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.

Flashback to 2002 and 2012: What was going on?

May 2, 2022
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It seems that every year brings something new to the Iowa State Fair. Of course there is always new Fair foods to try, new exhibits to check out, or new merchandise to take home with you. But many years there is something bigger too. Perhaps new events spark your interest, there is a new competition to check out, or a new building is added to the Fairgrounds that you’ve got to go in. It can almost be hard to keep track of. Our quarterly newslettercan help you keep track of what is going on! We are excited for our supporters to receive our Spring 2022 Newsletter this month. To commemorate, let’s check out what the newsletters of 10 and 20 years ago were excited about.

What was happening in 2002?

20 years ago, in 2002, big changes were coming to the Blue Ribbon Foundation! Former Iowa State Fair CEO Marion Lucas had retired and moved off the Fairgrounds, allowing for the Blue Ribbon Foundation to move in to its current location in the Earth Home, just north of the Fun Forest. Before this move, the Blue Ribbon Foundation had been located in downtown Des Moines in the Ruan Center.

What was happening in 2012?

10 years ago, in 2012, the Blue Ribbon Foundation was busy planning the 16th annual Corndog Kickoff. The theme for 2012 was “It’s a Sweet Thing!” How fun! In 2012, the Blue Ribbon Foundation was also hard at work on the new endowment program, Our Fairs Future. Donors to the fund were designated as a member of the Champion’s Circle, and were recognized around the Fair in a variety of ways. This program still exsists today, check it out to learn more about planned giving and how you can help the Iowa State Fair.

What is happening now?

Now, just to wrap things up, I’ll leave you with a sneak peek into the 2022 Newsletter! The 2022 Spring edition of the newsletter includes an update on the T.A.G. Team project, and a bunch of exciting project updates. These updates include some big ones, like the Alliant Energy Landing and the Elwell Family Park, and some smaller scale ones, like replacing a section of the Agricultural Building roof.

Some things stay the same.

While each issue had their differences, some things do stay the same. In all of the issues, the Blue Ribbon Foundation announced their Iowan of the Day search, talked about the annual Corndog Kickoff, reached out for volunteers, had a few mailbox notes, and welcomed their summer interns!

Laura Noehren, Sponser Relations Intern


Have you submitted your t-shirt design yet?

April 29, 2022
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Do you have what it takes to create an awesome design for a 2022 Iowa State Fair t-shirt? Submit your design today! The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation t-shirt contest is underway and there is still plenty of time to submit your design. Designs are due THIS SUNDAY, May 1 and if your design wins it will be created and sold at the 2022 Iowa State Fair! How cool is that?


Funds from the sale of the t-shirt will go towards renovations and improvements to the Fairgrounds. However, the top three winners will get prizes too!

1st place:

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

2nd place:

  • 2 gate admission tickets, $24 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair

3rd place:

  • 2 gate admission tickets and $25 in food coupons


So, how will you win? Well, a selection committee will choose the top 5 designs and those designs will be posted on the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s website and Facebook page. All you have to do is get “likes” on your t-shirt design on Facebook or get votes on our website.  Voting will be open from May 9-16 and the winner will be announced on May 17.


Think you have the best design? Double check our rules and guidelines here:


Don’t forget to submit your design by May 1… Who will win this year?


Here is last years design. Animals, food, rides, or fun - it's up to you to decide what should be on the t-shirt!

- Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern

It's a Win-Win!

April 25, 2022
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There are officially 75 days until the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Corndog Kickoff - Saturday July, 9! Today I’m highlighting one of our special fundraising activities at the event.

“Dining Delights” is back again for another round of celebrating delicious restaurants across Iowa. Attendees donate $20 to pick a mystery gift card of $25 or higher to a restaurant in Iowa! Who doesn’t love to try a new restaurant while also supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation?

Is your local restaurant a hidden gem? You can promote your favorite restaurant by buying a gift card and donating it to the Blue Ribbon Foundation be part of the Dining Delights activity.

I know I would love to give someone a gift certificate to my favorite restaurant in Mt.Pleasant, Costas Pizza & Steakhouse. I worked there for 3 years in high school and I still go back every time I am home! You could also score a gift card from Hickory Park Restaurant in Ames where I work during college! They have just about every flavor of ice cream and topping you could wish for.

Alright, this is making me very hungry. Before I go, I want to remind you all that it is not too late to buy your tickets to the 2022 Corndog Kickoff or reserve a table by becoming a Patron. There are so many amazing donations that are coming into the office and we would love to see even more!

Thank you for your support!


-Kenna Smith, Donor Relations Intern

Nominate and Celebrate Your Favorite Iowan!

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


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

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


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


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


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


Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern


It's a Cookbook Year!

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

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

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

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

Photo of previous Iowa State Fair Cookbook

Tags: Cookbook

Calling all creators, artists, designers, and more!

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

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

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

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

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

-Kenna Smith, Donor Relations Intern

Meet the 2022 Public Relations Intern - Brooklin Border

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

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

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

Meet the 2022 Donor Relations Intern - Kenna Smith

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

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

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

-Kenna Smith, Donor Relations Intern

2022 Intern First Day: Laura Noehren

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

Guest Blog: Baking Blue Ribbons

March 23, 2022
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Dear Lover of the Iowa State Fair,

Did you know that there has never been a comprehensive history written about the wonderful Iowa State Fair Food competitions?  Well we are rectifying that by compiling a book highlighting the history, stories and select recipes that have shaped our Food Department and the Midwest culinary experience, beginning with the very first Fair held in 1854 through 2021.

We, the authors, have teamed up to bring you the Iowa State Fair food experience from both sides of the judging table. Kay has competed and won ribbons at the Fair for more than a decade. Carol has judged and sponsored food competitions for 36 years. Together, we bring our love of the Fair and food, as well as extensive experience from our writing and marketing careers.

The Denny and Candy Elwell Foundation has generously underwritten part of the project.  We are looking to match those funds to publish “Baking Blue Ribbons” in time for this year’s Iowa State Fair. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Food Department.

We are contacting you because:

  • Someone you know might be featured in the book.
  • Your family member might appear in the book.
  • You love food on a stick.
  • You love to cook, eat and collect recipes.
  • You enjoy a good book about a fun part of Iowa’s history.
  • You love to support the Iowa State Fair.

We hope you will join us in bringing the story of the largest Foods Department of any Fair to life!  No donation is too small. If you would like to contribute, and do so before May 1, we will gratefully acknowledge your name in the book.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is assisting in bringing this book to print by coordinating the donations.  The Foundation is responsible for raising funds for the renovation and preservation of the historic Fairgrounds and helped foster the development of the Elwell Family Food Center, home of the Food Department.

Please send your contribution to the Blue Ribbon Foundation at PO Box 57130, Des Moines, IA 50317. In the memo line, note it is for the Fair Book.  As a 501(c)3 non-profit, the Foundation will acknowledge your gift with a receipt letter to use for tax deductibility if applicable.

Thank you so much for helping bring “Baking Blue Ribbons” to all who love our Iowa State Fair!


Kay Smith & Carol McGarvey


*Please note, you can give a donation online. Please email Drew to indicate that you would like the gift to go toward the book project.

If you have specific questions about Baking Blue Ribbons, please email Kay Smith or Carol McGarvey directly. (,