been interested in learning more about baking and how to make the best recipes. When I was old enough to join 4-H there was no doubt that Food & Nutrition would be my favorite project area. So, I started bringing my baked goods to the Fair and I even had several foods make it to the Iowa State Fair! It was here where I became really interested in State Fair food recipes and baking. I walked into the Elwell Family Food Center and was immediately overjoyed by the different sites and smells. There were so many foods that looked delicious and I couldn’t help but wonder what the recipes were or the stories behind those recipes.

Well, I don’t have to be curious any longer and neither do you! For the first time in Iowa State Fair history, Kay Fenton Smith and Carol McGarvey are writing the book, Baking Blue Ribbons, highlighting the history, stories, and recipes from the very first Fair in 1854 through 2021. This book is going to showcase what it means to be a part of the Midwest culinary experience and these stories have helped shape the Food Department at the Fair throughout the years.

Kay has competed and won ribbons at the Fair for more than a decade and Carol has judged and sponsored food competitions for 36 years. Together, these incredible authors have experience from both sides of the judging table that will for sure bring a unique outlook to readers.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is helping bring this book to print by coordinating donations. The Foundation is responsible for raising funds for the renovation and preservation of the historic Fairgrounds and even helped with the development of the Elwell Family Food Center in 2009. If you would like to donate, you still can! No donation is too small and donations are going towards the creation of the book.

Baking Blue Ribbons will also be available to purchase at the 2022 Iowa State Fair and all proceeds benefit the Food Department. The Iowa State Fair’s food competition is the country’s largest state fair food department offering 894 classes and 216 divisions.

I know I personally cannot wait for Baking Blue Ribbons to be brought to life so I can read the amazing stories from individuals and their foods. There are 168 years of food competitions at the Iowa State Fair and I hope you are all as excited to read about them as I am!

Check out the first look at the Baking Blue Ribbons cover below! The third photo is me at the Iowa State Fair with my chiffon cake :)

- Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern 

Winner, Winner!

May 17, 2022
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation is excited to announce that the 2022 Iowa State Fair T-Shirt Contest Winner is Jenna Helmers from Melvin, IA. Congratulations! Check out the image below to see the winning design along with second and third place. Thank you to everyone that submitted a design this year!

The winning design will be printed and sold at our merchandise stands along with lots of other Iowa State Fair souvenirs. During the Fair, visit the State Fair Store inside the Service Center as well as merchandise booths inside the Agriculture Building, Cattle Barn, Varied Industries Building and the museum.

Did you vote on a different t-shirt design? We do not have the space in our booths to carry everything we think is cool, but starting July 1, you can purchase any of the top 6 t-shirts online! Select the great designs you’d like to wear to the Iowa State Fair, place your order, and get your purchase delivered to your home. The website will remain open for orders through August 26, 2022.

Starting July 1 - visit to check out the great Iowa State Fair shirts for sale.

Don’t forget, profits from the store directly benefit the Foundation's goal of raising funds to help preserve and improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Thank you for shopping and supporting the Iowa State Fair!


- Kenna Smith, Donor Relations Intern

Iowan of the Day Flashback! Who were our winners 10 years ago and how can you nominate someone for this year?

May 13, 2022
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Since its inception in 1997, the Iowan of the Day Program has honored more than 240 individuals across the state at the Iowa State Fair. These individuals have shown their love and passion for volunteering within their communities. All of these Iowans have incredible stories and I want to share some of those with you! Let’s take it back 10 years…

Esther Bielema of Wall Lake was recognized as an individual who was always helpful and community-minded. She was a co-founder of the Wall Lake Historical Society, was a member of Women’s Cub, was involved with her Church, and was a retired teacher that still taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School.  She made a lasting impact on youth in her community.

Garland Fickess of Bedford was recognized as an individual who has the word ‘volunteer’ embedded in her soul. She served on the Bedford Ambulance board, volunteered at her church, participated in Meals on Wheels, volunteered at the Taylor County Historical Museum, and so much more! She had no boundaries when it came to helping others before herself.

Janet Reynolds of Sioux City was recognized as an individual who never asked for anything in return. She worked closely with youth in 4-H afterschool programs, Midtown Community Center, and 4-H summer camps. She volunteered at the Jones Street Community Garden and coordinated a memorial event at the Community Splash Pad. She showed great compassion and dedication for those in her community.

Jeralyn Westercamp of Cedar Rapids was recognized as an outstanding person and student. She founded the non-profit CR HOMEWORKS, Kids 2 Kids: Tools 4 School, and served as the first Iowan on the State Farm Youth Advisory Board. She also volunteered at the Iowa City’s Veteran’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, and at the Cedar Rapids public library. She was community-oriented, patriotic, and selfless.

Jim Gronbach of Dakota City was recognized for his positive attitude, optimism, and hard work ethic. He was a member of the Humboldt Community School District Facilities Committee, supported the athletic boosters, and was a volunteer firefighter for over 25 years. He has helped at many events in his community and was not afraid of a challenge.

Ken Petersen of Council Bluffs was recognized for his optimism, leadership, and involvement. He represented Council Bluffs as an ambassador for the Relay for Life nationwide event, was a board member of IHA, Wings of Hope Cancer Center, AEA13, the American Cancer Society, and more. He brightened the lives of those around him and was respected in his community.

Lila Bubke of Des Moines was recognized for her commitment to making her community successful. She helped at local pre-schools, K-8 public schools, was a member of the ABC Book Group, was a library volunteer, served on the Community School Advisory Committee, was a Director of Schleswig’s Town Parade Calf Show, and so much more. She demonstrated leadership, generosity, and had great character.

Mary Maybee of Boone was recognized for her enthusiasm, dedication and her contribution to her community.  She helped start the Boone Community Theatre and originated the Boone Summer Theatre Workshop. She was involved in her church, Relay for Life, Community Betterment, Boone Jaycees, Boone County YMCA Board, and was on the State of Iowa Advisory Council. She brightened the lives of those around her.

Suzie Glazer Burt of Des Moines was recognized for her generosity, talent, and leadership. She served on the Hospice of Central Iowa Foundation, volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Des Moines, was a leader on the Des Moines Art Center’s Board of Directors, and contributed to LIVE United 2009 United Way challenge. She contributed so much to her community and lead with her heart.

Troyce Vich of Waterloo was recognized for her enthusiastic, kind-hearted, and positive encouragement in her community. She volunteered at her church, Waterloo Days, Sartori Hospital’s Festival of Trees, Sturgis Falls Days, helped teach Sunday school, and did so much more! She has had a big impact on those in her community through her involvement and volunteerism.


All of these Iowans have incredible stories and were all recognized at the 2012 Iowa State Fair for their enthusiasm, volunteerism, and passion for bettering their communities. 10 years later, we are still seeing the same excitement and passion from Iowans that want to make their communities a better place.

 These individuals care about others and have a lasting impact on those around them. Often times, these individuals do these things because they enjoy it and genuinely want to help their communities. However, the Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products thinks these individuals should be recognized for what they do. There are individuals all around us who deserve to be recognized, so help us find our next Iowan of the Day.

If you know someone who has a similar story to those above or someone who has made an impact on you or those in your community, nominate them as Iowan of the Day. Help us recognize the shining stars in our communities.


All 10 Iowan of the Day winners receive:

  • 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


All nominations are due July 1, 2022 and all nominees must currently reside in Iowa. For more information about Iowan of the Day and nomination forms, check out our website! The nomination form is also below.


We are so excited to see all of the Iowan of the Day nominations come in and we can’t wait to see who our 2022 winners are!


- Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern

2022 Auction Highlights

May 11, 2022
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We are just under two months away from the 2022 Corndog Kickoff! Let’s take a look at some auction highlights for the 2022 Benefit Auction.

• KaBoom! Your ears will ring and your eyes will dazzle at the spectacular fireworks display put on by the International Pyrotechnics Guild at Thunderstruck Over Iowa Speedway. Enjoy the show and a concert in an indoor suite with 30 tickets on August 5th. Donated by Thunderstruck Over Iowa Speedway

• Test your paranormal courage by exploring or staying overnight in several of Iowa’s most haunted places including the Farrar School, Franklin House Hotel, Malvern Manor, Mason House Inn and Villisca Axe Murder House. Donated by the Farrar School, Franklin House Hotel, Malvern Manor, Mason House Inn and Villisca Axe Murder House

•  Relax on a patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean while a private chef prepares your meal. A 7-night stay for up to twelve at Castillo Del Mar, a private, luxury home in a gated community in Manzanillo, Mexico. Donated by Luxury Manzanillo

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is actively looking for donations for our signature silent and live auctions. Would you please consider donating a themed basket? A themed basket can include tickets, gift cards, or fun items that you know people would love to bid on to support improvements to the Fairgrounds.

Themed Basket Ideas: Day at the Spa, Wine or Vineyard, Whiskey Tasting, Craft Beer, Movie Night, Coffee Lover, Dinner Date, Theater Experience, Sports Fan, Dinner Party at Private Residence, Lunch with a Local Celebrity, Dog Lover, Cat Lover, Horse Lover, Salon Experience, New Baby, Childhood Fun, Disneyland Experience, Legoland Experience, Chef’s Lessons, Tech + iTunes, Sports Memorabilia, Car Detailing

Show your creativity; promote your favorite business and support our mission. Thank you!

For more information, visit our website to learn how to donate or buy tickets to the Kickoff.


-Kenna, Donor Relations Intern

Here are some pictures of items that are in our office today!




How can you make the most of the 2022 Iowa State Fair?

May 6, 2022
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There are just 97 days until the Iowa State Fair! I don’t know who is counting but I sure am. Things are starting to pick up at Blue Ribbon Foundation as we prepare for the upcoming events of the summer.


I have been busy preparing for the Iowan of the Day program. We have received several nominations so far for those incredible Iowans that love their communities. These individuals are AMAZING! If you know someone who is just as amazing, loves to volunteer, has strong work ethic, demonstrates integrity and dignity, and gives back to their community, nominate them for Iowan of the Day! All nominations are due by July 1 and nominees must currently reside in Iowa. For more information, check out our website J


The Corndog Kickoff is also busy preparing for the 25th annual benefit auction. Since its inception in 1997, the Corndog Kickoff has raised over $7.2 million for the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. We receive donation items every day and are busy planning for the upcoming event. The Corndog Kickoff is joining in on the Fair fun and will have lots of Fair favorites including food, music, fireworks, and SkyGlider rides in addition to the live and silent auction! You don’t want to miss out, so buy your tickets soon on the Foundation’s website.


Authors Kay Smith and Carol McGarvey are also busy writing “Baking Blue Ribbons”. The book will highlight history, stories, and select recipes from the Iowa State Fair Food competitions and will be published in time to purchase at the Fair. How cool is that? If you love food on a stick, enjoy cooking and/or eating, love the Iowa State Fair, or know someone who might be featured in the book, consider donating and help bring this book to life. All proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Food Department.


There are so many ways to get involved at the Fair, these are just a few of them. So, if you want to be a part of our fun, consider donating or purchasing a ticket to the Corndog Kickoff, nominating an outstanding Iowan for Iowan of the Day, volunteering at the Fair, or looking into our Ways to Give programs at the Blue Ribbon Foundation. We hope you “Find Your Fun” and make the most of your Iowa State Fair this year!


If you want to learn more about the Blue Ribbon Foundation and other upcoming Fair events, check out our Blue Ribbon Blog on our website!


  • Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern

The 2022 Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction is Coming Up Fast – Don’t Miss Out!

May 2, 2022
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As we enter the month of May, I would love to give you an overview of the Corndog Kickoff to show what you could experience when you buy tickets! The Corndog Kickoff began in 1997 with around 460 attendees. This fun-filled night full of food, entertainment, games, and an auction has raised over $7.2 million towards Fairground renovations to this day. Let’s talk about some ways you can be a part of this growing number and contribute to the Fair!


Benefit Auction

Online bidding will open for the Silent Auction at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, July 8 and close on Saturday, July 9 at 8:30 p.m. All auction packages will be on display at the event so attendees can see them up close and in person.

To access the online auction, visit:

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 auction package.

Here are some auction highlights that you can look forward to:

  • A white Mitchell electric guitar that was autographed by every act appearing on the Grandstand during the 2021 Iowa State Fair. Donated by the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation
  • A Golden Ticket that provides gate admission and parking for one person for the rest of their life. Yep, you'll never have to buy an Iowa State Fair ticket or parking pass for yourself again - ever!  Donated by the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation

Please consider making a donation to the Corndog Kickoff Auction to help support Fairgrounds renovation projects. Donating an auction package consisting of your product or service is an excellent way to promote your company, as it will be seen - and bid on - by nearly 2,000 attendees.

Benefits for auction donors include complimentary tickets to the Corndog Kickoff (number of tickets based on value of donation) and publicity in event materials.


Dining Delights

The 2022 Corndog Kickoff will feature “Dining Delights” – a restaurant gift card activity. For a $20 donation, attendees will grab a mystery gift card as their prize.

Would you like your favorite restaurant to be featured? Would you help support the Blue Ribbon Foundation by asking that restaurant to donate a gift certificate?

Or, support two businesses at once by purchasing a gift card and donating it to the Foundation to use in Dining Delights!

We are seeking donations with a value of $25 or higher to highlight restaurants across the state. Thank you for your consideration. Please mail gift cards to the address below:

Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation

3000 East Grand Avenue

Des Moines, Iowa 50317


Rags to Riches

Join in as we play a 50/50 raffle game halfway through the live auction. You are invited to purchase a souvenir bandana, or “rag,” for $10 to get in the game. As a participant during the game, you will hold it in the air or keep it down at your side.

The auctioneer will flip a coin – heads is rags up and tails is down. If you choose correctly, you remain standing and continue to play; when you’re wrong, you sit down. The game will continue until we have one lucky participant left standing. The winner will receive half of the amount made from the rag sales.

In 2021, 800 bandanas were sold with $4,000 up for grabs. Rags will be sold the night of the event – remember to play for your chance to go from rags to riches!

Sponsored by: West Bank


Mystery Prize Game

Purchase a Mystery Envelope for $15 and win an Iowa State Fair prize! Only 250 Mystery Prize Game Envelopes will be sold during the Corndog Kickoff. More than $1700 worth of prizes available.


Prizes Include:

Two Iowa State Fair Grandstand Concert Tickets of your choice

VIP Parking

On-Grounds Parking

$5 Iowa State Fair merchandise coupon

$5 in Iowa State Fair food vouchers

Admission Ticket

Ye Old Mill Ride Ticket

Sky Glider Ride Ticket