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.

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





Local bakers, we need you!

May 19, 2023
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Bakers, bakers, where are you? The Foundation is introducing a new exciting opportunity for local bakers to participate in this year’s Corndog Kickoff event. We are asking for 25 local homemade bakers to make their favorite creations to be donated and auctioned off at the event. Currently, we have 10 of the 25 bakers we are looking for and want to fill up the rest of those sweet spots!

With each of these sweet treats, we ask for every item to be an auction package. Here is an explanation of what we are asking for:

  • Amount to bake
    • Enough to serve a table of eight and make an attractive package
  • Delivery of your items to the event
    • On Friday, July 7 between 9:00am & 4:00pm
    • On Saturday, July 8 between 9:00am & 12:00pm
    • Bring to the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds
      • Use the south overhead door to enter
  • Presentation
    • Have your item ready to set out on a table to be displayed and auctioned off
    • Covered, as there will be over 2,000 people there

The Corndog Kickoff is a great event to be a part of as all of the funds raised go towards the Fairgrounds renovations as well as it is a great night out with family and friends. We are searching for 15 more local bakers who want to showcase their best sweet creations! If you are interested in donating a baked good to the Corndog Kickoff auction or know someone who you think would be interested, please contact me, Faith, at or call (515) 262-3111 Ext. 379.

- Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern

Nominate someone you know!

May 18, 2023
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Things are heating up inside and outside of the office. It is officially summer for the interns and we are now all together and getting settled in. With the days passing by, that means that one of our favorite Iowa State Fair traditions is fast approaching. This tradition being our Iowan of the Day program. Iowan of the Day has been around 25 years and now we are asking for your help.

While many of you are familiar with the Iowan of the Day, some may not be. “Iowan of the Day” is a way of honoring outstanding Iowans each year at the Iowa State Fair. We are searching for individuals across the state who exemplify a strong work ethic, high levels of volunteerism and an exceptional sense of Iowa pride. 10 winners will be selected and each will receive a day of recognition at the Fair.

 On top of that, winners will receive a variety of prizes to make their day at the fair extra special. It will truly be the Best Days Ever for these outstanding Iowans. Nominations are due Saturday, July 1st. Nomination forms can be found on our website. Even if your Iowan doesn’t take the cake this year, they will be considered for 3 years after the submission of a nomination. Selected Iowans will receive:

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

If someone you know is deserving of this recognition, we want to hear about them. Make sure to do your part in nominating them and honoring them in true Iowa fashion. For more information on the Iowan of the Day or any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Macy at or by calling: 515-262-3111, with an extension of 378. We are excited to hear from you!

Dining Delights!

May 16, 2023
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Here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, there are many ways to give back to the Fair! Our key fundraising component is the Corndog Kickoff. This special event will be held on July 8th and is filled with auction packages, entertainment and all your favorite Fair foods.

Many activities are held at this event, with one of the biggest hits being “Dining Delights.” Attendees donate $20 to pick a mystery gift card of $25 or higher to a number of different restaurants in Iowa! This is a great way to discover a new restaurant or have a night out at one of your favorite places. What’s even better? You are directly supporting the future of the Fair while you’re at it! It doesn’t get much better than that.

Do you have a specific restaurant in mind that you would love for someone to try? A hidden favorite in your hometown? You can support them by buying a gift card and donating it to the Blue Ribbon Foundation for the Dining Delights activity.

Want to help out but don’t have the time to get out and purchase a gift card? Feel free to send in a donation and we can handle the rest for you!

Are you thinking you would like to be a part of this fun? You can be! There is still plenty of time to purchase your tickets to the 2023 Corndog Kickoff or reserve a table by becoming a Patron. We would love to see you there.

Thank you for your support!

- Regan Freland, Donor Relations Intern

Corndog Kickoff Games

May 1, 2023
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Happy May Day! Last week I highlighted some of our upcoming events, one of them being the annual Corndog Kickoff Auction. While I’m sure most of you are aware of the Benefit Auction being the main component of this fundraiser, you may not know some of the other things we are offering. So, let me fill you in!

If you like good food and you’re not afraid to try something new, Dining Delights sounds like the perfect thing for you. This is a foodie’s dream! It involves gift cards to different restaurants around the state. For $20, participants will be able to draw a mystery gift card as their prize. We are currently welcoming gift card donations. We ask for gift cards with a $25 value. We would appreciate these donations from restaurants or if you have a favorite restaurant you want to share maybe you would consider donating a gift card from it. This way, you can support your local businesses as well as our foundation AND share your favorite restaurant with someone who might love it and share with someone else! Who knows, maybe you will draw one of your old favorites or end up trying something new that you may not have before!

If you’re always up for surprises, the Mystery Prize Game is probably for you. All you have to do is purchase a mystery envelope at the event for $15. Make sure you grab yours right when you get there though, as we will only be selling 250 envelopes. There is over $2400 worth of prizes, don’t miss out!

Some prizes in the Mystery Prize Game will include:

-2 ISF Grand Stand Tickets of your choice

-VIP Parking

-On-Grounds Parking

-$5 ISF merchandise coupon

-$5 in ISF food vouchers

-Admission Ticket

-Ye Old Mill Ride Ticket

-Sky Glider Ride Ticket

-Giant Slide Ride Ticket

-Free Bottle of Water

-Cup of Cookies Voucher


No matter which envelope you get, every envelope is a winner so nobody goes home empty handed!

Halfway through the live auction, we will be playing a 50/50 raffle game. You may purchase a souvenir bandana or “rag’’ for just $10 to participate. During the game, you will either hold it up in the air or down by your side. The auctioneer will be flipping a coin, heads being rags up and tails rags down. If you choose correctly, you can remain standing and will continue to play. If you choose wrong, you sit down. The game will go on until there is one lucky person left standing. Our winner will receive half of the amount raised from rag sales. In 2022, our winner took home $3,925! You could go from rags to riches!

If you’re looking for something new at the Corndog Kickoff and have a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. This year we will be having a Dessert Auction as another way to raise funds for the foundation. 25 treats from local bakers will be up for grabs so keep your eyes out for your favorite dessert!

Anyone that wants their sweet treat featured in this year’s auction can contact Faith at: or by calling the Foundation at 515-262-3111 (EXT. 379).

We are excited to offer these games again this year and believe there is truly something for everyone at this event. If you have any questions, or are interested in contributing to the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can be reached at 515-262-3111 (EXT 378.) We hope to see many old and new faces this year and hope many of you are ready for a night to remember in July!

-Macy loecke, Public Relations Intern



Be a part of the Fair as a Volunteer

May 1, 2023
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The countdown is officially on to the last day of school. I am wrapping up my sophomore year at Iowa State University as I gear up for my final exams next week. With school being close to letting out, that means the best days of the year are quickly approaching, the Iowa State Fair! Speaking of the best days of the year, do you want to be part of the Iowa State Fair as more than just a Fairgoer or give back to the Fair and the Foundation? Consider volunteering with the Blue Ribbon Foundation at this year's Fair and Corndog Kickoff.

Each year almost 600 people volunteer for the Blue Ribbon Foundation assisting all Fair long to help with several different tasks around the Fair. As a volunteer, there is a variety of different tasks you could complete. One could be selling Fair merchandise through one of seven booths across the Fairgrounds. Some sell bottled water at one of the six booths around the Fairgrounds. Others could be running BINGO one day! Volunteers could even help host the 1854 Society members in Jake's Club hospitality suite. There are many things for a volunteer to do at the Fair!

The Corndog Kickoff is one of the Foundation's biggest events leading up to the Fair. The event consists of a fun-filled night with live entertainment, Fair food favorites, and a live and silent auction with nearly 2,000 attendees. At this event, there is a variety of different responsibilities a volunteer can do to help ensure the event is successful. Volunteers will help with tasks ranging from taking tickets to monitoring auction items to assisting in data entry.

Volunteers are a key aspect in assuring the Fair runs smoothly and is successful. The Foundation is a team of eight people, five full-time employees and three interns, which explains why we need all volunteers during the Fair. Without each and every volunteer, the Corndog Kickoff and Fair would not be possible to complete each and every year. YOU – outstanding volunteers – are the reason we are able to have the fun pre-fair event and the best 11 days of the year.

As a volunteer, you are the face of the Fair, being able to meet and interact with so many new people and gain a fun experience. Through each and every volunteer's hard work in selling merchandise and bottled water, all of the sales go towards the Foundation's endeavors to raise funds for the Fairground's renovation projects. In thanks to each volunteer, one will receive a complimentary admission ticket and parking pass for the day they work.

Looking at the next steps, once you have decided to volunteer, mark your calendar for June 1st, as that is when sign-up starts! Once signed up, you will want to make sure you attend the volunteer reception that takes place in July. You can learn more about this great opportunity. You can check out the Volunteer section on our website! If you have any questions, you can contact Meg at 515-262-3111 Ext. 370. We truly could not do any of this without each and every one of our volunteers. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication!

- Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern

Upcoming Events!

April 27, 2023
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Back in the office again, finishing out another semester at Iowa State and summer is slowly but surely making its way to us! We have some important dates and events coming up and I wanted to remind you to keep you all in the loop and make sure you don't miss a beat! 

First things first, if you are interested in competing in our T-Shirt Design Contest, the deadline for submissions is next Monday, May 1st. Make sure to get those in for a chance to showcase your creativity at this year’s Fair! How awesome would it be to see your own design all around the fairgrounds?

If you’re looking to be involved in this year’s fair in a different way, you may consider Volunteering. We greatly appreciate our volunteers and would love to have you! Sign up starts Tuesday, June 1st. 

One of our favorite programs for recognition is getting closer by the day. If you know someone who goes above and beyond in their Iowa community, nominate them! Iowan of the Day nominations are due Saturday, July 1st and are considered for 3 years after submission.

Alongside the fair, one of our biggest events is happening Saturday, July 8th. Mark your calendars for the annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction. Doors open at 6:30 pm for this fun filled event. You’ll be sure to get your fill of fair food with the Fair Food Grazing Party and find an auction item (or a few) you love!

If it’s not already, make sure the Iowa State Fair is marked, highlighted, underlined or all of the above on your calendar! Don’t miss unarguably the BEST 11 days of the summer, August 10-20th. Preparation is in full swing and we can’t wait to see all your smiling faces again this year. Counting down the days!

Another way you can help support our Foundation is to consider bidding on items at the annual Woodcarvers’ Auction. This event takes place the last day of the fair, Sunday August 20th.

If you enjoy being on the grounds in general like I do, you will appreciate some of the other events taking place here during the summer. Let it be known that while the Fair is our biggest occupant and event on the grounds, buildings are used year round and many other great events take place. Some of these events include Flea Markets, Polk County Fair, Junior Swine Show, and many others. Others event dates can be found here:

We hope that at least one of our events will be included in your summer plans if not many more. We are doing our best to plan and facilitate and cannot wait to see our ideas come to life. As always we appreciate your support and contributions to the Foundation. It certainly doesn’t go unnoticed!

-Macy Loecke, Public Relations Intern

SkyGlider At Sunset During the 2022 ISF. Volunteers from the 2022 ISF helping to sell merchandise. 2022 IOTD Program.