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 $170 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.

Nominate and Celebrate Your Favorite Iowan!

April 22, 2022
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The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is currently seeking our next group of outstanding Iowans for the 2022 "Iowan of the Day" award. Do you know someone who demonstrates integrity, dependability, and has a strong passion for volunteerism within their community? Nominate them today!


Ten amazing Iowans across the state will receive prize packages including:

  • Four Iowa State Fair admission tickets
  • An introduction on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage
  • Four Grandstand show tickets for their day
  • Use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart for the day
  • VIP parking
  • Accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown
  • $200 cash


The selection committee is looking for individuals who demonstrate integrity, dependability, have a strong work ethic, and help create a sense of community. Iowan of the Day winners must have shown their true Iowa spirit with their positive outlook and contribution through community or statewide involvement. Overall, winners must exemplify what it means to be an Iowan. If you know an Iowan that possess these qualities, please consider nominating them.


Nominations can and should include supplemental materials such as pictures, newspaper articles, and letters of recommendation. Make sure to fill out the nomination form with your name, the individual’s name, and references. The nomination form is attached below, or can also be found on our website, All nominations are due July 1. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at (515) 262-3111 ext. 378 or


The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is proud to have Cookies Food Products as a sponsor of the Iowan of the Day program


Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern


It's a Cookbook Year!

April 20, 2022
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Are you a wizard in the kitchen? A baking extraordinaire? A grill-master? If you fall in any of these categories (or even if you don’t), the 21st edition Iowa State Fair cookbook is just for you! Featuring award winning recipes from 2021 and a few throwback classics, the new cookbook will be for sale starting in July. This is a cherished tradition at the Fair. The first cookbook was printed in 1983, and now a new cookbook is printed every other year featuring the winning entries from the past two Fairs. We are so excited to see what the 21st edition has in store!

Not quite convinced the Iowa State Fair Cookbook is for you? Let’s check out a few of the mouth-watering recipes in the 20th edition! We’ve put together a one day meal plan for you.

For Breakfast you can have your pick between Cinnamon Chip Scones or Saskatoon Berry Muffins with Sea Salt Crumble. For Lunch, we recommend trying the Homemade Naan Bread Greek Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Dipping Sauce. You could also try the Cheddar, Fig, and Pork Belly Sandwiches. For an afternoon snack, we’ll point you in the direction of the Homemade Pretzel Balls. For Dinner, check out the Sausage Ricotta, and Spinach Stuffed Shells. Finally, for dessert, look to any of the 45 pie recipes that are included. There is sure to be one that is perfect for you!

While we wait for the 21st edition to arrive, make sure you check out the 20th edition and 19th edition that are both for sale under the State Fair Store tab on our website. The proceeds of your cookbook purchase go directly to projects the Blue Ribbon Foundation is working on right now.

Photo of previous Iowa State Fair Cookbook

Tags: Cookbook

Calling all creators, artists, designers, and more!

April 18, 2022
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We need YOUR help creating a 2022 Iowa State Fair t-shirt design! If you have an idea for this year, send it our way! How cool would it be to see your own design on a Fair t-shirt that is sold all around the Fairgrounds? On top of that, all the funds from each t-shirt sale will go towards the renovation and preservation of the Fairgrounds we all love so dearly.

The deadline for this competition is May 1 and the top 3 winners will be announced May 17. Now, you might be thinking, “I hope Kenna isn’t the only judge that gets to see my beautiful design”. As much as I would love to be in charge of picking the design, there is a selection committee that chooses the top 5 designs. From there, we leave it up to our Facebook followers to vote by “liking” their favorite design, or anyone can vote online via our website from May 9-16. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget the prizes!

1st Place
• Your shirt design is produced to sell at the Iowa State Fair
• 2 t-shirts, 2 gate admission tickets, 2 Fair Value Packs, 2 tickets to the Grandstand concert of your choice, $50 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
2nd Place
• 2 gate admission tickets, $25 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
3rd Place
• 2 gate admission tickets and $25 in food coupons

Interested? Here are the guidelines and rules for the contest!

If you need a refresher, this is last year’s design…

-Kenna Smith, Donor Relations Intern

Meet the 2022 Public Relations Intern - Brooklin Border

April 15, 2022
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My name is Brooklin Border and I am so excited to be the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Public Relations Intern this summer! I am originally from Fort Dodge, Iowa and I have been involved in music, theatre, tennis, speech, 4-H, and more. Through my involvement with 4-H, I have grown to love the Iowa State Fair and I have had a 15 year streak of attendance! I am looking forward to working closely with the Fair and helping coordinate programs such as the Iowan of the Day, Bingo, and the Woodcarver’s Auction.

After graduation, I attended Iowa Central Community College where I focused on music and theatre while working for my Associate of Arts Degree. I then transferred to Iowa State where I am currently a senior majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Event Management. I am actively involved in the Student Union Board on campus hosting/planning events for students. I serve as club President and get to oversee all board members. In my free time I enjoy reading, spending time with family and friends, playing with my cat, Glenda, and exploring Ames. I also work part-time at Wallaby's Bar and Grille as a waitress!

With the Fair just around the corner, I am excited to start working on projects to help make the 2022 Iowa State Fair memorable. I can’t wait to be amongst the crowds enjoying Fair food, visiting with patrons, and having fun!

2022 Intern First Day: Laura Noehren

April 11, 2022
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Hello! My name is Laura Noehren and I will be the Sponsorship Relations Intern for the summer. I am so excited to get started and learn along the way. I am finishing my sophomore year at Drake University here in Des Moines, where I study Strategic Political Communication, Environmental Sustainability and Resilience, and Politics. I enjoy all of classes that range from video production and digital media courses to sociology and politics courses to science courses. My end goal right now is to work in environmental advocacy or non-profit communications. With that in mind, interning at the Blue Ribbon Foundation will be great experience for my future career.
Currently, I am also a communications intern at Drake for their facilities department, where I communicate about upcoming construction projects to faculty, staff and students. I also work at Hy-Vee! At Drake, I am involved in a number of different organizations. I play flute in the band, marching band, and basketball pep band, I am the Corresponding Secretary of the women’s music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota, and the Fellowship Vice President of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. My commitments keep me pretty busy at school.
I grew up in Cedar Rapids, and have gone to the Fair almost every year since I was born. I love trying new Fair foods and grabbing my old favorites, checking out the photography exhibits in the Cultural Center, and getting the yearly charms for my Iowa State Fair bracelet. Today has been filled with lots of learning, about the Blue Ribbon Foundation, the different projects I will get to work on, and even about the projects the Blue Ribbon Foundation has done recently. I can’t wait to see where this internship takes me, and I hope my contributions will help make the 2022 Iowa State Fair great!

Meet the 2022 Donor Relations Intern - Kenna Smith

April 11, 2022
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Hello everyone! My name is Kenna Smith, your new Donor Relations intern this summer! I am a sophomore at Iowa State University majoring in Event Management with a minor in Public Relations. I serve as the Vice President of Membership for the Student Union Board on campus, coordinating team member involvement and other executive tasks. Off-campus, I serve part-time at Hickory Park Restaurant in Ames. If you have ever been to this famous Ames BBQ restaurant, you will know how big and crazy busy it is. I seem to find barbeque sauce in my hair, on my shoes, and just about every other part of my body!

I grew up in Mt.Pleasant, IA, where I was involved in band, volleyball, softball, color guard, dance team, student council, Silver Cord, and Nation Honor Society. 4-H was something I got involved in at a young age and served many different officer roles as I grew up. I have visited the Iowa State Fair every year of my life (besides the pandemic year, of course) and I have enjoyed every minute I’ve spent there. I’ll fill you all in a fun fact, my grandpa has taken Bill Riley on a few combine rides and now they are like two peas in a pod when they are together!

Volunteering is one of my favorite things to do for many organizations, even from a young age. This includes the Henry County Fair, Iowa State Fair, Midwest Old Threshers, my local Fellowship Cup, Henry County Extension & Outreach, along with many others. This summer is going to be jam-packed, but I would not ask for anything different! I will make sure to share updates about my work each week for you all to see. I am most looking forward to helping coordinate special events and interacting with fellow fair-goers!

-Kenna Smith, Donor Relations Intern

Guest Blog: Baking Blue Ribbons

March 23, 2022
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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. (,

Collecting Brackets, Auction Items and Tax Returns

March 17, 2022
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It’s officially March Madness. To most, that means the excitement of college basketball. Cheering for your alma mater, the top seeds or the underdogs. Maybe you filled out a bracket to win the big bucks or more importantly – bragging rights! 

While the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff will watch basketball games, we aren’t focused on collecting brackets. As spring inches closer, we are focusing on summer and the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction.  We are starting to collect items for the Live and Silent Auctions.

You can help us sell specialty packages by donating an item such as: restaurant gift cards, a private catered party, use of a skybox, autographed memorabilia, and certificates for golf lessons or home repair services. The possibilities are endless. 

Donating an auction package consisting of a product or service you provide is also an excellent way to promote your company. Or you might consider a cash contribution allowing us to purchase a desired item. The 2022 Corndog Kickoff will be Saturday, July 9. Email Robin for more details. 

As March quickly turns to April, the Blue Ribbon Foundation also wants to remind you about the Corndog Checkoff. The Corndog Checkoff provides an easy way to contribute to future Fairgrounds improvements through a tax-deductible donation on your Iowa return. Please consider donating when completing your 2021 taxes. Look for “State Fair” on Line 57b on Iowa Form 1040. Every dollar donated is directed to preserving the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Only 146 days to our favorite summertime tradition. There is plenty to do between now and August 11. Thank you for supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission every step of the way! 


Creative Inscription

March 7, 2022
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During one Iowa State Fair, I attempted to eat an egg-on-a-stick every day. I think I made it 7 days in a row before I gave up. It was a bold goal and I started out strong but quickly faded. I really should commemorate the experience with an engraved brick at the Agriculture Building. Maybe with the creative inscription:


The brick might raise some questions to other Fairgoers but it would definitely make me laugh every time I walked by.

It might be a surprise but this would not be the most unique brick inscription found on the Fairgrounds. In addition to family names, Fair favorites and honoring loved ones, there are plenty of bricks with inscriptions of personal inside jokes.  I’ll receive a unique inscription with a donation and just wonder what the story is behind the text. It’s probably a better memory than me trying to eat all the eggs.

The Iowa State Fair is the holder of special memories for countless generations. Fairgoers can capture these memories when they donate for an engraved brick.

Take a moment to think about your family’s State Fair memories and your special place on the Fairgrounds. Each family has their own.  Save these memories by donating to one of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Giving Programs.  You’ll have a special way to remember your Fair experience while at the same time, investing in the future of the historic Fairgrounds.

Check out the Giving Program options:

Block by Block
Building for the Future
Buy a Brick - Most Popular
Courtyard of Celebration
Growing Our Future - Staff Favorite
Legacy Terrace
Shine On
Spirit of Generosity - Newest
Trees for the Fair

The deadline to have your brick, paver or plaque in place for the 2022 Iowa State Fair is March 31. Start brainstorming your creative inscriptions today.

2022 T.A.G. Team Members

February 28, 2022
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A special THANK YOU to the Blue Ribbon Foundation supporters that joined the 2022 T.A.G. team. The purpose of the fundraising group is to celebrate that Together, we can Accomplish our Goal. These members are making an immediate, positive and direct impact on our historic Fairgrounds. 

Their donations will be used to repair the west side of Pioneer Hall’s exterior. This spring and summer, the deteriorated wood siding will be removed and replaced to resemble the original board and batten construction. Missing building components will be restored while the entire west exterior will be primed and painted.

The project includes the removal or if possible, restoration of existing window sashes. Some windows are repairable while others will be rebuilt to match current size, material and profile. Windows will also be reglazed using the current glass, supplementing new ones if panes are broken or missing.

While you visit Pioneer Hall during this year’s Fair, please take note of the building’s refreshed exterior that holds rich history of the Iowa State Fair. Future generations of Fairgoers will be able to enjoy this 136 year old building year after year.  

The Iowa State Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dedicated to continuing that legacy. Thank you.