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.

Fair Wrap Up

August 30, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

Well, another successful Iowa State Fair has come and gone. Thanks to beautiful weather, we had great attendance and raised money through our merchandise, water and Fair Squares program to keep this Fairgrounds looking beautiful for the future. Though this was my fourth Fair full time, I'm always amazed at how quickly everything not only comes together, but also how quickly it all goes back to normal after the Fair. We are all still working on wrapping things up but the Fairgrounds are quiet and tranquil once again.

The Fair was such a blur, it's almost difficult to recall my highlights! On the business end of things, merchandise sales were great this year. We sold out of our first run of sweatshirts on day two! Can you believe with the summer we had up until the Fair started that sweatshirts were going to be needed?! The new Fair Squares flavor, "Nothing Spared" went great as well. Having the new flavor definitely put a boost in our sales this year compared to last year. Water sales were slow, but with a whole new crew of guys working for us, it seemed to work out okay. Finally, this was my first year running the Woodcarver's auction and that was a success as well- we raised $32,725 for Fairgrounds renovations!

On a more personal note, I felt like I got to spend a little more time with my husband, family and friends when they were around. Didn't stop to see much this year, but I did take some time to see the butter sculptures, ride the SkyGlider and Ye Old Mill late nights after work and even got to attend the Miranda Lambert concert. Most of my Fair this year focused on food, but hey, when you're eating for two, you're entitled. I'd say I got away from this Fair pretty unscathed other than at my last doctors appointment I was informed I put on a couple too many pounds this month and I failed my glucose screening test. All is well now though, and I'm already missing that once a year State Fair food!

For those of you who couldn't make it to the Fair, the online store is now up and running again so you can purchase your State Fair souvenirs. Also, start thinking about the Fairgrounds 5K, which is right around the corner...more details on that will be posted soon!

Finally, I just want to thank all of the volunteers, staff, interns, part-time summer help and of course patrons for yet another great Fair. Thanks for making my job so easy to love!

BRF staff on the final night of the Fair.

Less Than a Week Away!!

August 3, 2012
Intern's picture

Can you believe it? The Iowa State Fair is less than a week away!

Seeing the Fairgrounds completely transform over the last week has been quite the site! And there is still more to come before we are ready for the Fair. Concessionaires are set up, the butter sculptures have taken shape, and finishing touches are being put on everything around the grounds as we come into Fair week.

This being my first time "behind the scenes" of such a historic event, I have learned so much about the Fair already that I didn't know before. I am learning about new buildings, activities, places, contests, and foods everyday. After going to the Fair for years, it just goes to show just how much the Iowa State Fair has to offer, and how many new things are added or improved upon each year.

What Fair activity or food are you most excited for?

I hope to see you all at the Fair!


Getting Ready to Roll!

August 1, 2012
Intern's picture

In year’s past I have been busy getting ready for the State Fair by preparing animals and projects, but this year everything is different and so much bigger. We keep hearing, “The first few days will be controlled chaos.” As interns, we can imagine what it will be like, but I honestly don’t think we have any idea. We will find a way to get through it and enjoy ourselves along the way!

Vendors and concessionaries are starting to fill the Fairgrounds and get ready for their busiest time of the year. Now, if only they opened early! I know they would get plenty of business from the Blue Ribbon Foundation interns. :) This week a lot of our Fair staff started working part time to help get organize and get ready for pre-Fair. Most of the Water Patrol started Monday and have been working hard ever since to get all of our outdoor venues and water booths cleaned and good to go for next week. The office has been very busy and crowded this week, but it really puts into perspective how close we are to the Fair!

Today we got our BRF polos and our official Iowa State Fair ID Badges. I have never felt so official! We also received our Fair-issued cell phones that will be glued to our sides for all eleven days, along with our own set of keys that we will need to lock and unlock different locations throughout the day. I am so anxious for next week. I have never had the chance to experience the State Fair like this, but I could not be more excited for those jam-packed eleven days as a BRF intern!

See you in a week at the Fair!


Introducing the 2012 Iowans of the Day!

July 30, 2012
Intern's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation began the Iowan of the Day award in 1997 to honor those Iowans who have truly made a difference in their communities.  This year, the judges reviewed hundreds of nominations selecting those that show examples of integrity, Iowa pride, hard work and dedication.

“We are pleased to recognize these outstanding individuals as Iowans of the Day,” said John Putney, Executive Director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. “Their volunteerism, dedication and service to their community and the state of Iowa makes each one deserving of this honor.”

Meet the 2012 Iowans of the Day:

Esther Bielema of Wall Lake

Jeralyn Westercamp of Cedar Rapids

Troyce Vich of Waterloo

Janet Reynolds of Sioux City

Lila Bubke of Schleswig

Mary Maybee of Boone

Jim Gronbach of Dakota City

Ken Petersen of Council Bluffs

Garland Fickess of Bedford

Suzie Glazer Burt of Des Moines


Each winner demonstrated qualities that go above-and-beyond what it takes to make Iowa a great state to live in.  Make sure to congratulate each winner at the Anne & Bill Riley Stage on August 9-15 at 2:30 p.m. and August 16-18 2:15 p.m.  Each Iowan of the Day will have their own day of special recognition at the State Fair and receive use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart; gate admission and grandstand tickets; VIP parking; $200 cash; and accommodations at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott.

Congratulations 2012 Iowan of the Day winners!  I can't wait to help celebrate your great impact you make in your community and for Iowa at the Fair!

- Jenna



Hot Weather, New Experiences

July 27, 2012
Intern's picture

I have been part of the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff for a little more than four months now and I have had a wide array of experiences… and it isn’t even Fair yet! The Corndog Kickoff, Iowan of the Day planning and…laying bricks?  Yesterday, the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff arrived early in attempt to avoid the heat and lay memorial bricks around the Fairgrounds.  It was hard work, but the interns and I were very proud once the last brick was done!  Don’t forget to look down once in a while as you are walking on the Fairgrounds, Brick by Brick is just one of the unique giving programs at the Blue Ribbon Foundation.



The Pavilion is just one of the locations on the Fairgrounds where memorial bricks are placed!


The 2012 Corndog Kickoff photos are officially on our Facebook page! Make sure to check them out to experience (or re-live) the Kickoff experience.


- Jenna

Fair Preparations!

July 25, 2012
Intern's picture

Can you believe Fair is only two weeks away? This summer has been going by so fast. Everyone is in Fair mode here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation as well as everyone else on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

In two weeks the Iowa State Fairgrounds will play host to almost a million visitors. Many changes and improvements have been made to the Fairgrounds themselves in preparation for the Fair. One big change to the grounds is the new theater on Expo Hill. Complete with solar panels in the covering, this theater will help create its own energy.

New foods and attractions will be at the Fair this year. Make sure to stop by the Elwell Family Food Center to check out the chocolate moose. Try new Fair foods like the blue sapphire funnel cake in honor of the Titanic, or the new crab fritters.

Hopefully the weather will cool down a little bit for the Fair, but if not, there will be plenty of cool drinks and treats to help with the heat!



Anxiously Waiting…

July 23, 2012
Intern's picture

We are now into those few weeks between the Corn Dog Kickoff and the Iowa State Fair. There is still a lot to be done, but each day gets us closer to the best eleven days of the summer! Last week we had the Volunteer Reception for our Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteers. The turnout was great, and of course the meal catered by Campbell’s was delicious as always. Volunteers got the chance to pick up their packets at the reception, and even add a few extra time shifts for the Fair. Are you still looking to add a couple more shifts or want to volunteer for the first time? Check out the most up to date volunteer schedule posted just today on the Blue Ribbon Foundation website, then email me or give me a call at 515-262-3111 ext. 679. We would love to have you as a volunteer at the Iowa State Fair!

I am currently in the process of mailing out volunteer packets for those who were unable to attend the Reception last week. The schedule is really starting to come together, and with Fair just around the corner I cannot wait to get the chance to work with all of our wonderful volunteers this summer. Have any questions about your volunteer schedule or the volunteer manual? Don’t hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email! I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have about volunteering or even the Fair!


This year at the Fair, we will again be selling the Blue Ribbon Foundation pottery piece and our new Sticks plaques. This year’s piece is the Compost Pot and the two Sticks plaques are pictured above. Right now we are taking pre-orders! If you would like to be able to pick up your pottery piece at the State Fair, or have us ship it to you after the Fair, call us at 515-262-3111 and we can get your pottery and Sticks plaques ordered for you in advanced! Still need to order that famous Iowa State Fair Cookbook? We are also still taking orders for those here in the office, and we plan to ship those out this week!

Can you believe it’s almost here?? 16 days and counting!


2012 Corndog Kickoff Photos!

July 20, 2012
Intern's picture

Craving 2012 “It’s a Sweet Thing” Corndog Kickoff photos? Here are a few! 

More pictures will be up soon on the Blue Ribbon Foundation Facebook page!




On a side note, around the Blue Ribbon office, visitors, volunteers and fellow Fair staff members often ask “Are you ready for the Fair coming up?  Those eleven days are crazy!” Even though I haven’t witnessed the “craziness” of the Fair from a staff member's perspective yet, I can already begin to understand what everyone is talking about.  On Wednesday, the Blue Ribbon Staff attended the Superintendent’s meeting to learn about the Fair’s crisis management, marketing, concessions, special events and other departments.  It was definitely helpful to learn what’s going on across the Fairgrounds so we can do our best to assist with questions during the Fair.

Thank you for all the volunteers that came to the volunteer reception yesterday!  There was a great turnout.  The volunteers, along with the Blue Ribbon Staff enjoyed a “fiesta-chicken” meal catered by Campbell’s Catering followed by Molly's presentation of Fair facts and unveiling some new attractions you can expect to see on the Fairgrounds.  Following, the volunteers had an opportunity to get a tour of the Fairgrounds. Can't remember the day you volunteer for the Fair?  Check out the volunteer page to view the master schedule!

Stay tuned! The Iowan of the Day winners will be announced soon!  The panel of judges are very excited about recognizing this well-deserving group of Iowans who have made a great impact in their community.  Once again, thank you so much to all the Iowan of the Day nominators and Fair volunteers!

- Jenna


Kickoff Fair Time!

July 18, 2012
Intern's picture

It’s hard to believe that the Iowa State Fair is coming up so quickly! Everyone is in Fair mode here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, making a quick turn around after a record breaking success at the 16th Annual Corndog Kickoff this year.

After attending at working my first Corndog Kickoff this past weekend, I am sure that I will be back to help and have fun in years to come. What an exciting event! From the Fair food smells in the air, to the excitement of the live auction, there was fun for everyone. As Blue Ribbon Foundation interns it was great for Molly, Jenna, and I to be able to help run such a fun and successful event.


Now that Fair is just around the corner, Iowan of the Day winners are being announced and volunteer packets are being put together. Blue Ribbon volunteers will gather tomorrow night at the Elwell Family Food Center for orientation and a tour of the Fairgrounds.

As you may have seen in the newsletter, 2012 pottery and Sticks plaques are available for purchase. To order, call us at 515-262-3111 ext. 671. Cookbooks are also still available to order and we are anticipating that they will be shipped out to all who have ordered by next week. If you would like to order a cookbook click here.

I know we are all looking forward to the Fair here at the Foundation, we hope you are too!


Put it in the Books!

July 16, 2012
Intern's picture

Well, we have successfully completed the 16th Corn Dog Kickoff! It took lots of hard work, many volunteers, careful planning of the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff, and a full week of preparing in the Varied Industries building, but we all made it happen and it came together very nicely. You could even say it was pretty “sweet”!Here is a look at the venue before the doors opened and after the Kickoff started.


It was the first Corn Dog Kickoff for the three of us interns and we had a blast! Even though we may have not been able to feel our feet by the end of the night, being a part of such a well-known event like the Kickoff was a real privilege and one we will not soon forget. Were you able to attend the Kickoff? What was your favorite part? I had been waiting and waiting for my first Hot Beef Sundae of the year, and boy was it worth it! Even without the infamous spork they serve at the Beef Quarters during the Fair, it was delicious and I cannot wait to have more once the Fair starts.

This week is also a busy week for me as the Special Projects intern. This Thursday, starting at 6:00pm in the Elwell Family Food Center, we will be having the Volunteer Reception for all of those who donate their time to the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Iowa State Fair. We will be having a meal catered by Campbell’s, as well as a presentation and a motorized tour of the fairgrounds! I am really looking forward to meeting all of you volunteers and getting the chance to assist you at the State Fair that is only a few weeks away!