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.

"Volunteers don't just do the work-they make it work."

June 19, 2012
Intern's picture

I have now been in the office for almost two months and I honestly have no idea where the time went! Can you believe it? There are only 50 shorts days until the Iowa State Fairgrounds will be transformed from a quiet, peaceful landscape into a grand Iowa tradition that will be filled with thousands and thousands of fair-goers wanting to get their favorite food on a stick and be a part of the 2012 “Fairlicious” Iowa State Fair.

I have now received about 400 volunteer registration forms and I keep getting more each day! Every single morning shift has been filled except for the second Sunday (8/19) of the Fair. Nice work volunteers! I am still working on filling shifts for afternoons and evenings for merchandise sales, water booths, and Fair Squares. I’ve learned that water booths fill up the quickest, but we still have a few spots open! Have you sent in your registration form? If not, click here to fill out the online form and be a Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteer! The master schedule will be available online starting July 5th. Already signed up, but want to take on more shifts? Awesome! Email me and we can get you into the schedule with more shifts.

Besides coordinating volunteers, one of my other big projects this summer is the Blue Ribbon Foundation Volunteer Reception. This year’s reception will be held on Thursday, July 19th, starting at 6:00 p.m. in the Elwell Family Food Center here on the Fairgrounds. It will give our volunteers the opportunity to meet other volunteers, receive a short orientation, eat a delicious meal catered by Campbell’s, and take a motorized tour of the Fairgrounds. Volunteers will also be able to pick up their t-shirts, schedule, parking pass(es), and admission ticket(s) at the reception. Make sure to look for your invitation postcard in the mail that will be coming soon!

As always, if you have any questions about the Volunteer Reception or the Fair please don’t hesitate to contact me! You can email me anytime or reach me via phone: 515-262-3111 ext. 679.


Kickoff, Cookbooks and More!

June 13, 2012
Intern's picture

Fair time is getting closer and closer! As the Fairgrounds are beautified in anticipation for those 11 exciting days in August, the anticipation grows. Here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation Corndog Kickoff is fast approaching. As Special Events intern, I am working on Corndog Kickoff ticket orders as they come in through the mail. Auction items keep rolling in and things are shaping up for this year's Kickoff on July 14. If you happen to be on Facebook, make sure to 'Like' the Corndog Kickoff and Blue Ribbon Foundation fan page. In preparation for Kickoff each week a new recipe will be posted on how to make Iowa State Fair favorites such as Monkey Tails, funnel cakes, and cotton candy at home. With this year's Kickoff theme, "It's a Sweet Thing," what better time to indulge on your favorite Fair sweet treats? If you haven't gotten your ticket order in for your Corndog Kickoff tickets, don't worry, there's still time! To purchase your tickets online click here. Otherwise, feel free to mail in an order form and check, give us a call at 515-262-3111 ext. 671 or stop by the office. Tickets prices are $75 per ticket, or $100 after June 30. Want another way to enjoy the State Fair throughout the rest of the year at home? We are now taking orders for the 16th edition of the Iowa State Fair Cookbook! Cookbooks are $15 + $9 shipping and handling. Cookbooks can be ordered on the Blue Ribbon Foundation website, or orders can be sent in to the Blue Ribbon Foundation office at PO Box 57130, Des Moines, IA 50317. This year’s cookbook is filled with a large variety of prize winning recipes from the 2010-2011 Iowa State Fairs. Feel free to give me a call to order cookbooks or Kickoff tickets at 515-262-3111 ext. 677. Start counting down the days for the Iowa State Fair! -Madison

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Fair Season

June 6, 2012
Intern's picture

It is probably safe to say that everyone at the Blue Ribbon Foundation can say “goodbye” to the quiet atmosphere of the Fairgrounds, and “hello” to the summer excitement in the air. Driving onto the Fairgrounds I was greeted by this:



The World Pork Expo has begun!  Seeing all the people walking around and enjoying themselves at the Expo is just a glimpse of what the Iowa State Fair will bring. I can’t help but notice all the smiles and enthusiasm of the volunteers as I passed by gates and various booths.  They are really what make events successful!

As for me, I have been working hard promoting the Iowan of the Day program by sending letters, contacting press and letting people know they have a chance to recognize someone who truly makes an impact in their community.  Know someone who would represent your community well as an Iowan of the Day? Nominate them to be an Iowan of the Day! Nominations due by July 1.  Not sure what to include in your nomination?  Check out a past example and more information at http://www.blueribbonfoundation/iotd.   

This week I finished reading through past nominees and realized even more that these special people really deserve recognition at the Fair for all their hard work.  I’ve smiled, laughed, (and even teared up a bit) from all of the wonderful stories people send in about the dedication of fellow Iowans.  If you have any questions don't hesitate to call me at 515-262-3111 ext. 678, or email

Spread the word about the Iowan of the Day program, July will be here before you know it!



Off and Running!

May 30, 2012
Intern's picture

Well, volunteer registration forms for this year’s Fair were sent out the middle of last week. I have already had about 200 forms returned and they just keep coming! I don’t think I have ever had so much mail addressed to me at one time! The past few days here in the office have been spent opening letters, recording names & addresses, and scheduling lots of volunteers for all ten days of the fair.

Have you gotten your volunteer forms sent in yet? Shifts are beginning to fill up and the schedule is starting to come together! Also, remember that the registration is also available here on the website. Just check the bottom left hand corner of the home page. The master schedule will be available the first part of July for you to check your shifts and contact me with any questions via email or by phone 515-262-3111 ext. 679

The weather here in Des Moines is fantastic and the fairgrounds are getting more and more prepared for the Fair each day! Only 70 days left until those gates open and the best ten days of the summer begin. Make sure you are signed up to be a Blue Ribbon Foudation volunteer for one of the top-ranked Fairs in the county. Nothing Compares!

Introducing the Newest Intern at the BRF Office

May 22, 2012
Intern's picture

Hello Everyone!
My name is Madison Boswell and I am a student at Simpson College. I am so excited to be a part of the Blue Ribbon Foundation this summer! At Simpson I am studying Creative Integrated Marketing Communications and music, and as the 2012 Special Events Intern with the Foundation this summer, I am excited to work on the event planning side of things as part of my responsibilities this summer.

I grew up just outside of Humboldt, Iowa, a small town in northwest Iowa, so living in Des Moines this summer seems very big city to me! I am looking forward to being at the State Fair all day every day this year. Growing up in Humboldt I was active in the county 4-H program with projects, showing cattle, and county council. Through 4-H I was able to get involved at the Iowa State Fair through my involvement in 4-H with communications, projects, and Share the Fun performances. In 2010 I graduated from Humboldt High School and I recently finished up my sophomore year at Simpson College. While at school I stay very involved in a variety of activities. I am active in the Simpson media organizations as a photojournalist and writer for the student newspaper and magazine, I participate in choir and the newly formed Simpson Orchestra, Wesley Service Scholar volunteer program, I am an active member of Pi Beta Phi sorority where I serve as VP of Communications, and I am the Secretary for the Simpson Shooting Sports club. In my free time I enjoy singing, playing violin, photography, spending time with friends and family (including my pets!), and traveling.

It only being my second day at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, I already feel extremely welcome and at home here. I have started work on different projects dealing with different events this summer that will take place before and during the fair. It is so exciting and interesting to see all the behind the scenes work that goes on to plan so many important events that go on during the fair.
If you have any questions about upcoming events feel free to contact me via email ( or by phone (515-262-3111 ext. 677).

Corndog Kickoff Auction

May 16, 2012
jennabeary's picture

It's a blissful 75 degrees here at the Iowa State Fairgrounds today, and it's clear that summer is here to stay. Two out of the three interns have started full time, and we are in full swing planning the Corndog Kickoff and Iowa State Fair.

This year will be my first Corndog Kickoff, and I cannot wait to see all of the hard work and planning come together. One of the committees I am involved with this year is the Auction committee, and I could not be more impressed with people's willingness to support this great event. Auction donations are pouring in, and we're starting to put together some fantastic packages.

In the next couple of weeks, I encourage you to keep the Corndog Kickoff in mind as you plan your summer. It's a wonderful event with great food, entertainment, and auction items. All proceeds go towards the preservation and renovation of our Fairgrounds. For more information on donating to the auction, or to purchase your ticket, please visit

The Newest Addition to the BRF Office

May 8, 2012
Intern's picture

Hello BRF and Iowa State Fair Fans!

My name is Molly Foley and I am the 2012 Special Projects Intern for the Blue Ribbon Foundation this summer! I am really looking forward to getting to work with and meet all of the volunteers and supporters of the BRF. Yesterday was my first day here in the office and I have already learned so much. I started the day going through files from previous Special Project Interns to get a feel for what I would be doing this summer and the best ways to accomplish those tasks. I also had plenty of emails to read from several eager volunteers for both the Corn Dog Kickoff and the State Fair. I cannot wait to get going here in the office and make the summer of 2012 with the Blue Ribbon Foundation a great one!

I grew up on an acreage just outside of Huxley, Iowa where we breed and raise Trakehners, a Warmblood breed of horse from Europe. I grew up in the Iowa  4-H Program and had several opportunities to attend the Iowa State Fair with projects, presentations, and performances.  I graduated from Ballard High School in 2010 and I just finished my sophomore year at Iowa State University as a double major in Agricultural Communications and Public Service & Administration in Agriculture. I am a die-hard Cyclones fan and stay very involved at Iowa State as a member of many clubs and organizations. I enjoy running, Iowa State football & basketball games, tailgating, singing, playing softball & tennis, and training/showing my Trakehner “Annie” across the Midwest.

 92 Days. That’s It. The opening day of the 2012 Iowa State Fair is quickly approaching! But here in the BRF office we have several other projects we are working on before those gates open on August 9th. One of those projects is the Corn Dog Kickoff. This summer it will be held on Saturday, July 14th, in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building here on the fairgrounds.  As a BRF summer intern I am really looking forward to being a part of the behind-the-scenes planning and organizing of such a well-known event!

From the moment I walked into the office yesterday and learned of my summer projects, I have had volunteer scheduling on my mind. 2012 Volunteer Registration Forms will be sent out in the next few weeks and we will start to schedule volunteers as soon as they are sent back to the BRF! I love getting phone calls and emails from new and returning volunteers asking how to sign up for this summer’s Fair. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me via email ( or phone (515-262-3111 ext. 679).


Beep, Bang, Clang....

May 3, 2012
robintaylor's picture

Normally the area of the Fairgrounds where our office is located is pretty quiet, disturbed only by the swish of the turbine, tweet of the birds and chirping voices of children playing on the train. That hasn't been the case the past few days.  It's been quite noisy as work has begun on two projects up "on the hill." Just to the east of our office a new access point is being made for Expo Hill. Between the MidAmerican Building and us, dirt has been removed and our maintenance staff is constructing the footings for a new stairway and sidewalk.  We've had end loaders, dump trucks, skid loaders and now cement trucks rolling past.  Thankfully the office hasn't been vibrating as it did when they drilled the footings for the wind turbine!

The other project has been in the Cultural Center.  When I walked by a few days ago it sounded like the bees had moved from the Ag Building to find new digs. I walked in and discovered that construction had begun to install the elevators, making the Cultural Center fully accessible. Workers were sawing out concrete block in the area where the elevators will be.  About an hour ago I checked on the progress again as I'd noticed dump trucks, mini-excavators and skid loaders working the past few days. There are now two holes where the bases of the elevators will be and various other cuts for electrical lines.  Quite a challenge to make such a change in a concrete building.

And, to jump to the opposite side of the grounds, work is nearing completion on the paving of the parking lot to the west of the 4-H Building. Soon when you come to an event in this busy building, you'll not have to worry about the occasional lake that a heavy rain has made of the parking lot. Yet one more improvement to the southwest corner of the Fairgrounds that will continue to increase what we can offer, both during the Fair and throughout the year.

So, when you come to the Fair this year, you'll have to check these three areas out for sure and give yourself a pat on the back, as your support of the Foundation and the Fair has helped make these improvements possible.

Thank you!


Spring Manager's Conference

April 30, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

Sorry we let a week get by us since our last post- it's been crazy around here lately! Monday through Thursday last week the Iowa State Fair hosted the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) Spring Manger's Conference. Designed for upper level management staff of Fairs across the United States and Canada, the program included a variety of workshops, keynote speakers, committee meetings and networking opportunities for conference attendees.

The week kicked off with a reception at Dennis Albaugh's private Chevrolet car collection in Ankeny. Much of my time was spent preparing for this party as I was in charge of decorating for a 1950s sock hop. The next day focused on a crisis management session where participants conducted case studies on crises that could happen at any time during a fair or festival. Attendees also got a tour of our beautiful Fairgrounds and facilities, then ended the evening with a fair food grazing party at the Elwell Family Food Center. Wednesday and Thursday were filled with workshops, speakers and meetings, all held at the Marriott Downtown. All of the Iowa State Fair staff worked hard to put on a successful conference. It was a busy week, but all seemed to go off without a hitch!

Now it's back to preparing for other upcoming events such as the Corndog Kickoff! We're well on our way, but still have a lot to do! Also, interns will start full time in the next couple of weeks and we are very excited to add them to our Blue Ribbon Team!

Show Your Iowa Pride!

April 23, 2012
Intern's picture

As I continue working at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, there are a couple characteristics I have picked up about the atmosphere here so far:

   1. Everyone is so friendly.

From the staff within the Blue Ribbon Foundation, to the volunteers and donors I speak to on the phone, I have yet to come across someone who has not greeted me with a smile and enthusiasm. Everyone is open to answer questions and willing to help each other out with any problems or projects a fellow fair worker is enduring. While collecting donations for the Corndog Kickoff auctions, store managers are always pleased to donate items for a great cause and describe to me their favorite fair experiences growing up.  

   2. The fair means a lot to Iowans, and I can see why!

There is a ton of work put into the success of the fair to make sure everyone who steps within the fairgrounds has a good time. There are also so many programs, concerts, contests and shows to get involved with. As I learned about Fan Fair, Buy a Brick and other giving programs, I realize there are countless ways to help preserve the fairgrounds while literally “making your mark”. In discussion with Corndog Kickoff committee members, they told me about their fair experiences and how they continue to be a dedicated volunteer after several years. I am excited to start counting down the days until I can see more contagious smiles on fair fans, volunteers and workers August 9-19. Also, I look forward to honoring ten special Iowans who show remarkable Iowa pride through the Iowan of the Day program. The nomination deadline is July 1st and the nomination forms can be found here. I can’t wait to be blown away by reading about all the wonderful people of Iowa as the nominations start coming in!