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.

Limited Edition T-Shirts!

July 30, 2021
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Don’t forget to order your exclusive Iowa State Fair merchandise! While there will be a wide variety of Fair t-shirts available at the Fair, the limited edition T-shirts are only available on the website. Get your T-shirts just in time for the Fair!

While the winning T-shirt is only available at the Fair, our online store includes the top six designs from our T-shirt design contest in May. On top of this, there are many new designs that highlight different things we love at the Fair. These designs can only be purchased on our online store.

Be sure to place your order soon to make sure it is here by the Fair. Who wouldn’t want to wear their ‘I’m gonna pop some tags’ shirt at the governor steer show? Check out this design along with many others on our online store.

Orders through the website are open until August 27. All orders will be mailed directly to your home. Check out the link below to access T-shirt store to order your famous Iowa State Fair shirts! (All shirts come in multiple color and size options)




Famous Faces

July 28, 2021
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A few weeks ago we had some of the Foundations’ famous faces at our Corndog Kickoff. We are thankful to team up with so many talented people to share the love of the Iowa State Fair.


In 2006, Sarah Pratt became the Fair’s fifth butter cow sculptor. Sarah had an apprenticeship with Norma “Duffy” Lyon for 15 years before she became the main sculptor. Her twin daughters now work alongside her. They became her official apprentices shortly before turning 14, the same age Sarah was when she went to work with Norma. When Sarah isn’t in the 50 degree cooler, she works as a special education teacher.

Sarah Platt

The Iowa State Fair Food Department is the largest out of any state fair in the country. There are 203 divisions, 809 classes, and over 9,000 entries. Russel Place received 2nd and now make all of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation BBQ. This will be sold at the 2021 Fair.


Russel Place

Dan Livengood, Creator of go fish game and it’s a fair game. In 2004, Dan helped create the “Fairopoly” game. The Foundation called on him again in 2009 to help create the “It’s a Fair Game.”

Dan Livengood


Karen Brockelscby is a quilter extrordaire. She is a part of the Ankeny Quilting and Sewing Circle. Karen has donated many items to our auction throughout the year. She makes the famous t-shirt that are made into pillows. She also donates quilts to the Corndog Kickoff Auction. Karen’s quilt is featured in the top row in the middle of the 2021 Ornament.


Karen Brockelscby

-Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern

New Hands on the Farm

July 22, 2021
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One of the most beloved attractions at the State Fair is the Andringa Family Foundation Little Hands on the Farm. This interactive exhibit has been teaching kids about life on the farm for years. Little Hands has been engaging kids and handing out those signature Pioneer hats since I was barely old enough to fit one on my own head.

The opportunity to dig in the dirt, ‘milk’ a cow, and pick up a hard-earned popsicle at the end of the route draws kids and families back year after year. This year however, has presented a new set of challenges. COVID-19 is not going to cancel the Fair this year, but it has still brought about some necessary changes across the Fairgrounds.

For the Little Hands Exhibit this looks like reducing the amount of touch points involved by introducing a new passport. Instead of having items that would constantly need to be sanitized by volunteers, kids will earn a stamp at each stop. After completing their tasks, they will still receive a snack at the general store but now they will also have their souvenir passport as a reminder of all they learned at Little Hands to take home.

New passports aren’t the only change you will see at Little Hands this year. It also gained several new sponsors including Kemps Dairy, Iowa Select Farms, Henning Construction, Renewable Energy Group, Sylvan Learning Centers and Iowa Egg Council. These new sponsors have allowed for several new upgrades to the Farm to be possible.

A brand new chicken coop, signs, and even a new milking cow are a few of the additions you will want to keep an eye out for as you make your way through the farm this year. We know change can be difficult at times and this new process may be an adjustment. However, it is always exciting to see good things become even better and for our favorite things, like Little Hands on the Farm, to be able to happen again, in a way that is safer for everyone.  


Volunteer Reception

July 21, 2021
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Last night the Blue Ribbon Foundation held our volunteer reception at the Oman Family Youth Inn. As the Volunteer Relations Intern it was great seeing all the volunteers I will be working with in the next few weeks, and to get to see the volunteers who were at the Kickoff again! It was incredible seeing all the people who make what the Foundation does possible.

This was one of my first big events since the pandemic shut everything done. It was both nerve-racking and electrifying to give a presentation that wasn’t on zoom to the 250 plus volunteers who were at the event. Overall, we have over 700 volunteers who help at the Fair and I am so excited to meet everyone who wasn’t able to make the reception.

At the reception we gave volunteers their materials they need for their shifts, including the 2021 volunteer T-shirt! We also enjoyed a delicious lasagna dinner made by Campbell’s and heard from Gary Slater (CEO of the Iowa State Fair), Peter Cownie (Director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation), Robin Taylor (Assistant Director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation), and Me, Gabby McCoy (Volunteer Relations Intern).

Volunteers who were not able to attend can pick up their materials in our office located in the Earth Home on the Fairgrounds. It is right across from the fun forest and the Mid-American stage. Volunteers can pick up their materials any time between 8 am and 4:30 pm Monday-Friday. The deadline to pick up materials is Tuesday July 27. All materials re  maining after this deadline will be mailed.  

At the event we had a big schedule laid out that showed all of our open shifts and we still are in need of volunteers. Our biggest needs are on weeknights and both weekends of the Fair. If you are interested in volunteering you can sign up at and view all the available shifts left.

Any questions about volunteering email me at or call 515-262-3111 Ext. 379.

- Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern


Corndog Kickoff Intern Reflection

July 19, 2021
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Over a week has passed since the annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Grazing Party took place in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building. The event was a huge success, breaking a previously set record by raising three quarters of a million dollars for the renovation and preservation of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Having never attending the event previously, I was extremely impressed with the time and dedication put in by the staff and volunteers to ensure the event went off without a hitch. It was also a joy to see that many people in the same room together again since the pandemic.

The four of us interns each had a role to play in the preparation, planning, and executing steps that took place for the Kickoff. Whether that was putting together silent auction packages or setting up table decorations, each detail added value to the final product. In the week leading up to the Corndog Kickoff, the Varied Industries building transform into an I SPY extravaganza for the 2,200 people in attendance.

My favorite part was seeing people flood into the area and watching them enjoy each aspect of the event. I was able to enjoy my favorite Fair food, a Cattleman’s Hot Beef Sundae, before the Iowa State Fair this year. From the variety of Fair food offered, to the exhilaration of the Live Auction, there was never a dull moment at the 2021 Corndog Kickoff.

New Fair Shirts at our Online Store

July 15, 2021
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Now is your chance for exclusive Fair merchandise! We always have a variety of Fair T-shirts available on our website and at our booths during the Fair, but for a limited time, we are opening an online store with limited edition designs. This is your chance to get your Iowa State Fair apparel that is unlike anyone else’s, just in time for the Fair.

Available designs include the top six designs from our T shirt contest in May. There are also several new designs, highlighting the things we love most about the Fair with both humorous and classic looks. The styles featured on the website will not be available in our booths at the Fair-with the exception of the contest winner shirts from 2020 and 2021.

Be sure to place your order soon to ensure you’ll have your new Fair T-shirt in time for the Fair itself. What is a better indicator of a true Fair fan more than wearing a T-shirt that says ‘I’m just here for corndogs and beer’ while eating your long awaited corndog at the new Iowa Craft Beer tent? Be sure the visit our online store to check out this design, and many more.

Orders through the website are open now until August 27th. All orders will be mailed directly to your home. Follow this link to access our T-Shirt Store to order yours today!

(All shirts offer multiple color and size options)



New Murals!

July 14, 2021
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New artwork is being added to our beautiful Fairgrounds! I am very excited about this one. Four new murals are coming to the Iowa State Fair. The murals are located on an old electrical building southwest of the Varied Industries Building.  Trust me, you won’t miss it!


With there being four different murals on this building, there is something for everyone! Whether you are looking for senior pictures, photos with friends, or just something to commemorate your time at the Fairgrounds. This is a perfect for a photo shoot!


Each side offers something unique. One side is a greetings from the Iowa State Fair with a Blue Ribbon on it. Another side is representing a huge part of the Fair, the animals! There are eight special creatures on this side of the building. You will have to come to the Fair to find out what the other two are!


Thanks to a grant from the Meredith Corporation Foundation, all four side of the building will feature different aspects of the Fairgrounds. The murals are being coordinated by Liz Lidgett of Liz Lidgett Gallery + Design and Des Moines artist James Navarro.


The Liz Lidgett Gallery + Design have murals all over Des Moines. This includes art for the Blank Park Zoo, Outlets of Des Moines, Exile Brewery, Drake University, Kinship Brewery, and many others around central Iowa! They also do home design and commission pieces.


No matter if you are visiting during the Fair or just enjoying the Fairgrounds any other time of year you will be able to visit these murals. The creation of these started the first weekend in July and will be ready for you to check them out at the Fair from August 12-22!

Photo of one of the murals. 

Photo of one of the murals being painted. 

-Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern

Corndog Kickoff Silent Auction

July 1, 2021
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Last year at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, we adapted to the circumstances brought on by the pandemic and moved the annual Corndog Kickoff auction online. We were so overwhelmed with your support. This year, we are thrilled to have both the silent online auction and the original in-person live auction. Having an online option will open up bidding for an entire extra day so you will be able to see the fantastic auction packages for longer! To get started, create an account at this link to view the auction items sooner.  

This past week has consisted of moving and organizing auction items as we are just shy of a week from the Corndog Kickoff. The William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building on the Fairgrounds will soon be filled with plenty of items, people, and food. Do not miss your chance to participate and/or attend the 2021 Corndog Kickoff… Whether that is in person or online.

Here is a sneak peek on silent auction bidding items:

Wave to the crowds at the Iowa State Fair parade from a blue ribbon blue El Dorado Cadillac convertible. The parade is the evening of Wednesday, August 11 and kicks off the the 11-day Fair. Come and enjoy the Fair too with two tickets and a parking pass.

Enjoy the show by Chris Stapleton with special guest Nikki Lane on Thursday, August 19 with four tickets in Stage Section C10, Row 28, Seats 11-14. A parking pass and gate admission for four are included.

This framed pennant is a souvenir that harkens back to an early time at the Iowa State Fair. In red with white lettering and pink and blue tinted designs featuring a merry-go-round, ferris wheel and harness racing, the framed piece measures 34" x 16".


Bidding opens at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, July 9 and will close at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 10.

2021 Corndog Kickoff Details:

Saturday, July 10 6:30 p.m.

William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building

Buy Tickets Here

The Fairgrounds Beyond the Fair

June 29, 2021
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Working in the Blue Ribbon Foundation office on the Fairgrounds is a unique experience all its own. The office is located in the Earth home, nestled in the side of Expo Hill across from the Fun Forest. While this may seem like a simple, out of the way spot, I’m learning that summer time anywhere on the Fairgrounds is rarely ever quiet.

Last week the Fairgrounds hosted the National Junior High Rodeo, the week before that was the World Pork Expo and now this weekend is the Goodguy’s Car Show. While the Blue Ribbon Foundation is not directly involved in these events, our efforts in preserving the Fairgrounds are what makes it possible for outside events to occur.

Each day at work, I get the chance to see visitors enjoying the buildings, benches, and stages that we work to preserve. I had no idea how much goes on beyond the 11-Day Fair and the visitors the Fairgrounds attracts all summer long. Walking around during the World Pork Expo two weeks ago, and driving through the campgrounds during the National Junior Rodeo last week, I got a glimpse of just how many different places people travel to the Fairgrounds from. International guests regularly attend the World Pork Expo and the camping spots for the Junior Rodeo marked spaces for riders from Hawaii, Canada and across the United States. 

Each of these events bring their own flavor to the Fairgrounds in the form of new visitors, exhibitors, and general traffic. The Pork Expo required a pass for entry, the Rodeo came with hundreds of golf carts and soon the grounds will be parked full of antique cars. While a Fairground full of zooming golf carts and navigating opened and closed entry gates just to get to work can seem like a nuisance, the chance to share this place we love with so many people is well worth the hassle. Overall, it has been exciting to see all the little ways the Blue Ribbon Foundation has contributed to making these events possible and to see guests from around the globe get to discover the beauty of our Fairgrounds that we know and love.

-Kara De Bruin, Sponsor Relations Intern

2021 Merchandise

June 25, 2021
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Collecting lapel pins every year is one of the many Iowa State Fair traditions Fairgoers enjoy. As we long for the eleven days in August in our favorite place, we also can look forward to the brand new merchandise that will be offered this year by the Blue Ribbon Foundation. From charms to shirts to cups, the variety of items offered will help you commemorate the 2021 Iowa State Fair.

This past spring, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosted a t-shirt contest on Facebook. The winning t-shirt will be available for purchase at the Fair August 12-22. “We’re Back!” and could not be more excited.

The Reichardt Family Giant Slide is celebrating its 50th Year of gracing the Fairgrounds in a new location. In addition to the anniversary of the Reichardt Family Giant Slide, we are also celebrating its brand new location. The new home for the slide is on the north side of the Walnut Center. This location will provide expanded space for riders and spectators. Display this much smaller Giant Slide on your charm bracelet along with the 2021 “How Do You Fair?” logo charm.  The past year’s charms will be available to purchase. Another item that is sure to be a Fair favorite is the multi-colored silicone cups with the Iowa State Fair logo. The famous Fair mascots, Fairfield and Rosetta, will also make an appearance on magnets.

Whether you have a green thumb or prefer visiting someone else’s patch each fall, you can show off your Iowa State Fair worthy vegetable crop by adding this Isabel Bloom pumpkin to your collection. Along with the 2020 Isabel Bloom pumpkin sculpture and annual plaque.

Each year, 600 Fairgoers prepare more than 3,400 entries to compete in the Iowa State Fair’s Fabric and Threads Department. From embroidery, crocheting and constructing clothing to the creation of 590 quilts — the attention to detail is as apparent as the amount of fun! Commemorate the sewing talent with this ornament.

With so many things to look forward to, the 2021 Iowa State Fair cannot come soon enough!

Isabel Bloom Sculpture                                2021 Giant Slide Charm



2021 Silicone Logo Cup                               2021 Giant Slide Lapel Pin


Fairfield and Rosetta Magnets 

-Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern