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 $200 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.

New Route

October 12, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

As temperatures cool and the leaves begin falling off the trees, it has me hoping the warm weather will stick around just a little longer. Each fall, I need the winter weather to hold off until at least after the first weekend in November. Why? The Fairgrounds 5K, of course! The past three years we have been blessed with beautiful weather and large attendance and I'm hoping for the same again this year.

I've been organizing the 5K for the past month or so, and in doing this, we decided it was time to change up the route again. While much of it will be the same, the direction and some of the Fairgrounds you see this year will be a little bit different. Also, for the walkers, don't worry, your route has also been changed and is much more scenic than last year! Check out the new route!

Early registration for the race ends October 21, so be sure to sign up before then if you want the discounted rate. Otherwise, you can sign up before the 31st and last chance is the day of the race. It's a great time, reason to get off the couch on a fall Sunday and the money goes toward a great cause. Not a runner? No problem! We've got a one mile walk and a kids' run to entertain the whole family!

I'll keep my order in for great weather and we'll see you in a few short weeks!




October 9, 2012
robintaylor's picture

The past two days have been spent enjoying conference rooms A & B in the Varied Industries Building. While the scenery could be improved, as could the comfort of the chairs, the reason for being there was a good one. The Fair Board, CEO and staff from the administration offices and maintenance were there to discuss programming ideas for 2013 and future Fairs plus planning for capital improvements.

For both, we were divided into random groups of seven (each including two Fair Board members). For the programming task we were to come up with ideas for areas such as competitive events, ag. education, special events, marketing, the Foundation and concessions. All ideas were valid as it was a chance to throw out ideas and see what might stick. Some things that came up were new food competitions for concessionaires to create a "wow" item each year, what we might try and bring to Kid Zone, expanding ag education into horticulture, adding in more free demonstrations, new entertainment venues, youth contests, garage band contests.....lots and lots of ideas. From there each group narrowed their list to a top five which we compiled with the others. Now there is a "new" list of considerations to look into as possiblities for next year's Fair and those in the future.

With the capitals, we'd already done legwork on this starting in 2010 by coming up with a wish list that was compiled by all the departments. We've tackled some of those already with elevators in the Cultural Center, rewiring in the Sheep Barn and paving the lot west of the 4H Building to name a few. We went through the list again to divide them out into short term (complete by next year's Fair), intermediate (2-4 years) and long term (5+ years). It’s interesting to see how opinions vary across departments. Maintenance looks at deterioration and hours needed to maintain a facility, interim events looks at rental potential and competitive events considers how many head of livestock can be housed and contest scheduling. Generation of income, visitor safety, Fair-goer experience and historical value are all part of the evaluation process.  Many questions are raised with no definitive answers. When finished, the Board has a list of recommendations to utilize as they allocate funds for capital projects needed in both the short and long term. Unfortunately the Fair hasn't won a $200 million lottery jackpot as that would make these hard decisions on where limited funds would go very easy - we'd just do it all!

It’s planning sessions like these that underline the importance of developing an endowment fund. No matter how much we might ignore it, the future does become the present and, if there is no long term preparation, our goals are not accomplished. The mission of the Blue Ribbon Foundation is to renovate and restore the Iowa State Fairgrounds. We’ve accomplished a lot but know there is much left to be done. This will take careful planning and a long term vision to make sure that the work continues and the improvements are maintained.  With your assistance, and maybe some planning of your own, we can work together to steward the renovation of the Iowa State Fairgrounds, preserving a wonderful summer tradition for generations to come.

New name!

October 4, 2012
jennabeary's picture


Jenna Beary? Who's that? I know it seems like the Foundation has had a lot of Jennas this year, but we don't have a new addition around here -  I just changed my name. On September 22nd I married my best friend and went from Jenna Reece to Jenna Beary. It was a perfect day, and I am so excited to be married! Now starts the process of changing my name (a bit of an overwhelming task!), so know that if you receive something from Jenna Beary, it's just me. Same girl - different last name. 

On another note, it's October 4th which means that we are exactly a month away from the 6th annual Fairgrounds 5k Fun Run & Walk. Be sure to get your entry in before October 21st - after that the entry fee raises to $25. The grounds are beautiful right now and the weather is starting to cool off, so we're hoping for a perfect fall day and another great turnout. Don't forget to register online at We'll see you then! 

A New Look - Expo Hill

September 28, 2012
robintaylor's picture

It was such a beautiful day that I decided to take a walk over lunch to enjoy the weather and the peace of the Fairgrounds. As I left the office, my feet directed me to the stairs leading to Expo Hill, one of the new features added in time for this year's Fair. And, I recently found out that this is not the first set of stairs here. When Exposition Hall still graced the top of the hill there was another staircase here providing access to the building. At the top, I paused a moment to take in the new look of the hill area....sidewalks, landscaping, benches, a stage. What a difference!

Following the path provided by the new sidewalks, I circled the stage, crossed the plaza and then descended to Grand Avenue via the pathway installed in 2011. As I did, I was taken again by the flow of the site and what potential it provides for entertainment, exhibitors and vendors in future Fairs as well as a great location for a wedding, party, concert or other outdoor function. Thanks to grants provided by the Energy Department of Iowa Economic Development and MidAmerican Energy, we've been able to turn an under utilized and not very attractive space into a showcase of green initiatives and renewable energy products. The solar cubes, cooling benches, pavers and bollards all use solar energy to light the pathways and provide unique accents to the area. The MidAmerican Energy visitor's center receives energy from several solar panels installed on its roof and has a monitor inside that displays what was generated, what's being used as well as information about its geo-thermal system plus energy created at one of its wind farms in Iowa. What a nice whay to show off Iowa's committment to renewable resources. If you are in the area in the evening, stop by and see the site lit at night. It takes on a whole new look!

We still have one more component to complete before putting the project to bed though. Because what we're doing is going down a new path, it's taken a bit longer to figure out how to utilize the solar film on the stage covering. But by next year's Fair we should be able to provide solar generated energy for the stage. And, one other neat bit is that USAShade, the manufacturer of the covering, is going to use our stage in their promotions to show a new way of using their product. I guess it's true that while the Iowa State Fair is a grand agricultural tradtion we're also maintaining our history of being a venue that helps introduce the latest in technologies for the benefit of all.


Happy Fall!

September 24, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

It's official- Fall is here! The Fair might be over, but the Fairgrounds are still very active with a lot of off-season events. While there is some function on the grounds nearly every weekend of the year, Fall is exceptionally busy with a variety of events. For those of you who only come out to the Fair once a year in August, I encourage you to take a look at the list of events coming up to see if anything spikes your interest. Or, just to come out, enjoy the beautiful weather and go for a walk or play in the park here on our historic 400-acre campus!

It's because of your support of the Foundation that we are able to rent out our facilities to be used year-round. Without the money for renovations, the buildings wouldn't have heating or air-conditioning, nor would they be as clean and functional as they are today. Coming up this weekend is Iowa's largest craft show as well as an antique auction.

Check out the October schedule below- there is something for everyone in the upcoming month:

Oct 6: 
Polk County Health Department Drive-Thru Flu Clinic

Oct 6 – 7:
- Cat-N-Around Cat Show
- Flea Market
- Two Rivers AHSI Arabian High Point Show

Oct 6 – 8:
- Midwest P.O.A.C. Extravaganza

Oct 7 – 11:
- National Goat Expo

Oct 9 – 13:
- International P.O.A. Sale and Futurity

Oct 10 – 13:
- POAC International Sale & Futurity 2012

Oct 11 – 14
- Take2 Children's Consignment Sale

Oct 11 – 15
- Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Book Sale

Oct 19 – 21
- Des Moines Obedience Training Club Fall Agility Trial

Oct 20 – 21
- Des Moines Lapidary Society Annual Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show
- Great Iowa Pet ExpoO

Oct 27
- First Fleet Concerts present: Wiz Khalifa "The 2050 Tour"

Oct 27 – 28
- Des Moines Bead Bazaar
- Des Moines Better Living Exposition

Also, don't forget to register for our Fairgrounds 5K which will take place on November 4th. Enjoy this fall weather and come out to the Fairgrounds to see the beautiful grounds as the leaves start to change!

Fairgrounds 5K

September 10, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

I'm always amazed at how quickly fall approaches each year, but I'm always happy when it gets here. Things quiet down a little bit here at the office, the weather is comfortable, it's football season (Go Cyclones!) and boots and sweaters are just around the corner! With fall, brings our annual Fairgrounds 5K. For those of you who have been with us since it started six years ago, you are aware of some of the changes that we've made over time. Last year we made quite a few little tweaks to our event and we came out with our best year yet. I am excited to have another great year with the 5K run, 1 Mile Walk and the Chase the Cow Kids' Run!

If you like to run, walk, or just plain love the Fair, we encourage you to come out and support our event on November 4th to raise money for the historic and beautiful Iowa State Fairgrounds. It's a great opportunity to see the Fair in a different setting; without the hustle and bustle of the Fair. Also, we've been very fortunate the past few years to have wonderful weather as well, so don't let that November date deter you from signing up!

Online registration is up and running so be sure to sign up soon (before Oct 22) to get the early registration price. For all the details regarding the sixth annual Fairgrounds 5K (volunteering, sponsoring, or participating), please check out the 5K page. Or, send me an email for any specific questions you might have. I will keep posting more details as we get closer to the event.

Here are a few photos from last year's event:


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