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.

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!

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!

October 26, 2022
drewnorton's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is holding a special online auction this fall.

Since 1996,  Iowa State Fair fans have been purchasing handmade pieces of pottery in support of Iowa State Fairgrounds renovations. Over the years, select pieces have been given back to the Blue Ribbon Foundation to use once again for the benefit of our renovation efforts. This online auction showcases some of those pieces, including the very first piece from 1996.

Online Pottery Auction

Is your pottery collection complete? Here is the list of every Iowa State Fair pottery piece:

  • 2022 - Water Carafe
  • 2021 - Bird House
  • 2020 - Flower Pot
  • 2019 - Oil Dispenser
  • 2018 - Plate
  • 2017 - Piggy Bank
  • 2016 - Mortar & Pestle
  • 2015 - Square Canister
  • 2014 - Oval Pitcher
  • 2013 - Stein
  • 2012 - Compost Pot
  • 2011 - Small Beehive Jug
  • 2010 - Butter Churn
  • 2009 - Wine Chiller
  • 2008 - Pottery Pot
  • 2007 - Vase
  • 2006 - Utensil Holder
  • 2005 - Baking Dish
  • 2004 - Bread Pan
  • 2003 - Bowl
  • 2002 - Flower Pot
  • 2001 - 2-Quart Pitcher
  • 2000 - Butter Crock
  • 1999 - Covered Bean Pot
  • 1998 - Porringer (bowl with spout and handle)
  • 1997 - Pie Plate
  • 1996 - Utensil Jar

This special 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. These donations go toward continued improvements on the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

We’re Hiring!

October 19, 2022
drewnorton's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is looking for college students to join our staff as interns next year. We plan to hire three spring semester/summer interns to help prepare for the 2023 Corndog Kickoff and Iowa State Fair.

DISCLAIMER: This is not your typical internship!

Each intern will become a true member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team, having direct responsibility for integral Foundation programs with the goal of making sure committed donors have a strong and lasting relationship with the Iowa State Fair. The Foundation would not be successful without the help of our interns. Since the program started in 1993, the positions have adjusted to fit the growing needs of the Foundation. Below is an outline of the current positions.

  • Public Relations: Publicize and coordinate the Iowan of the Day program. Promote other events with various communication materials.
  • Donor Relations: Coordinate special events, donor communications and correspondence with the corporate sector.
  • Sponsor Relations: Assist with sponsorship planning process, including marketing, communications and hospitality. Develop informational materials and maintain sponsor profiles.

An important aspect to the Foundation’s internship is that each student is able to utilize their existing skills when completing a project. Interns work independently and have the opportunity to take ownership of a specific task. At the same time, we challenge our interns to expand their skills by completing projects they might not have a previous knowledge of. (As a staff, we do our best to prepare students for the real world working environment.)

There is a wide range of tasks each intern will complete including social media, marketing initiatives, organization of fundraising auction, designing merchandise and other event materials. An intern will organize the Woodcarvers’ Auction, create event invitations and advertising materials.

Previous interns are currently working at: Amazon, American Royal, Caesar Entertainment, Dotdash Meredith, Farm Credit Services of America, Flynn Wright, Freeman, Heritage House-A WesleyLife Community, Jeid Studio, Lessing-Flynn, Mahaska Soil & Water Conservation District, Office of the Governor, PDM Precast Inc, PepsiCo, Realtor - Misty SOLDwisch, Two Rivers Marketing, UnityPoint Health, Windsor Valley Dairy…the list goes on and on.

After graduation, some interns completed graduate school, moved across the country or stayed in Iowa to start their career. There are several previous interns that now volunteer with the Foundation or have other connections to the Iowa State Fair – sponsors, exhibitors or just avid Fairgoers!

If you know of a college student looking for an internship, encourage them to apply - Internship Information. (Applications will be accepted until November 30.)

P.S. Two former interns are now full-time Blue Ribbon Foundation staff members! 

Pages