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 $195 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.

Corndog Checkoff

February 17, 2023
drewnorton's picture

The 2023 Iowa State Fair theme is “Best Days Ever”! Would you agree that some of your “Best Days Ever” might have been experienced at the most important celebration of the year - the Iowa State Fair? With your dedication attending the Fair, you probably have many days you didn’t think could get much better!  

Since 1854, the Iowa State Fair has been a critical piece of our rich history – a true reflection of the state’s culture, industries, and quality of life. The Fair is committed to both maintaining the traditions Fairgoers love and generating improvements that make it the place to be in August for both first-time and hundredth-time Fairgoers alike. When the Fair thrives, our state thrives and we all enjoy some of the best days ever.

Only at the Fair can you… watch a concert, win a ribbon, arm wrestle, spot a mullet, ride a giant slide, sheer a sheep, eat a deep fried Oreo, throw a cow chip and pay your taxes.

Tax paying? What! There are hundreds of experiences that you can only find at the Iowa State Fair. While we are months away from August, during this tax season you can help keep the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds in top-notch condition by donating to the Corndog Checkoff.

The Corndog Checkoff allows Iowans to make charitable contributions to the Blue Ribbon Foundation when filing state taxes. When completing an Iowa tax form, look for “State Fair” and simply fill in the desired donation amount. If receiving a refund, the amount of your donation will be automatically deducted. If taxes are owed, simply add the donation to the amount you send in to the Department of Revenue.

Thanks for your donation! You can help the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts by sharing this opportunity. The more people aware of the Corndog Checkoff, the more people will donate. 

Back the Barns Fundraising Campaign

February 9, 2023
drewnorton's picture

The Iowa State Fair has a legacy of hosting high quality livestock shows. As you walk through the barns, one can’t help but notice a prominent fashion accessory, western-style belt buckles.  These buckles surpass functionality to show something special about the wearer, highlighting what is meaningful to them from an accomplishment in the ring, their family history or imagery of the animals they work with. These buckles are worn with pride, showcasing who the wearer is and what they want to be.

In recognition of the pride shown by our livestock exhibitors, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation has created the “Back the Barns” campaign along with a commemorative belt buckle.  The livestock barns as a whole will undergo a major $25 million renovation. Each structure will have dedicated restoration in areas that are vitally needed such as roofing, flooring, electrical, restrooms and tuckpointing to name but a few.

“Back the Barns” is a way for anyone with a passion for youth in agriculture to support the renovation of the barns on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Providing youth with exceptional facilities in which to compete and showcase their hard work and skills every August is central to the Fair’s mission. Renovation of the historic, early 20th century animal barns will give generations of Fairgoers the opportunity to continue the time-honored tradition of showing their livestock at the Iowa State Fair.   

The Blue Ribbon Foundation received an initial $5 million donation from the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation to kick-start the renovation project.  Jeff and Deb Hansen and Iowa Select Farms have committed $2 million specifically for the Swine barn portion of the renovation. The Foundation will also receive $12 million from the state’s “Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.”

Please back our barns renovation by joining this campaign to enhance the Fairgoer experience for years to come. 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.  And yep, you really do get a special belt buckle to commemorate your investment.

It’s a mutual support program – we’ll help hold up your pants; you'll help hold up our roof.

  • 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

These belt buckles don’t just represent the rich agriculture heritage of Iowa but are a symbol of your generosity in supporting the next generation of 4-H and FFA youth that will lead our state.

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.  Your support of the barn restoration project will guarantee the tradition of showing livestock at the Iowa State Fair continues to  grow year after year.

Thank you -  Join Today!

Work in Progress

February 1, 2023
drewnorton's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is looking for the final 3 donors to join the 2023 T.A.G. Team. These 3 individuals will make an immediate, positive and direct impact on our historic Fairgrounds by tackling a smaller renovation project. These last 3 generous Iowa State Fair enthusiasts will complete our group of 100 and $25,000!

Money raised from the 2023 T.A.G. Team will be used to renovate the north and east exterior doors of the Agriculture Building. The very talented carpenter in the ISF maintenance department is already making progress on the new doors.

The updated doors will be detailed with proper craftsmanship to match the historic style. Each custom door will be engineered for function and longevity, following accessibility guidelines. The new doors will enable better security and provide weather-proofing to fix previous issues of large gaps and easy to pop locks. 

For a $250 donation, only 100 donors will be accepted into this unique group. Your name will be listed as a key player in the renovation project and you will receive a commemorative pin to denote your membership.

Please consider joining our T.A.G. Team so Together we can Accomplish our Goals. Donate today

Thank you to these donors that have supported our mission:

Paul and Crystal Abbe
Blake Anderson
Ernie and Paula Barnes
Darrell and Lynda Bauman
Dustin and Chris Beener
Craig and Shellie Benson
Randy and JoAnn Berry
Michael and Karla Blanchard
Frank and Nancy Bodine
Lynn and Elaine Bohling
Mary Boysen
Ronald and Joyce Brewster
Joe and Bonnie Buman
Jill Byerly
Kenneth and Linda Cairns
Melanie Carmichael
Gary and Cynthia Cheney
Donna Clark
Philip and Caren Clevenger
Don Corrigan
Jeff and Meg Courter
Daniel Cretors
Paul and Kiki Curtis
Erik Davis
Doug and Heather Den Adel
Dale and Susan Derscheid
Gary Dinsdale
Kelly and Dave Donato
Douglas and Patty Dyar
Mark and Tammy Ebensberger
Rachel and Zach Eubank
Jeff and Vickie Farver
Colene Ferrin
Kay Eker Finders and Gordon Finders
Larry and Sandra Fleck
Tracy Forbes
Richard and Beth Frank
Michael and Ann Gersie
Jim and Kathy Gocke
Bill and Marilyn Grochala Gorham
Alan and Lisa Hagie
Becky Hauser
Joe Hintzsche
Skip Hitchcock
Zane Hoffman
Allen and Wanda Holm
Melinda Huisinga
Donald Irwin
Julianna Kasper
William and Sarah Keel
Kenneth Kessler
Michael and Anne Long
Penny Lorey
Lori Malone
Larry McConnell
Rollie and Patty McCubbin
Andrew McDowell
Judi Mireles
Jason and Cara Morse
Ken Morse
Tony Mudderman
Patrick Nepereny
Sheldon and Elizabeth Ohringer
Doug and Marcy Ostrander
Lori Pearson
Dixie Pencil
Stephen and Patricia Peters
Stuart Peterson
Matt and Anna Pilcher
Gary and Bobbi Port
Dennis Prather
Howard Rescot
Brooks Reynolds
Martin and Jo Reynolds
Tricia Rosendahl
Kevin Schlutz and Linda Martin
Jon and Laura Scoles
Sherry Sears
Shannon Shepherd
Bruce and Linda Simonton
Mike and Janet Sinclair
Cindy Spiker
Glenn and Ginger Sterk
Gary and Lisa Stump
Adam and Aundrea Suntken
Bret and Beth Jensen Thies
Tindle Family
Chuck and Kathy Van Dike
Jeff and Shelley Wangsness
Kelsey Warfield
Dave Windisch
Gary and Sandi Yates
The Yedlik Family
Eric Youngberg and Gary Krogh
Rod and Deborah Zeitler
Ronald and Mary Beth Zelle
Louie and Deb Zumbach

Progress Pictures:

​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​

Attention College Students

January 23, 2023
drewnorton's picture

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is offering its internship program for college students. These internships give a hands-on opportunity to exercise your organizational and administrative skills while obtaining significant experience in business, communication, event management, marketing and public relations.

Each intern will be a true member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team, working directly with staff, coordinating select projects, and making sure committed donors have a strong and lasting relationship with the Iowa State Fair.

A special thank you to the 2022 interns – Brooklin Border, Laura Noehren and Kenna Smith. These three went above and beyond to make the Corndog Kickoff and Iowa State Fair a success. From coordinating the Iowan of the Day program, planning donor hospitality events and engaging sponsors – each were a key member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s staff. 

"I grew up going to the State Fair every year, so I was very excited to have this internship. There is so much to learn and you will meet some amazing people. I encourage you to really listen to their stories and make the most out of this experience!" - Kenna Smith

"The summer was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. There is A LOT that goes on behind the scenes to plan the Iowa State Fair and it was exciting to get to be a part of it." - Brooklin Border

“The internship was a great experience filled with hard work, learning opportunities, fun, and so much more. From volunteers, sponsors, and staff - I learned so much this summer.” – Laura Noehren

If you know a hard-working, motivated college student who loves the Fair, PLEASE SHARE the Foundation’s Internship Opportunities for 2023.  Applications will be accepted until January 31. 

​​​​​​​   ​​​​​​​

Special People, Special Memories 

January 17, 2023
drewnorton's picture

We all have those people in our lives that we depend on every day. The friends that go above and beyond to help with whatever is needed. The neighbor that not only does the favor but also does a little bit extra to make our lives easier.   

Are any of these special people also Iowa State Fair fans? What about your family member that never misses a Fair and sometimes attends 9, 10 or even all 11 days. Do you have a sister that typically goes to a Grandstand concert but wants to get to the Fairgrounds for breakfast on the same day? Or a cousin that is up for the challenge of eating all of the new Fair foods featured on-a-stick each year? 

Or maybe you helped your son show his pigs during his 4-H and FFA years in school and now you sit in the stands watching your grandson show the same breed.  

The Iowa State Fair is made up of special people that have precious memories. The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s job is to preserve those memories and make sure families all across Iowa can continue to make more in the future.  

To those special people (and Fair lovers) in your life, no matter how many times you thank them – it never seems enough. Consider making a gift to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation in their honor. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the special Fairgoer in your life while supporting Fairgrounds renovations. 

Here are three donor wall plaques that can show appreciation to your loved one. 

Growing Our Future: Ruan Plaza, a greenspace bordering the east side of the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building, made its Fair debut in 2015. A retaining wall between the Robert G. Horner and Sheri Avis Horner Service Center and the Plaza will now showcase “Growing Our Future”, a program designed to add a vibrant and artful display to the grounds.  

Seven different levels of giving are available, with each customized ¼” aluminum plaque working together to create the overall design. Distinguished by two different sized plaques, each level is recognized with colored “leaves”. The leaves allow for two lines of inscription and can become more personalized on the larger pieces. Donate Here. 

Block By Block: The donor wall is inspired by the barn quilts that hang on the exterior of the Exhibition Center, which represent Iowa’s heritage and strength in agriculture. Just as the structure was built block by block, this unique, decorative wall is a symbol of how individual contributions like yours help piece together projects to make Fairgrounds renovations possible! 

Six different levels of giving are available for the donor wall in the Jacobson Exhibition Center. With each incremental donation level, the plaques increase in size and allow for a more personalized inscription. Donate Here. 

Spirit of Generosity: The “Spirit of Generosity” giving program is designed to honor the character and generous spirit of Iowans. 

Located in the west atrium of the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building, the “Spirit of Generosity” panel is a representation of Iowa, demonstrating how independent pieces come together to create our great state and its Fair.  The Blue Ribbon Foundation invites you to support our mission to renovate and preserve the Iowa State Fairgrounds, keeping it a place where future generations can showcase their talents. Donate Here. 

Thank you for supporting the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. You and your Iowa State Fair memories will always be special to us.  

(Pictured: Just a few of my close friends that love to attend the Iowa State Fair and have fun while I'm working!)

Three "BRF" things to know in January!

January 11, 2023
drewnorton's picture

Welcome 2023! Here are three Blue Ribbon Foundation things to know for January. 

Deadline Extended:

The Blue Ribbon Foundation has extended our internship application deadline to January 31. We have already hired two interns to join our team this summer and would like to add one more to the group.

Each intern will be a true member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team, having significant responsibility for integral programs with the goal of making sure committed donors have a strong and lasting relationship with the Iowa State Fair.

Interns will coordinate special events, promote fundraising programs and assist with Iowa State Fair sponsors. Each intern will also be responsible for a variety of social media and marketing initiatives.

Other tasks include database administration, organization of the fundraising auction and merchandise design. It's a busy summer and the Blue Ribbon Foundation promises each student will gain valuable work experience. Plus we have lots of fun because it IS the Iowa State Fair!

Applications due January 31 - Learn More

20 Donors Needed:

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is looking for 100 donors to make an immediate, positive and direct impact on our historic Fairgrounds by tackling a smaller renovation project. We’ve had 80 donors join the team and only need 20 more!

Money raised from the 2023 T.A.G. Team will be used to renovate the north and east exterior doors of the Agriculture Building.

The updated doors will be detailed with proper craftsmanship to match the historic style. Each custom door will be engineered for function and longevity, following accessibility guidelines. The new doors will enable better security and provide weather-proofing to fix previous issues of large gaps and easy to pop locks.

For a $250 donation, only 100 donors will be accepted into this unique group. Your name will be listed as a key player in the renovation project and you will receive a commemorative pin to denote your membership.

We welcome your participation in our T.A.G. Team so Together we can Accomplish our Goals - Donate Today.

It’s Corndog Time: 

We aren’t talking about a hotdog on a stick but the Tax Checkoff. As a Corndog Checkoff Tax Program donor, your commitment is what makes the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission of renovating the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds successful.

We invite you to continue to support that mission. The Corndog Checkoff provides an easy way to contribute to ongoing renovation efforts through a tax-deductible donation on your Iowa return.

Please consider donating when completing your 2023 taxes. Look for “State Fair” on Line 57b on Iowa Form 1040. Every dollar donated is directed to preserving the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Read More.

Happy Holidays!

December 21, 2022
drewnorton's picture

Happy Holidays! With the sun setting on 2022, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation wishes you a joyful holiday and a happy new year!

Thank you for supporting our mission of preserving the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. We are excited about 2023 and look forward to the many future improvements made possible because of your generosity.

Below are a few of our favorite snapshots from the 2022 Iowa State Fair. Only 231 days to go!

Thank you!

Thank You!

November 18, 2022
drewnorton's picture

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind. Go to work, pay bills, take care of chores around the house, rinse and repeat. And as busy as we are, it’s easy to forget that the whole reason we do these obligatory tasks is so that we can have time to slow down and appreciate the people around us; the people in our lives who make that daily grind worthwhile.

Fortunately, from time to time, there are days where the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation can’t help but notice and appreciate our friends, donors, and volunteers who inspire our organization.

Thanksgiving is one of those days.

We are overwhelmed with thankfulness because we are surrounded by Iowans willing to support our mission. You trust the Foundation to keep your family traditions and memories alive.

On this day of giving thanks, and all the days in between, the Blue Ribbon Foundation is extremely grateful for you. From all of us at the Blue Ribbon Foundation to all of you…Happy Thanksgiving!

List of Donors: Please join us in thanking the incredible donors that have supported our organization in 2022.

These individuals and businesses have attended the Corndog Kickoff, participated in a giving program, purchased merchandise, have given a memorial gift or simply supported our mission with a donation.

The list is a true testament to the love Iowans have for their Iowa State Fair. Thank you.

Click Here to see the full list.

Join Our Mission: Please consider joining our mission to renovate and preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

The Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dedicated to continuing that legacy. Donate Today

Online Pottery Auction

November 8, 2022
drewnorton's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Pottery Auction starts on Thursday, November 10. Have you signed up to participate? 

These collectible pieces would be a special addition to your current pottery collection or a beautiful gift to any Iowa State Fair enthusiast.

Maybe you have a fun connection to one of the pieces or a specific year. I was a Blue Ribbon Foundation intern in 2011 (Beehive Jug). I started as a full time employee in 2013 (Stein). I enjoy planting flowers every spring. The 2002 Large Flower Pot or the 2020 Flower Pot with Saucer would be great additions to my front porch.

Just remember, it’s more than a pottery piece. These donations go toward continued improvements on the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

The Details: The pottery auction will run Thursday, November 10 beginning at 10:00 a.m. (CST) to Sunday, November 13 at 8:00 p.m.

Bidding is only done online through this website. To bid, you must register as a bidder and provide the required information on the form, including a valid credit card number.

In addition to the collectible pottery pieces, a few other specialty items are include in the online auction.

  • Mini matchstick holder crocks
  • Iowa State Fair Sesquicentennial Red Wing Pitcher
  • One-of–a-kind sample design pieces made by various potters
  • Corndog Kickoff pottery pieces

Thank you in advance for supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation through the pottery auction.

Fall Newsletter Flashback!

October 31, 2022
drewnorton's picture

Be sure to read this fall’s newsletter to catch up on the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts and Fairgrounds improvement projects. Included in this blog is a flashback to what the Blue Ribbon Foundation was doing 10 and 20 years ago.

Fall 2022:

  • Iowan of the Day Program: One summer highlight included honoring 10 Iowans during the 2022 Iowa State Fair. This program has been going strong for 20+ years! Thanks to Speed Herrig with Cookies Food Products for partnering with the Foundation for so many years to honor the most deserving Iowans.
  • Corndog Kickoff Highlights: Raising $797,000 is no easy task! Thank you to the patrons, concessionaires, auction donors and volunteers for making the 2022 event such a success. Are there any supporters that have attended each and every Corndog Kickoff?
  • Interns: Each year the Blue Ribbon Foundation hires interns to join our team. Learn more - the deadline to apply is November 30.

Flashback 10 years ago – Fall 2012:

  • Fairgrounds 5K: The Foundation was promoting one of our more “exhausting” fundraisers. Haha!
  • Expo Hill:  This area was updated for the 2012 Iowa State Fair. Fairgoers enjoyed the covered stage entertainment, which Fairgoers are still enjoying to this day.
  • Merchandise: Iowa State Fair souvenirs change over time to reflect what is popular for buyers. The Iowa State Fair cookbook remains one of the most popular merchandise items, even after 10 years. Start Shopping Online. 
    • You can also purchase merchandise at our office. Just let us know what day you plan to stop by and we will have the items ready for you. Our office is 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 – 4:30 pm.

Flashback 20 years ago – Fall 2002:

  • Legacy Terrace: Fairgoers enjoyed the renovations in front of the Grandstand. During the 2002 Iowa State Fair, there was a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony for the new Legacy Terrace space.
  • Bells Goes to the Fair: Susan Knapp wrote the children’s book, Bells Goes to the Fair. The books were sold and the proceeds donated to the Blue Ribbon Foundation.
  • Volunteers: Thank you to the many volunteers that sell bottled water and merchandise during the Iowa State Fair. In 2002, more than 350 Fair-lovers donated their time to support our mission. That number has grown to nearly 600 in 20 years!


Programs have grown, new projects have developed and things have changed over the years. One thing that remains constant - the loyalty of Blue Ribbon Foundation donors and volunteers. Thank you for your support!