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.

Renovation Updates

June 14, 2023
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The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation was established by the State Fair Board to conduct a major capital campaign for the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Since its 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.

Since then, there have been a countless amount of both large and small restorations made to the Fairgrounds to preserve its history and ensure its future. Today I took a walk through the Fairgrounds to see the progress of the improvements that are happening right now. 

My first stop was Pioneer Hall. This building continually receives maintenance and after 10 years of small updates, the exterior of the building is near completion. Crews have finished repairing each side of the building and will finish the project by rebuilding the main doors. As the oldest landmark on the historic Fairgrounds, the care and attention to this facility is unmatched. It’s truly our history.

From there, I made my way to the Agriculture Building; a staple of the Iowa State Fair. This year, the north and east doors of the building are being replaced. The new doors are being updated with proper craftsmanship to match its historic style. Each custom door will be engineered for function and longevity, while following accessibility guidelines. The new doors enable better security and provide weatherproofing that will fix previous issues of large gaps and easy-to-pop locks.

After that, I stopped at the Public Safety Building. Safety is a key aspect of the Iowa State Fair and the Blue Ribbon Foundation, so ensuring all aspects are up to date is essential. This building is being updated to guarantee the facility is up to the high standards of the Iowa State Fair Police Department. At this year’s Fair, take note of the new two-story addition. The second phase of this project will include renovation of the existing space, scheduled to be completed in 2024.

My next stop was at Elwell Family Park. This improvement is the third stage of its multi-phase project, which entails adding permanent restroom facilities. This restroom renovation is a convenient upgrade for Fairgoers watching the annual truck and tractor pulls and a variety of other events including demolition derby and motorsport races with even more possibilities in the future.

Last but certainly not least, I visited the sheep barn. Improvements continue on the this building; the first livestock barn of four to receive a much-needed facelift. Major work has started and will continue to be done on the terra cotta tiles over entrances, renovations to restrooms and offices as well as restorations on the archways, column heads and east entrance murals.

It has been such an eye opening experience being able to see these projects come full circle. Many of them have been in the works for a long time, so being able to first hand witness the improvements being made is incredible. Thank you to everyone involved for ensuring the Iowa State Fair can be enjoyed for years to come.


- Regan Freland, Donor Relations Intern





Counting down the days!

June 12, 2023
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I can’t believe we are already 12 days into the month of June! So far we have been super busy around the Foundation but have had a lot of fun. When I first started out this spring, I was nervous about not really knowing anyone in the office. Spending a summer away from home and starting a new job can be stressful, but I feel so lucky to get to work with everyone in the office. We are a pretty tight knit team which makes for fun days that seem to fly by. Regan and Faith are wonderful co-interns! We have the perfect team to conquer the long (but rewarding) days that being such a vital part of the Fair can bring.

Last week we were able to spend some time at the World Pork Expo here at the Fairgrounds. It’s a very fun and interesting event as it brings in people from all over the world. I even got to see and visit with some familiar faces there too. J We were taken care of each day as they had lots of breakfast and lunches (many that involved bacon…yum)! This week we are welcoming many people and pigs to the grounds for the annual Exposition, a National Swine Show. From last week to this week, it is so great to see the Fairgrounds full again and a great reminder of what we have to look forward to come August.

If you’re looking forward to the Fair and are in need of something to wear, don’t forget about our shirts from the T-shirt contest! Here is a reminder that we will be selling our winning corn themed design as well as the other top designs from the contest. Make sure to pick your favorites and order them by this Friday, June 16th. You can find the link to order here: We can’t wait to see which ones you’ll be repping at your favorite Fair. Get your orders in soon!

We are very excited for what the next few weeks will bring between our Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction, and of course Fair preparation, things are getting close. We hope to see many familiar faces so soon. To find out how you can contribute to the Foundation or help out, call us at 515-262-3111 ext. 371 or email us at . We are always happy to help in any way that we can!

-Macy Loecke, Public Relations Intern 


One Month Away!

June 8, 2023
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It is wild to think that we are already a week into June! This summer is going to fly by in a blink of an eye with all the fun the Foundation and Fair have to offer. Speaking of fun, we are officially one month away from the best pre-Fair event, the Corndog Kickoff!

The 2023 Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Food Grazing Party is set to take place on Saturday, July 8, in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. This event will include many fun things, such as live entertainment, live and silent auctions, SkyGlider rides, Fair food favorites, and so much more! We have all been working hard in preparation for this fun pre-Fair event in paradise. That's right, I did say paradise because we are having a 'Corndog in Paradise' for our 'Jimmy Buffet' themed night!

Along with this great night in paradise, there will be a variety of unique packages in the live and silent auctions. Many great packages are being offered; here is a sneak peek at a few of my favorites J

  • Tylo Infrared sauna room: Escape to the spa in your own home with a Tylo Infrared sauna room. This B-Series 840 low EMR/EF infrared room has prefabricated wall panels which are finished inside and out with clear T & G Canadian Hemlock for a sauna with furniture quality.
  • Eat Local: Have plenty of meat in your freezer with a side of beef and a half a hog raised by the Latcham family of Hedrick and processed by the Leighton Locker in Leighton, IA. Enjoy one 2024 Farm Share - Half package from Black's Heritage Farm near Ames. It includes a weekly basket of locally grown fresh vegetables delivered to your home once a week for 22 weeks, May - October.
  • Hotsy Pressure Washer: You'll be a cleaning machine with a new Hotsy gas-powered pressure washer. The HD 3.0/27 G is a modular cold water pressure washer with corrosion-resistant aluminum frame.

You won't want to miss these awesome packages and exciting activities while having a fun night in paradise! If you wish to attend, you can buy tickets today for $100, but make sure to get them soon, as prices will increase to $125 on July 1. Tickets can be purchased online, by calling the Foundation at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371, or at the door. I hope to see you in 'Margaritaville' on July 8 when the doors open at 6:30 pm!

- Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern

There is no Typical Day as an Intern

June 5, 2023
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When I tell most people that I am interning for the Iowa State Fair this summer, their typical response is a confused look on their face followed by the question, “the Fair is already open?” And to be honest, before I started here, I might’ve said something similar. I now know, Fair preparation goes way beyond even just the few months before August. There are around 70 employees that work year round helping to create the Best Days Ever. They are joined by around 1,400 other diligent individuals that work seasonally and during the Fair. Without all of the hard work and dedication of these people and the wonderful volunteers that give their time, the Iowa State Fair would not be possible.

As the conversation continues, the next question I am asked is, “So, what does your typical day look like?” I find myself giggling because I have quickly found out no two days are the same. And to me, that is what makes this so much fun.

As the donor relations intern here at the Foundation, a large majority of my responsibilities revolve around planning different receptions, member parties, and events at the Fair as well as the Corndog Kickoff.  Though my duties do not stop there. In my short time here, I have been able to improve my writing skills through blog posts, newsletters, press releases, emails, and so much more! I have also made many graphics for our various programs as well. Although my favorite part of this internship so far has been the connections I have been able to make with several different people. Whether that is helping someone show their appreciation of another through the purchase of a paver, chatting with a donor about how they can help restore the beautiful Fairgrounds, or walking someone down to find their engraved brick and listening to the stories of their own Fair memories, these are the special moments I will take with me forever. And I believe that is what the Iowa State Fair is all about; the memories you share with the people you meet along the way!

As the Fair inches closer, a lot of our focus has been on the Corndog Kickoff. It has been incredible to see the passion people and companies have to the Iowa State Fair through their generous donations! I was able to spend an afternoon at the Des Moines Farmers Market networking with local businesses to showcase their products at the event. I was able to witness the immense pride Iowans have for their state and people. That is another aspect that makes this state and Fair so special; the way people come together for one another.

I have been able to experience that very thing here in the office every single day. I am so lucky to work alongside two girls I can now consider my friends. Faith, Macy, and I have grown closer each day by working together on various projects. The day we truly bonded was the day we placed each individual engraved brick in its certain spot on the Fairgrounds. Now you know why I giggle when people ask me what my typical day looks like! ;) All in all, I am extremely thankful for everything I have learned here at the Foundation in such a short amount of time. I am excited to continue making memories and learning lessons in the next few months!

- Donor Relations Intern, Regan Freland


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