October 10, 2022
The last weekend of the Iowa State Fair is bittersweet. It’s a mix of exhaustion, more hustle and a little bit melancholy that it’s all almost over.
Our final Iowan of the Day was on Saturday. (The Fair is months away but it’s never too early to think about nominating the outstanding volunteer in your community. You can celebrate your hometown hero in a special way at the 2023 Iowa State Fair.)
Jeannine Liljedahl – Essex: For 20 years, Jeannine has volunteered with the Community Food Pantry. She is the co-founder and director of the Little Red Wagon where meals are delivered to homebound residents. She manages approximately 100 volunteers and serves up to 2,000 meals every year. Jeannine assists her community by serving as a board member for Southview Village for low rent housing, is an active Foundation member and gift shop volunteer at the Shenandoah Medical Center, and is a part of PEO, the Shenandoah Book Club and the Essex Study and Service Club.
On Saturday, August 20 the Fairgrounds welcomed the largest crowd in history – 128,298! We know some of those Fairgoers attended the demolition derby in the Elwell Family Park. Crowds enjoyed the further enhancements to the space. The grandstand increased by 1,000 seats, while a roof and a press box were added to the structure. The Elwell Family Park also hosted a truck & tractor pull and short course motorsport racing throughout the Fair.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation participated in the concrete statue contest and placed 3rd in the professional category. Twenty-six entries from various artists were entered in the contest. Artists had the task of painting a traditional barn. Thank you to Sticks for painting our barn. It was beautiful and sold at the Woodcarvers’ Auction for $11,000.
On Sunday, August 21 the Woodcarvers’ Auction raised a new fundraising record of $79,137. All proceeds from the auction are dedicated to Our Fair’s Future, the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s endowment fund. A special thank you to Chainsaw Artists - Gary Keenan and T.J. Jenkins for producing such outstanding pieces of art.
During the Woodcarvers’ Auction, Peter Cownie (Blue Ribbon Foundation Executive Director) and Gary Slater (Iowa State Fair CEO and Fair Manager) announced an upcoming improvement project. Over the next several years, the livestock barns will undergo a historic $25 million renovation. The Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine barns will be renovated from top to bottom with updated roofing, flooring, lighting, restrooms, and offices. Each barn will have additional upgrades for specific needs.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation received a $5 million donation from the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation to begin the renovation project. Iowa Select Farms and Jeff & Deb Hansen 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.” All Iowans are welcome to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts needed to complete the project. Make your donation online today.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation is a small buy mighty team. Thank you to the interns, volunteers and the other Iowa State Fair staff that help make our organization run smoothly. The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to preserve and improve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds wouldn’t be possible with the support of our donors.
THANK YOU for attending the Iowa State Fair and for buying a t-shirt, bottle of water or an engraved brick. The list of creative ways to support our organization is endless. Every donation of any size is important.
Thank you for trusting the Blue Ribbon Foundation to make the needed improvements to YOUR beloved Iowa State Fairgrounds ensuring your family will enjoy the tradition for many years.
October 4, 2022
Days 7, 8 and 9 of the Iowa State Fair seem like a blur! It’s over the halfway point, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is ready to finish with a busy weekend. Each day is something new and exciting. Although the Foundation staff have been enjoying the Iowa State Fair for several days, it’s always someone’s first visit and we want to make sure it’s just as special as those who have attended every day.
The three Iowan of the Day winners:
Kathy Jo Porter – Waterloo: Passion is what drives Kathy Jo to work endless hours. In 2015, Kathy Jo launched Kaden’s Kloset and has worked tirelessly to help care for children in foster care or adoptive situations by providing them with essential items. She serves an average of 400+ children every year. Recently, Kathy Jo launched the Kaden’s Kloset Christmas Wonderland where each child in the Waterloo foster care system receives clothing and a few special gifts for the holiday.
Bonnie Wood – Pocahontas: Bonnie has devoted her time to community projects and organizations including the Pocahontas Chamber of Commerce, Pocahontas Women’s Club, volunteering at the Rialto Theatre and leading Main Street Stitchers. Bonnie saw an opportunity for enhancements to her community through the Elbert Park Improvement project, adding a new playground and trail to the town. Through her work, she has been described as a “catalyst volunteer” because of her positivity, organization and passion for the Pocahontas community.
Amy Ryan - Forest City: Amy has volunteered as a Race Director for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation coordinating 5K remembrance runs for firefighters and veterans. She has helped raise $75,000 for the Foundation. Amy also puts together care packages for the military, every year. She brought Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Forest City and now every child in town receives a free book to read each month. Amy volunteers using the app “Be My Eyes”, allowing her to video chat and provide visual assistance to blind and low vision people in her community.
Playing BINGO on the Grand Concourse is one of our favorite activities for the Wednesday of the Fair. This year, 4,000 Fairgoers played 81 games of BINGO raising $4,054! This is a record in the 4th year the Foundation has hosted the fundraiser.
On Thursday, the Blue Ribbon Foundation welcomed Iowa Legislators to the Fairgrounds. Approximately 175 legislators and their families enjoyed the Iowa State Fair. The Foundation utilized the new Alliant Energy Landing. Just another example of the brand new space being used for special events.
The Maytag Family Theatres received some upgrades this summer and is home to the new Kitchen. The Kitchen demonstration area showcased 5 sessions each day to full crowds. Sessions included wine mixology, cooking with honey, how to construct a wedding cake, hot chocolate bombs and even a play dough/slime demonstration.
Did you happen to see this lovely young woman running between the Iowa of the Day presentation, stocking the merchandise booths, organizing the chainsaw woodcarvings or maybe eating plenty of Barksdale’s Chocolate Chip cookies? This would be our Public Relations Summer Intern, Brooklin Border. Not just for 11 days, but all summer long -she worked hard to support our mission. Brooklin took ownership of her specific projects and did an amazing job representing the Blue Ribbon Foundation. Thank you.
Laura, Kenna and Brooklin will be a tough group of interns to replace next summer. If you know of a college student that might be interested in the Blue Ribbon Foundation's internship program, have them apply. The deadline is November 30.
Stay tuned for more 2022 Iowa State Fair highlights.
September 30, 2022
The first Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of the Iowa State Fair slightly slow down for the Blue Ribbon Foundation. After the first weekend, staff are in a good routine - getting work accomplished and enjoying the great Iowa State Fair.
The 2022 Iowan of the Day winners were some of the most inspiring people in our state.
Doug Sienknecht – Gladbrook (August 14): Doug always finds time to help those in his community. He is active in his church serving as Board President, on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, organizes Vacation Bible School and led a group of young adults on a mission trip. Active in the Lincoln AMVETS and Auxiliary, Doug is the Chairman of the Avenue of Flags Committee and is a member of the Gladbrook American Legion. He volunteers to give veterans rides to doctor appointments. Doug has also volunteered at the Iowa State Fair selling water.
Emerson Bendickson - Panora (August 15): At age 6, Emerson noticed other students were not getting milk with their snack because extra milk wasn’t covered under the free/reduced meal plan. She took it upon herself to raise money to provide milk for her classmates that had to go without. Emerson collected pop cans and with the help of her parents, started a GoFundMe page. The Panora community supported Emerson’s project. She raised enough money to provide extra milk for the students in need for the rest of the school year.
Janet and Dave Ritchie – Knoxville (August 16): This hardworking duo has made a lasting impact on the individuals in their community. Janet has been a 4-H leader, member of the Daughters of Union Veterans, the Lions Club and Iowa State Rabbit Breeders Association. Dave is a Vietnam Veteran and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3519 serving as the All-State Quarter Master. He has supported the county cemetery with maintenance and preservation. Janet and Dave are members of their church quilting group and have served on the Marion County Historical Society Board of Directors.
On the first Sunday of the Iowa State Fair, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosts a brunch to celebrate some of our most loyal donors. This year’s event was held in the new Alliant Energy Landing!
The Alliant Energy Landing is located east of the Livestock Pavilion. This new structure doubled the size of the previous shelter house. The Alliant Energy Landing was used by the Blue Ribbon Foundation and was rented to other businesses to use all 11 days of the Iowa State Fair. It will continue to be rented this fall and next spring. Thank you to Alliant Energy for the $1 million donation that created this beautiful space that will be enjoyed by Fairgoers for future generations.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation sold official souvenirs in the State Fair Store located in the Robert and Sheri Avis Horner Service Center and five other locations across the Fairgrounds. Raising $513,812, Fairgoers bought their favorite t-shirts and collectibles to commemorate their visit to the Fair.
Fun Facts: The Foundation sold 1,724 stuffed animals not including the stuffed Butter Cows (810 of those)! We also sold 3,686 postcards. You can buy any leftover merchandise in the Online State Fair Store.
The Foundation does find time to incorporate some fun into the long working hours. Staff participated in the Outhouse Races. The group received a 1st place trophy for best costume with their “Bacon Memories” Iowa State Fair t-shirts. Cheers to Peter Cownie (BRF Executive Director) and Kenna Smith (Donor Relations Intern) for running down the Grand Concourse!
Kenna Smith was an incredible addition to our staff over the summer. She stayed busy organizing hospitality events and promoting the Corndog Kickoff, while providing key communications with current and potentially new donors. (She may or may not have also shoveled mulch like a trooper!) Thank you Kenna!
Stay tuned for more 2022 Iowa State Fair highlights.
September 15, 2022
The 2022 Iowa State Fair was one for the books! Thank you to the Blue Ribbon Foundation supporters, volunteers, interns, summer staff, Fair staff - the list goes on and on. The next few weeks I’ll highlight the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s incredible 2022 Iowa State Fair.
The first 10 days of the Fair, the Blue Ribbon Foundation honors our “Iowan of the Day" winners. These volunteers go above and beyond to make their individual communities a better place to live.
Kristin Swift - Bondurant (August 11): Kristin has a passion for education in her community. She works tirelessly to help the students in her school district through her work as President and Treasurer of the Parent-Teacher organization. Her work ethic is not only seen in the school community but shines through her volunteer tutor work at church, serving as soccer club treasurer and helping to bring foreign exchange students to Iowa as Chair of the American Field Services organization.
Deborah Whitaker – Keokuk (August 12): Deborah created the organization Veggies for Vets. The organization supplies garden seeds, plants and more so our veterans can have fresh, healthy food to grow on their own. Deborah has spent countless hours providing produce to veterans and will continue to support those that have served our country.
Barb Westercamp - Cedar Rapids (August 13): Barb has been the local coordinator and a national advocate for Reading is Fundamental for 15 years and has been a Reading is Fun volunteer coordinator for 10 years. Barb has been involved with the Iowa Character Counts program, organized the Veterans of Foreign Wars youth essay contest, assisted with scholarships for the American Legion, served as coach for National History Day and has coordinated a Civility Workshop.
On opening day of the Iowa State Fair, the Blue Ribbon Foundation helped launch the new book “Baking Blue Ribbons” in the Elwell Family Food Center. Highlighting the history, stories, and recipes from the very first Fair in 1854 through 2021, the book “Baking Blue Ribbons” showcases what it means to be part of the Iowa State Fair Food Department. Authors, Kay Fenton Smith and Carol McGarvey, spoke about the adventure of writing the book and how the proceeds will benefit the Food Department for years to come.
Fairgoers could enjoy a new sculpture on the Fairgrounds in front of the Agriculture Building. The art is a tribute to the Butter Cow Sculptor for over 46 years, Norma "Duffy" Lyon. This bronze statue is one of three placed in Iowa. Thanks to BJ Baker and his wife, Tiffany, the Iowa State Fairgrounds is now home to one of these special statues.
Volunteers are extremely important to our organization ALL 11 days of the Iowa State Fair. Thank you to nearly 600 volunteers who spent 5,050 hours ensuring that the 2022 Iowa State Fair was a success. Your valuable time spent raising funds to support the mission of the Blue Ribbon Foundation was much appreciated.
In addition to our volunteers, and full time staff – the Blue Ribbon Foundation relies on our summer interns to make our organization successful. The 2022 Business Relations Intern, Laura Noehren, did an incredible job assisting the Sponsorship Director this year by… organizing signage, concert tickets, moving in/out coordination, tracking payments, mapping out space and so, so much more! Thank you Laura!
Stay tuned for more 2022 Iowa State Fair highlights!
August 22, 2022
The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is proud to announce an upcoming improvement project on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Over the next several years, the livestock barns will undergo a historic $25 million renovation.
The livestock barns represent Iowa’s agriculture heritage at the Iowa State Fair. The barns serve as the premier facilities for 4-H and FFA youth to showcase their hard work and skills every August. The current Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine barns have not been renovated at this scale in the century since they were originally built and are in dire need of renovation.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation received a $5 million donation from the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation to begin the renovation project. Iowa Select Farms and Jeff & Deb Hansen 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.” All Iowans are welcome to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts needed to complete the project.
“The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is extremely grateful to the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation, Iowa Select Farms, Jeff & Deb Hansen, Governor Reynolds, and the Iowa Legislature for this generous support, which will enhance millions of Fairgoers’ experience for years to come,” said Peter Cownie, Executive Director of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. “Simply put, these gifts allow us to continue preserving the history of the Iowa State Fair, while improving the grounds and the facilities for your children, your grandchildren and all Fairgoers. Thank you.”
The renovations will commence following the 2022 Iowa State Fair. The structures will be renovated from top to bottom with updated roofing, flooring, lighting, restrooms, and offices. Each barn will have additional upgrades for specific needs.
“The generosity of Iowans has been instrumental in making this great institution what it is today,” said Gary Slater, Iowa State Fair CEO and Fair Manager. “The Iowa State Fair has a legacy of high quality livestock and premier livestock shows. The historic barn renovations will give generations of Fairgoers the opportunity to continue the timeless tradition of showing livestock at the Iowa State Fair.”
The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Since its 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.
For more information, please contact the Foundation at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371, Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org or visit www.BlueRibbonFoundation.org.
August 10, 2022
We are under 24 hours out from the 2022 Iowa State Fair, and we are so excited to find our fun tomorrow!
Just in case you are wanting to visit us at the Fair, we’ve put together a quick guide of where the Blue Ribbon Foundation will be at during the big event. Our only event of the Fair is BINGO! On Wednesday, August 17 from 9am to 7pm on the Grand Concourse. No registration is necessary! For $1 a card, join in the fun with a 50/50 jackpot prize from each game. Half of the proceeds of the round go to the winner and half go to the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission of preserving and renovating the Fairgrounds. While this is our only event of the Fair, we do have a presence on the Fairgrounds throughout the entire Fair.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation runs all of the merchandise booths located around the Fairgrounds selling official Iowa State Fair merchandise. From t-shirts to books to hats and everything in between, these stands are sure to satisfy everyone’s merchandise needs. There are 6 merchandise stands this year, located in the following spots.
- Service Center – main ‘store’
- Varied Industries Building South Lobby
- Cattle Barn Foyer
- Agriculture Building -- check here for all your Butter Cow needs, including the new Butter Cow soap from Buff City Soaps!
- Little Hands on the Farm grocery store
- Museum – this location features $5 t-shirts from previous Fairs and other previous year’s merchandise alongside this year’s items!
The other main project we run during the Fair is the selling of bottled water around the Fairgrounds. There will be 7 water booths this year, selling bottled water, koozies and cooling towels. They are located at the following locations.
- Service Center
- Bill Riley Stage
- Thrill Town
- Cattle Barn
- Agriculture Building
- Heritage Village
- Little Hands on the Farm
We also recommend checking out the new Duffy’s Cow and Calf statue that is located in front of the Agriculture Building. This statue honors Duffy Lyon, the butter cow sculptor, and was graciously funded by Iowa State Fair enthusiast BJ Baker.
Make sure to visit the 2022 renovation projects to see the improvements around the Fairgrounds! Most notable is the new Alliant Energy Landing, located south of the Livestock Pavilion. Other renovations include the progress at Elwell Family Park to include an overhang, the 2022 TAG Team project of restoring the west façade of Pioneer Hall, and the Kitchen, located in the Maytag Family Theaters.
We hope you have a great 2022 Iowa State Fair and enjoy all the Fair has to offer, from exhibits and competitions, to shows, concerts, and entertainment, and everything in between!
- Laura Noehren, Business Relations Intern
August 5, 2022
Located in the southwest section of the Iowa State Fairgrounds is a concrete block building that houses an electrical sub-station. 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.
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.
James entered the murals into the 64th Annual Design Exhibition by the Art Directors Association of Iowa (ADAI). Recently, he found out that the murals were selected for not one, not two, but three awards! Pictured below, you can see he won awards in Environmental Graphics, Illustration, and Miscellaneous categories.
Thank you again to the Meredith Corporation Foundation, Liz Lidgett Gallery and James Navarro for making the concept a reality. Make sure to add these murals to your 2022 Fair bucket list!
Check out the full awards book here: https://artdirectorsiowa.org
August 3, 2022
The Fair is getting closer and closer and we are gearing up to have everything ready for next Thursday! Our merchandise stands have so many items, it can be a bit overwhelming when trying to decide which items to pick to take home with you! While t-shirts, hats, and postcards may seem like the type of things a merchandise stand is sure to offer (and don’t worry – we do), the merchandise stands at the Iowa State Fair have much more to offer. Today I will highlight some items for your kitchen! Our kitchen merchandise offerings cover a wide variety of kitchen needs, from award winning sauces to mugs and cookbooks.
This year we will be offering two blue ribbon winning foods. A garden salsa created by Tasha Wells of Pleasant Hill, as well as R P’s BBQ Sauce, created by Russell Place in Norwalk. The BBQ Sauce won the 2017 competition “Mine is the Best BBQ Sauce” and the Salsa won the 2019 “Salsa Sensations Vegetable Salsa” competition. A big thank you to Midwest Foods for bottling these for us, because of their donation all proceeds of these sauces go to the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission, not the preparation or bottling of the sauces.
Alongside the foods, we also have a wide variety of drinkware for your kitchen. From mugs to silicon pint glasses, you can find your perfect cup to take home with you. We will be offering 3 new mugs this year, a camping style red mug, a black mug with a blue interior, and a black mug with a green interior. We will also be offering a new water bottle. The design shows one of the stunning murals that were added to the Fairgrounds last year! Another addition to our drinkware collection is our new Silipint glasses. These tie-dyed cups are made of silicon, and are certainly shatter proof. We have 2 16 oz. designs and one 22 oz. cup with a lid and straw.
Another kitchen essential you can pick up at the Fair is the new Iowa State Fair Tea Towel. This towel features another one of the murals that were finished last year! This is a can’t miss item.
Rounding out our kitchen merchandise is our cookbook selections! As many of you have probably heard, the Blue Ribbon Foundation is offering not 1, but 2 new cookbooks for the 2022 Iowa State Fair. It is a cookbook year! We are selling the 21st Edition Iowa State Fair Cookbook, which features recipes that placed 1st or 2nd in their competition in the 2021 Iowa State Fair, as well as a variety of Retro Recipes to fill in for 2020. Our second offering, Baking Blue Ribbons: Stories and Recipes from the Iowa State Fair Food Department, tells the history and story of the Iowa State Fair Food Department, starting all the way back at the first Fair in 1854. Be sure to check these books out!
- Laura Noehren, Business Relations Intern
August 1, 2022
The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products are proud to announce the recipients of the Iowan of the Day award for the 2022 Iowa State Fair.
The Iowan of the Day program was created by the Blue Ribbon Foundation in 1997 to honor those Iowans who have truly made a difference in their communities. Among dozens of nominations, the judges selected ten Iowans who have demonstrated exceptional integrity, Iowa pride, hard work, and dedication to their communities.
Each winner will have a special day of recognition at the 2022 Iowa State Fair. Each day at noon on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage they will be recognized and presented as an Iowan of the Day. Along with accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, each will receive a cash prize, Grandstand and Iowa State Fair admission tickets, use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart, and VIP parking on the Fairgrounds.
The 2022 Iowan of the Day recipients are:
Kristin Swift of Bondurant – Thursday, August 11
Deborah Whitaker of Keokuk – Friday, August 12
Barb Westercamp of Cedar Rapids – Saturday, August 13
Doug Sienknecht of Gladbrook – Sunday, August 14
Emerson Bendickson of Panora – Monday, August 15
Janet & Dave Ritchie of Knoxville – Tuesday, August 16
Kathy Jo Porter of Waterloo – Wednesday, August 17
Bonnie Wood of Pocahontas – Thursday, August 18
Amy Ryan of Forest City – Friday, August 19
Jeannine Liljedahl of Essex – Saturday, August 20
Kristin Swift - Bondurant
Kristin has a passion for education in her community. She works tirelessly to help the students in her school district through her work as President and Treasurer of the Parent-Teacher organization. Kristin serves as the President of the Bondurant-Farrar Education Foundation as well as President and Treasurer of the Athletic and Fine Arts boosters. She actively serves on the finance, wellness, negotiation, student achievement and infrastructure committees on the Board of Education. Her work ethic is not only seen in the school community but shines through her volunteer tutor work at church, serving as soccer club treasurer and helping to bring foreign exchange students to Iowa as Chair of the American Field Services organization. Kristin is known as the “go-to person” in Bondurant and even takes time to work in concession stands for school events.
Deborah Whitaker - Keokuk
Deborah has a strong passion for helping veterans. Three of her sons served in the military and while one has fallen, she has found strength and passion in helping others. Deborah has a degree in horticulture and has created the organization Veggies for Vets. Veggies for Vets supplies garden seeds, plants and more so our veterans can have fresh, healthy food to grow on their own. Growing these plants is encouragement to give veterans a sense of accomplishment. Deborah wants to help veterans in any way she can and is even working on a documentary to showcase what is needed and how to help veterans through difficult times when they return home. Through her volunteer work with veterans and horticulture skills, Deborah was invited to decorate the Iowa State Capitol Christmas tree in 2018 and 2019 and a Christmas tree at the White House in 2018. Deborah has spent countless hours providing produce to veterans and will continue to support those that have served our country.
Barb Westercamp - Cedar Rapids
Barb’s motto is “See the good and be the good”, which is evident through her countless hours of volunteer work. With her degree in education, she has felt the need to help youth in her community by working to improve literacy for the disadvantaged. Barb has been the local coordinator and a national advocate for Reading is Fundamental for 15 years and has been a Reading is Fun volunteer coordinator for 10 years. Since 1970, she has annually donated money to purchase new books and school supplies for Cedar Rapids area students. Staff, parents and students are all grateful for Barb and her books. For years, Barb has been involved with the Iowa Character Counts program, organized the Veterans of Foreign Wars youth essay contest, assisted with scholarships for the American Legion, served as coach for National History Day and has coordinated a Civility Workshop. Her efforts even expand beyond Iowa where she helped establish a library in an orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda. Barb is a firm believer that all youth should have access to books and be able to improve their literacy. She has been a strong advocate for youth within her community and surrounding areas.
Doug Sienknecht - Gladbrook
Doug is a man who is willing to help anyone who asks and even those who don’t. As a retired farmer and employee of the Iowa Veterans Home, Doug has always found time to help those in his community. He is not only very active in his church serving as Board President, but he has also spent several years on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, helped organize Vacation Bible School and even led a group of young adults on a mission trip. Active in the Lincoln AMVETS and Auxiliary, Doug is also the Chairman of the Avenue of Flags Committee and enjoys being a member of the Gladbrook American Legion. He is a volunteer driver that gives veterans rides to doctor appointments. Doug and his son built a Free Little Library near his church so members of the community could enjoy it. Doug has also been spotted volunteering at the Iowa State Fair selling water!
Emerson Bendickson - Panora
Three years ago, at age 6, Emerson Bendickson saw an opportunity to make a difference in her community. She noticed other students were not getting milk with their school lunch because extra milk wasn’t covered under the free/reduced meal plan. Emerson wanted to make a difference for the kids in her class and took it upon herself to raise money to provide extra milk for the rest of the school year. She collected pop cans and with the help of her parents, started a GoFundMe page. The Panora community supported Emerson’s project. She raised enough money to provide extra milk for the kids in need for not only the rest of the school year, but for the following school year as well. Emerson was nominated as Citizen of the Month and graciously donated the award’s prize money to the school’s extra milk fund. At this young age, Emerson has learned the value of giving back to those in her community.
Janet and Dave Ritchie - Knoxville
This hardworking duo has made a lasting impact on the individuals in their community. Janet has been a 4-H leader, member of the Daughters of Union Veterans, the Lions Club and Iowa State Rabbit Breeders Association. Dave is a Vietnam Veteran and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3519 serving as the All-State Quarter Master. He has supported the county cemetery with mowing, maintenance and preservation. Janet and Dave are members of their church quilting group and have served on the Marion County Historical Society Board of Directors. They helped start Pioneer Days and continuously support the pancake breakfast in their community. Together, they are driven and devoted to each other and their community.
Kathy Jo Porter - Waterloo
Passion is what drives Kathy Jo Porter to work endless hours. She had a vision to create an organization that would unite community members who owned (but were not currently using) items to help care for children and individuals in foster care or adoptive situations. In 2015, Kathy Jo launched Kaden’s Kloset and has worked tirelessly to get those individuals the items that they need. Those items include things like clothes, winter coats, shoes, books, toys, blankets, book bags, baby supplies, personal hygiene products, etc.She serves an average of 400+ children every year and even launched the Kaden’s Kloset Christmas Wonderland where each child in the Waterloo foster care system receives a pair of socks, underwear, pajamas, small gift, large gift, book, stocking, blanket and a stuffed animal. Kathy Jo’s nominator shares that she is the epitome of Iowa’s values and she demonstrates this daily through Kaden’s Kloset.
Bonnie Wood - Pocahontas
Bonnie has been an un-daunting advocate for Pocahontas for decades. She isn’t afraid to step up, get involved and put her community first. As the retired business owner of Quilting on Main, she has devoted her time to other community projects and organizations including the Pocahontas Chamber of Commerce, Pocahontas Women’s Club, volunteering often at the Rialto Theatre and leading Main Street Stitchers. Bonnie saw an opportunity for enhancements to her community through the Elbert Park Improvement project, adding a new playground and trail to the town. Through her work, she has been described as a “catalyst volunteer” because of her positivity, organization and passion for the Pocahontas community.
Amy Ryan - Forest City
Amy Ryan has dedicated her life to making a difference in her community. One of Amy’s biggest passions is her volunteer work as Race Director for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation where she has hosted and coordinated 5K remembrance runs/walks for firefighters/veterans. She has helped raise $75,000 for the Foundation. Amy has also helped put together Soldier Boxes, care packages for the military, every year. In addition, Amy has worked hard bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to her community. She has a goal to raise enough money for every child in town to receive a free book to read each month. Amy has a strong passion for youth in the Forest City community. Amy was described as being dependable in her nomination and that is evident through her involvement on the app “Be My Eyes”. The app allows her to video chat and provide visual assistance to blind and low vision people.
Jeannine Liljedahl - Essex
The community members of Essex look up to Jeannine Liljedahl. She proves that she has generosity in her soul and makes a great impact on those around her. With a passion for food security and inclusivity, Jeannine has shown that through her kindness and assistance, the Essex community is a better place. For 20 years, she has volunteered to meet unmet food needs of people in the areas surrounding Essex through her work with the Community Food Pantry. She is also the co-founder and director of the Little Red Wagon where meals are delivered to homebound residents in Essex. She manages approximately 100 volunteers and serves up to 2,000 meals every year. Jeannine also assists her community by serving as a board member for Southview Village for low rent housing, is an active Foundation member and gift shop volunteer at the Shenandoah Medical Center, and is a part of numerous local organizations including PEO (a women’s scholarship organization), the Shenandoah Book Club and the Essex Study and Service Club. Jeannine’s list of involvement goes on and her community feels blessed by her perseverance and work.
Don’t forget to join us on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage at noon every day to recognize these outstanding Iowans! Congratulations!
- Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern
July 29, 2022
Merchandise is a great way to showcase what you love and for all of us, it’s the Iowa State Fair!
Merchandise will be available daily from 9 AM – 8 PM in these Iowa State Fair store locations: Service Center, Varied Industries Building, Cattle Barn, Little Hands on the Farm, Agriculture Building and Museum.
What items will you add to your 2022 Iowa State Fair collection?
Pottery: Water Carafe
The Blue Ribbon Foundation is excited to partner with Central Academy Potters of the Des Moines Public Schools to produce the 27th piece in the Iowa State Fair’s pottery series. These students designed the unique piece with the cobalt blue embellishments and creamy clay body and an updated embossed “Iowa State Fair” stamp.
The design at the base of the vessel has 3 variations in floral and geometric patterns. The carafe stands 9” tall and 4” wide with a pouring rim and slim neck for a comfortable hold. Each was hand thrown by a team of 9 high school students. They met every Sunday for 6 hours this spring and summer creating the pieces. These students not only perfected their pottery throwing but also learned key business skills in producing and selling their artwork.
Iowa State Fair Plaque: Chicks
Watching chicks hatch in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center has become a favorite pastime for many families. The Iowa State Fair also hosts poultry shows, ladies chicken calling contests and has provided demonstrations on giving your chicken a bath. This 7”x7” limited-edition wood plaque, created by Sticks, celebrates all “Iowa State Fair Peeps.”
Iowans have been showing cattle during the Iowa State Fair for more than 100 years. These long standing competitions have showcased Grand Champions in a variety of breeds! The John & Emily Putney Family Cattle Barn, home to the beloved competitions, is one of the most commanding structures on the Fairgrounds.
Thousands of Fairgoers from all over the Midwest camp during the Iowa State Fair. Whether it’s a vacation or a family reunion, camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the festivities of Iowa’s biggest annual celebration. Display this camper on your charm bracelet along with the 2022 “Find Your Fun!” logo charm.
Making his debut in 2002, Fairfield is the official Iowa State Fair mascot. As a celebrity on the Fairgrounds, he is a friendly face ready to greet Fairgoers and is never too busy to pose for a photo.
Isabel Bloom Sculpture
Exhibitors from across the state bring their finest birds to the Poultry Show. Add this custom chicken to your Isabel Bloom collection.
21st Edition Cookbook
Featuring award winning recipes from the 2021 Iowa State Fair (and a few retro recipes), the new cookbook will impress any wizard in the kitchen.
Baking Blue Ribbons
Highlighting the history, stories and recipes from the very first Fair in 1854 through 2021, the new book “Baking Blue Ribbons” showcases what it means to be part of the Iowa State Fair Food Department.
The 3rd annual Iowa State Fair T-Shirt Design Contest was a huge hit. Artists submitted their creative concepts, the top six shirts were promoted and the public voted for a winner! The winning design will be printed and sold during the Iowa State Fair.
- Brooklin Border, Public Relations Intern