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.

Toot Toot!

December 2, 2021
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation has a special reason to toot our own horn! The Iowa State Fair received multiple 2021 International Association of Fairs and Expositions Awards of Excellence. Specifically two for the Blue Ribbon Foundation's work. The first place awards were in the “Non Fair Facility Usage” contests.

Yes, the Blue Ribbon Foundation entered the contests but really it’s our donors that supported the idea and made the concept a reality. They are the real award winners!

The first award was in the “Facility Beautification Project” category. The Blue Ribbon Foundation submitted the mural project. The Iowa State Fairgrounds is a beautiful park-like facility with grand, exposition-style architecture, lush landscaping and public art. It is a point of pride for the city of Des Moines and our state and serves as an economic generator, hosting more than 350+ event days throughout the year. It is hard to imagine how transforming one non-descript building into a welcoming feature on the Fairgrounds can revive an area and make it a focal point for capturing a family’s visit but the mural project did.

This small beautification project added visual interest for all guests walking (or even driving) by during their visit to the Iowa State Fairgrounds and provides a backdrop for families to take their photos, year after year. At the 2021 Fair, you could not pass the murals without seeing someone taking a picture of a friend, their family or even for a complete stranger. The smiles were contagious. A special thank you to the Meredith Corporation Foundation, Liz Lidgett Gallery and James Navarro for the support of the mural project.

The second award was for the category “Creative Funding for Facility Projects”. The Blue Ribbon Foundation submitted the T.A.G. Team. The goal was to engage 100 donors to make an immediate, positive and direct impact by tackling needed maintenance. For a $250 donation, the first 100 supporters were accepted into this unique group. It was a simple concept; Together we can Accomplish our Goals, creatively establishing the T.A.G. Team.

The T.A.G. Team was a success because it was a simple concept for donors to grasp. It was a well-defined, small project that needed to be completed; one that Fairgoers could easily visualize and be proud to help complete. And, one that was financial within reach for the vast majority of our audience.

The 2022 T.A.G. Team is currently recruiting members. This year’s project will repair the west side of Pioneer Hall’s exterior. The process of renovating the building’s entire exterior started in 2018. Finishing the west side of the building will complete the restoration project. Read more about the project and join the team. 

Again, these are only two of the many IAFE contest awards the Iowa State Fair received across the categories of Sponsorship, Competitive Exhibits, Marketing and Agriculture. Just another reason Iowans can be proud of their State Fair! 

Make Your Summer Plans

November 8, 2021
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Attention college students – it’s time to make your summer plans! Do you love the Iowa State Fair? Do you enjoy taking on a challenge and seeing it through? Do you want to help Iowans share their favorite summertime tradition with the next generation?

Join the Blue Ribbon Foundation's team as a 2022 intern. You will gain valuable work experience, network with people from across the state and learn skills to start your career.

There won’t be time for delivering coffee or mindless grunt work. (Well...there is usually time for coffee!) You will be responsible for your own individual projects throughout the summer. There are opportunities for you to showcase your current talents to help improve our organization.

The deadline to apply for our internship is November 30. There is more information on our website or email Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org if you have any questions.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation staff takes pride in getting the work done but having fun along the way. We'd love for you to join us. 

 

2021 Interns:

New T.A.G. Team Project

October 28, 2021
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 The Blue Ribbon Foundation created the T.A.G. Team to bring like-minded, Fair-loving individuals together to make the Iowa State Fairgrounds an even better place. It was a simple concept; Together we can Accomplish our Goals. So far, T.A.G. Team members have supported the renovation of the east restroom in the Livestock Pavilion and upgraded lighting in the Agriculture Building.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is once again looking for 100 donors who want to make an immediate, positive and direct impact on our historic Fairgrounds by tackling a smaller renovation project. Money raised from the 2022 T.A.G. Team will be used to repair the west side of Pioneer Hall’s exterior.

The process of renovating the building’s entire exterior started in 2018. Finishing the west side of the building will complete the restoration project. The deteriorated wood siding will be removed and replaced to resemble the original 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.

Pioneer Hall was built in 1886 for the first Iowa State Fair held at this location. Of the 67 buildings constructed for that Fair, only Pioneer Hall remains. Originally a poultry building, then an employees’ dormitory and a storage facility, Pioneer Hall was re-opened in 1996 after the replacement of the foundation and footings.

The facility houses antique displays, music and the Rural Americana Olde Tyme Competitions. All ages participate in the famous cow chip or rubber chicken throwing contests. There is also yodeling, joke telling and husband calling competitions. Fairgoers can watch a furniture maker, blacksmith and printer showcase their trades, or enjoy the sounds created by fiddlers.

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 in the 2022 T.A.G. Team.

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

 

Find Your Fun!

October 18, 2021
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The ISF Marketing Department announced the theme for the 2022 Iowa State Fair last week: Find Your Fun - Find Your Fun at the Iowa State Fair, August 11-21, 2022!

Do you make plans to eat the newest Fair foods and take in a show, or do you show livestock before experiencing a night at the Fair? We're looking forward to all of the ways that we can find fun in 2022!

 

The new graphics are colorful and feature everything we love about the Iowa State Fair- music, food, rides, and livestock. While we patiently wait for next summer, there are ways you can start “finding your Iowa State Fair fun” by supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation.

Iowa State Fair Swag. What’s more fun than showing your love for the Butter Cow than with custom socks, baseball hat, stocking cap or a keychain? Just like your favorite sports team – the Butter Cow has it’s own fan club.  Check out the online State Fair Store.

With the holidays right around the corner, give the Fair lover in your life ISF blue ribbon winning BBQ Sauce or Salsa. A corndog candle, puzzle or Go Fish playing cards make great gifts.

Engraved Brick. What is your favorite spot on the Fairgrounds? What building do you visit first? Is riding the Sky Glider a “must-do” before you leave? Commemorate your State Fair fun with an engraved brick. Some of my favorite inscriptions include “MY FIRST FAIR”, “CORNDOG LOVER” and other personal inside jokes. For a $100 donation, you can support the Blue Ribbon Foundation while leaving your mark on the Fairgrounds.  

Enjoy the Fairgrounds year-round by attending an event. Almost every weekend, there is something happening on the grounds. With tradeshows, cheerleading competitions, or craft sales - the historic buildings are utilized for visitors to enjoy. Are you and your significant other “Fair People”? Consider having your wedding or anniversary party on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Buildings can be rented all year long - read more

Your donation not only improves the Fairgrounds for the 11-day celebration in August but helps maintain the buildings for use the other 11 months of the year.  

There is plenty of FUN while fundraising for a special place like the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Iowans take pride in the event and the Blue Ribbon Foundation takes pride in making sure family traditions will last forever. Join in our fun and donate today.  

Did you see THAT during the Iowa State Fair?

October 6, 2021
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There is so much to see and do at the Iowa State Fair. With a million people gathering on the 445 acres of the Fairgrounds and only 11 days to explore your favorite activities and new attractions, the Blue Ribbon Foundation knows it can be hard to see it all. 

Reichardt Family Giant Slide: 
Did you take a ride down the Reichardt Family Giant Slide in its new location north of the FFA Buildings?  This year the slide celebrated 50 years of making people “whoop” with enjoyment!  The slide itself was repainted and placed on an all-new structure. The Blue Ribbon Foundation staff took a ride!

 

Bruce Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building:  
Did you see the beautiful interior of the renovated 4-H Building? Yes, the renovation of the building was completed in 2020 but the space was finally filled with one of the most important aspects of the Iowa State Fair – the youth! 4-Her’s displayed projects and gave presentations in the new classrooms.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s newest giving program, the Spirit of Generosity, was also on full display in the west atrium. It’s the perfect way to support future Fairgrounds improvements and showcase your name in a unique piece of art.

 

Four Interns: 
Did you see four interns running around like crazy? Ha! Maybe the first few days of the Fair were crazy for these ladies but they did an amazing job. You could have seen an intern checking in volunteers, restocking merchandise or introducing an Iowan of the Day winner.

Each intern is a true member of the Blue Ribbon Foundation team, having significant responsibility for integral Foundation programs and making sure committed donors have a strong and lasting relationship with the Iowa State Fair. The Blue Ribbon Foundation is looking for the next set of interns. Check out the 2022 internship information on our website. 

 

For now, we’ll keep reminiscing about the amazing things and people we saw during the 2021 Iowa State Fair. Thank you for supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation. You can soon be on the lookout for improvements coming to the Fairgrounds for 2022.  
 

Blue Ribbon Beautification Project

September 29, 2021
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Did you see the beautiful murals on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in August? If you missed seeing the new artwork, come out to the Fairgrounds to look for yourself. The photos don’t do them justice. Adding the murals to the Fairgrounds were one of the many highlights of the summer – a true beautification project.

Public art adds enormous value to the culture of a community. When traveling across Iowa, in rural and urban communities alike, you will discover their individual charm and community awareness expressed through architecture, murals and art installations. Public art contributes to a community's identity, fosters pride and a sense of belonging.

The Iowa State Fair hosts the state’s largest art show highlighting exhibits in fine arts, photography, and creative arts but these works were only present during the Fair. The Fairgrounds needed to reflect Iowans’ creativity throughout the year and adding public art was the perfect way to do so. Over the past decade, the Iowa State Fairgrounds has taken the opportunity to add more public art but desired to have something that truly made a statement and was a welcoming, interactive design for any visitor.

Located in the southwest section of the Iowa State Fairgrounds is a concrete block building that houses an electrical sub-station. It is a very non-descript building sitting across from one of the Fairgrounds’ busiest entry gates, the gate where all of our Park-&-Ride buses drop off and pick up. It also sits at an intersection within the grounds that is used throughout the year as visitors attend events at the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center, the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building, the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building and the four livestock barns. Plus, it can be seen from the road as people drive by going about their everyday lives.

The concept was to use a local artist to create a mural on each of the four sides of the building. The Liz Lidgett Gallery coordinated the project and recommended local artist and Fair-lover James Navarro. The challenge – the art for the mural had to represent all areas of the Iowa State Fair – food, rides, 4-H, FFA, art, horticulture, camping, families, entertainment, competition, animals, etc. There had to be something within one of the four paintings that anyone could relate to.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation brought the mural idea and concepts to the Fair Board and submitted a grant request to the Meredith Corporation Foundation. Meredith had supported the Foundation in its infancy with in-kind advertisements but had never found a project that was truly the right fit to form a partnership.

When the mural concept was presented to the Meredith Corporation Foundation board, they easily approved it, providing 100% of the funding for the painting and design costs, $15,000. The Foundation covered costs for full artistic rights to the images and the application of a protective coating. The Meredith Corporation is well-known for its commitment to arts and culture and was thrilled to help improve the historic Fairgrounds.

The Iowa State Fairgrounds is a beautiful park-like facility with grand, exposition-style architecture, lush landscaping and public art. It is a point of pride for the city of Des Moines and our state and serves as an economic generator, hosting more than 350+ event days throughout the year. It is hard to imagine how transforming one non-descript building into a welcoming feature on the Fairgrounds can revive an area and make it a focal point for capturing a family’s visit but this project did.

This small beautification project adds visual interest for all guests walking (or even driving) by during their visit to the Iowa State Fairgrounds and provides a backdrop for families to take their photos, year after year. At the 2021 Fair, you could not pass the murals without seeing someone taking a picture of a friend, their family or even for a complete stranger. The smiles were contagious.

Thank you again to the Meredith Corporation Foundation, Liz Lidgett Gallery and James Navarro for making the concept a reality. Send us your family picture in front of the mural – it will definitely be one of the Foundation staff’s new traditions.

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Engraved Brick Deadline – September 15

September 14, 2021
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Did you visit the Iowa State Fair for the first time this August? Or did you win a blue ribbon in the “My Favorite Meatloaf” competition? Maybe your granddaughter showed her goat and the entire family was there to cheer her on.

Commemorate your experience with an engraved brick. A brick is the perfect way to leave a permanent legacy while supporting the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Each brick celebrates a special family memory or honors a loved one. The inscriptions are unique and creative. Staff will place engraved bricks this fall. The deadline to have your brick placed this fall is September 15. You can give a donation for an engraved brick online.

The bricks are used to complete the walkways of 15 different locations: 4-H Exhibit Building, Anne & Bill Riley Stage, Campgrounds Gate Five, Maytag Family Theatres, Elwell Family Food Center, Administration Building, Agriculture Building, Dairy Parlor, Livestock Show Pavilion, Pioneer Hall, Ye Old Mill, and the Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine Barns.

Standard bricks are available for $100. Inscription allows for up to three lines using a maximum of 14 spaces per line. Special logo bricks are available for $125. Please enclose or email a black and white copy of your business or personal logo with your order form.

Thank you for celebrating the Iowa State Fair and supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation. 

Thank You!

September 7, 2021
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The first thank you of many goes to the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s volunteers. Thank you to the 594 people that filled 1,378 volunteer shifts during the 11-day Fair. We couldn't have a successful event without your support.

Thank you for helping with merchandise, selling bottled water, assisting with Jake’s Club, BINGO…and the list goes on and on. Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteers are truly some of the best Fairgoers. Thank you!

Mark your calendar for the 2022 Iowa State Fair – August 11-21. We’d love to have you volunteer.

 

Did you take pictures of your crew volunteering during the Fair? Email them to us at Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org.

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What's New at the Fair?

August 10, 2021
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The wait is almost over! In just a few days, the 2021 Iowa State Fair will be here. As we patiently wait for the fun-filled 11-days to come, here are some Blue Ribbon Foundation highlights to look forward to during your time at the Fair.

This year’s merchandise will be sold at various locations across the Fairgrounds including the Service Center, Cattle Barn, Little Hands on the Farm, Agriculture Building, Varied Industries Building and the Museum. All locations will open at 9:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM.

Below are some of the new items that will be offered at this year’s merchandise booths:

2021 T-Shirt Design Winner

 

Silicone Cup

2021 Pottery

Lapel Pin

Don’t be dehydrated while you are at the Fair! Our water booths are open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and can be found at the following locations:

Service Center, Cattle Barn, Agriculture Building, Riley Stage, Little Hands on the Farm, Heritage Village, Thrill Town and Thrill Ville.

 

As you stroll through the Fairgrounds, be sure to check out some of the newest renovations and improvements.

Sheri Avis Horner Pavilion

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​​​​​​​Murals

T.A.G. Team: Lights in the Agriculture Building ​

Elwell Family Park

With a busy Fair, here are some important events happening throughout the eleven days:

Outhouse Races: August 17 @ 2:30 PM, Grand Concourse

BINGO: August 18 @ 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Grand Concourse

Legislative Day: August 19 @ 12:00 PM, Farm Bureau Shelter House

 

Woodcarver’s Auction:

  • Live In-Person Auction: August 22 @ 3:30 PM, John and Emily Putney Family Cattle Barn’s Penningroth Media Center
  • Online Auction opens August 21 @ 10:00 AM and closes on August 22 @ 5:00 PM

 

Iowans of the Day will be honored the first ten days of the fair at noon on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage. These Iowans are recognized for outstanding service to their communities. Below are the dates and 2021 recipients:

Thursday, August 12: Joy Thiel

Friday, August 13: Kris and Steve Gunderson

Saturday, August 14: Gregg Obren

Sunday, August 15: Jody Rudolph

Monday, August 16: Julie Hitchins

Tuesday, August 17: Georgia Campbell

Wednesday, August 18: Janet Wissler

Thursday, August 19: Bill and Connie Ridgley

Friday, August 20: Carol Messer

Saturday, August 21: Barbara Kniff-McCulla

 

The anticipation is building up for tasty food, crazy rides, friendly faces, and fun events. We cannot wait to see you at the 2021 Iowa State Fair!

Woodcarver's Auction

August 5, 2021
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Have you ever wondered how you could purchase a masterpiece carved out of wood created at the Iowa State Fair? You have the chance to take one of these unique carvings home at the 2021 Woodcarver’s Auction. The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation will host this year’s auction as a hybrid with some items sold in person and other items sold online.

The live in person auction will take place the last day of the Fair on Sunday, August 22 at 3:30 PM at the John and Emily Putney Family Cattle Barn’s Penningroth Media Center. Additionally, twenty-five of the carvings will be available for online bidding starting Saturday, August 21 at 10:00 AM and closing on Sunday, August 22 at 5:00 PM. All proceeds benefit the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission of renovating the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Be sure to watch the wooden creations emerge when Keenan and Jenkins carve four times throughout each day of the Fair, August 12 -22, at 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 3:30 PM and 5:30 PM. Past carvings have included wildlife animals and sports team’s logos! The carving takes place between the First Church and Pioneer Hall.

Link to online auction: https://e.givesmart.com/events/mY9/

 

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