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.

Iowan of the Day Deadline is Coming Up!

June 24, 2021
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The summer months in Iowa are filled with warm weather, the occasional (but very seldom) rain storm, and incredible programs and events hosted at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. A couple of the programs and events that we have been preparing for here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation include the Corndog Kickoff, volunteering at the State Fair, and the Iowan of the Day program.

July 1st is coming up soon which is the deadline for Iowan of the Day nominations. Past winners have a plethora of community involvement, volunteering, and demonstrate a strong work ethic. These attributes can be shown in the application by recommendation letters, newspaper articles, and even videos. I have greatly enjoyed reading about the incredible Iowans that have been nominated for this honor. Ten Iowans will be selected to be Iowan of the Day at the 2021 Iowa State Fair. Iowan of the Day recipients receive a prize package including:

  • $200 cash award
  • Accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Hotel Downtown
  • Four Iowa State Fair Admission Tickets
  • Four Grandstand concert tickets
  • Privilege to use the Iowan of the Day golf cart for the day
  • Introduction and award presentation on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage

If you know someone who you think could be a 2021 Iowan of the Day, nominate them today!

Link to Nominate Someone

Megan Decker, Public Relations Intern

What is going on at the Fairgrounds in June?

June 21, 2021
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Over the past weeks, the Fairgrounds have been occupied with people. Two weeks ago on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday - the World Pork Expo was taking up most of the Fairgrounds. It was wonderful to see people walking around, giving us a little taste of what the Fair is like and how busy it will be. The Varied Industries building was buzzing with people milling around and so many booths to explore.

During the World Pork Expo there was free food available, you were offered choice of pork burger or ribs, a bag of chips, and small water. Our Office got to enjoy the pork burgers and they were awesome! While walking towards the food, myself and the other interns wandered around the Fair, down the main stretch, through the Varied Industries building. Outside south of the Varied Industries building were trailers and equipment everywhere. It was so nice to get a glimpse at what the Fair will be like.

This week is the National Junior High Rodeo. They are using more of the Fairgrounds, and lots of golf carts. It has been fun to see the golf carts go by the Blue Ribbon Foundation office, as many of them are decorated with fun flags and patriotic colors. It has been very exciting to see all of the people for this event arrive on the Fairgrounds. We are interested to see what other lively things will happen this week at the Rodeo. There are so many entertaining things happening on the Fairgrounds before the Fair, but I am most ecstatic about our Corndog Kickoff. This will be my first time at the Kickoff so I am so ready to try all the Fair food and see all of our beautiful auction packages!

Have you purchased your tickets? Buy now! Join us at the event as we raise money to keep improving the historic Fairgrounds that as you can tell are busy through the entire year.

A Real Life Etsy Shop

June 17, 2021
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Food… Games… Prizes… Music… There are so many different things happening at the Corndog Kickoff, and that doesn’t even include the Auction! Over the past month, I have seen our office fill up with incoming auction items. Quilts, paintings, coffee grounds, salsa, soaps, candles and beyond have slowly taken over all available counter space. Taking pictures and sorting through this impressive mountain of items has been one of my favorite tasks so far. As someone who has not attended a Corndog Kickoff before, I had no idea the amount of donations we received or how unique many of the items can be.

Small businesses play a huge part in our state and they offer a personal touch that you can’t find just anywhere. The local talent displayed in some of these donations were too good not to share. Here is a quick peek at some of the unique items you can look for at this year’s Corndog Kickoff.

"Tweet" is a whimsical mixed media piece featuring birds, created by using pieces of sea glass, roosting on twigs. The artist is 16-year-old Reagan Peterson from Urbandale.

One thing you will not find anywhere else is Dirt Road Candle Co’s State Fair and Lemonade Stand scented Candles. These are hand poured by Michelle Myers from Lewis, Iowa and can even be recycled with a new scent when your candle runs out.

Another wonderful wall piece is "Sunset Ride" which is an original watercolor painting of the Sky Glider at sunset. This painting is by Jodie Hand, from Mrs. Hand Painted from Johnston.

Arguably, the most unique item of all were roasted crickets from Gym-N-Eat Crickets by Shelby Smith from Ames. The flavors of these cricket snacks include fiesta, buffalo ranch, hot & spicy, smoky bbq, sea salt & pepper and dill pickle. These are perfect for someone who is a more adventurous eater than I am.

Don’t miss out! The items we received from businesses both big and small, along with many individual donations will be available online this year through mobile bidding. This means you can bid on your favorite items from anywhere. Mobile bidding opens Friday, July 9th at 10:00 AM and closes the next day at 8:30PM. All bidding will take place through the GiveSmart App. Be sure to sign up early for the chance to preview all the auction packages before bidding goes live.

'Moving' Towards the Auction

June 15, 2021
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As the days inch closer to the 2021 Iowa State Fair, so does the annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction. Each of us interns have a hand in preparing for this extravaganza in mid-July. One of the ways we have been preparing has been organizing the garage and warehouse to find a place for the plethora of auction items that have been brought in over the last few months. From extravagant vacations to handmade signs, there will be something for everyone offered at this year’s auction.

With a toasty temperature of 90 degrees, and very light breeze, last Wednesday the four of us interns took loads of materials out to the warehouse, then proceeded to spend the morning and the majority of the afternoon organizing, re-arranging, and moving materials. Out at the warehouse we used a pallet jack to move various Fair merchandise that we did not get the chance to sell in 2020, but are looking forward to selling this year. We used each of our strength to lift heavy boxes in order to make room for more storage space.

The garage right next to our office needed more room for auction items that have over-crowded much of our office space. Despite the hot temperatures, each of us enjoyed moving around for a day to make sure everything had its place in the warehouse and garage. Thank goodness for an air conditioned office on the Fairgrounds!

Be sure to attend the Corndog Kickoff on July 10th located at the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The doors open at 6:30 P.M. and the live auction begins at 8:00 P.M.  You can purchase tickets here.

 

I'm a Blue Ribbon Kid, Are You?

June 14, 2021
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Some of my favorite memories at the Fair are from my time in the Blue Ribbon Kids’ Club. From sculpting my own butter cow to racing the big wheels, The Kids Club offers a different perspective for kids at the Fair.

Many people confuse the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Blue Ribbon Kids Club. Although, The Blue Ribbon Foundation doesn’t coordinate the Kids’ Club, it does have a hand in making it a success. Blue Ribbon Kids' members will get a rare glimpse at the heart of the Iowa State Fair and become part of the action during special kids' club activities. Blue Ribbon Kids' Club members not only get a hands-on Fair experience but will receive a virtual birthday card and a monthly e-newsletter after signing up.

 

Gabby McCoy and Hannah McCoy racing big wheels in 2005. 

 

2021 Iowa State Fair Kids’ Club Events!

Thursday, August 12 – Fairfield and Friends Ribbon Quest Book Day at Kids’ Club

Follow the adventures of Fairfield, the Iowa State Fair’s mascot, as he tries to win a ribbon. Winning isn’t just about getting ribbons. Fairfield learns much more about being a good friend and trying new things. Come for the book reading but stay for the drawing lesson, pictures with Fairfield, Fairfield craft and much more! You can get a head start by purchasing our Ribbon Quest book online on the Blue Ribbon Foundation Website or at any of our merchandise booths at the Fair.

 

Monday, August 16 – Have You Herd? - Kids’ Club Style

Come and meet some Iowa 4-H’ers who exhibit animals at the Iowa State Fair! They are going to bring their animal to Kids’ Club and tell us all about how they care for their animal and how they get ready for the Fair and show day! You will learn more about 4-H and how to become a Clover Kid. The blue Ribbon Foundation renovated the 4-H building!

 

At this year’s Iowa State Fair, be sure to explore the renovated Bruce Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building. A portion of the south exterior wall was removed, creating space for a new kitchen facility, storage area and loading bays. An expansion to the west added classroom space. The interior of the building is revitalized from top to bottom with new lighting, paint, floors and all new restrooms.

 

Friday, August 20 – Rainbow Gardens and Fresh Snacks Day at Kids’ Club

Fruits and veggies help us grow strong and healthy. They also taste great, add color and fun to our meals. The Iowa State University Culinary Science Club will be on hand to teach you how to make a colorful, tasty snack and have recipes to share! You will learn these things and more during Rainbow Gardens and Fresh Snacks Day at Kids’ Club. Be sure to check out our new garden as well!

 

Fairgoers of all ages will enjoy the new Family Garden north of the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. Filled with crops, plants, trees, even a tunnel with pole beans, gourds, and other vegetables growing overhead. This unique space will showcase a combination of rural and urban agriculture.

 

Whether you are a Blue Ribbon Kid or a kid at heart, Thank you for supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation.

- Gabby McCoy, Vounteer Relations Intern

Barnyard Yoga is Back; Now With Llamas, Bunnies and Goats

June 11, 2021
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The Iowa State Fair always has something new going on and is full of things to try. Walking around to experience everything is tiring and seeing all the animals without being able to get close to them can be frustrating. But now an extended Barnyard Yoga program lets you relax AND get to hang out with some cuddly animals all at the same time. Three years ago, the Iowa State Fair hosted its first ever Goat Yoga program. During the yoga class the Animal Learning Center was filled with cuddles, cuteness and energy all around. Needless to say goat yoga was a memorable success, and it’s not only back this year, but has grown!

Barnyard Yoga is expanding, hosting one class with goats, one with llamas, and one with bunnies. If you are looking for something new to try, chances are you have never done a downward dog with a llama to keep you company, or a warrior pose with a bunny nearby. Come see what it is all about and make some new furry friends while you’re at it! (All experience levels are welcome) Registration opens today and costs $20 per class. The first 50 to register will receive their own yoga mat and swag bag to keep. Details on each event can be found below.

  • Goat Yoga- August 18 at 7 p.m.
    Goat Show Ring in the Swine Barn
  • Llama Yoga- August 20 at 6 p.m.
    North Side of the Cattle Barn in the grass
  • Bunny Yoga- August 22 at 9 a.m.
    Outside the Rabbit and Poultry Building

Registration can be found at the Iowa State Fair Website> visit >buy tickets. Or with this link.

Barnyard Yoga is Back; Now With Llamas, Bunnies and Goats

June 11, 2021
Intern's picture

The Iowa State Fair always has something new going on and is full of things to try. Walking around to experience everything is tiring and seeing all the animals without being able to get close to them can be frustrating. But now an extended Barnyard Yoga program lets you relax AND get to hang out with some cuddly animals all at the same time. Three years ago, the Iowa State Fair hosted its first ever Goat Yoga program. During the yoga class the Animal Learning Center was filled with cuddles, cuteness and energy all around. Needless to say goat yoga was a memorable success, and it’s not only back this year, but has grown!

Barnyard Yoga is expanding, hosting one class with goats, one with llamas, and one with bunnies. If you are looking for something new to try, chances are you have never done a downward dog with a llama to keep you company, or a warrior pose with a bunny nearby. Come see what it is all about and make some new furry friends while you’re at it! (All experience levels are welcome) Registration opens today and costs $20 per class. The first 50 to register will receive their own yoga mat and swag bag to keep. Details on each event can be found below.

  • Goat Yoga- August 18 at 7 p.m.
    Goat Show Ring in the Swine Barn
  • Llama Yoga- August 20 at 6 p.m.
    North Side of the Cattle Barn in the grass
  • Bunny Yoga- August 22 at 9 a.m.
    Outside the Rabbit and Poultry Building

Registration can be found at the Iowa State Fair Website> visit >buy tickets. Or with this link.

Spring Newsletter: 2001 & 2011

June 7, 2021
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As we enter the month of June, preparation for the return of the Iowa State Fair and the events leading up to it are in full swing. Although some things about the Fair never change, let’s take a look at what the Blue Ribbon Foundation was doing ten and twenty years ago.

What happened 10 years ago? (2011)

  • Expo Hill underwent the first out of two rounds of transformations for the 2011 Iowa State Fair. The changes included a solar panel system along the MidAmerican Energy Education Center and a display showcasing the energy produced by the array and turbine. The renovations also added new landscaping beginning at the tram stop on Grand Avenue, creating a path with plaza areas along the hillside.
  • Donor Profile: Scott Little & Shawn Roorda

This duo’s extraordinary teamwork does not go unnoticed. Scott Little and Shawn Roorda worked together professionally for over 15 years and had both greatly contributed to the Fair through volunteer efforts and involvement in the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s programs. Together they teamed up to create a photoshoot for the Fair Squares project. Talent and teamwork are a fantastic combination to continue the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission.

  • In 2011, three interns were hired including a Public Relations Intern, Special Projects Intern, and Special Events Intern. The Public Relations Intern in 2011 happened to be the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s future Communications Manager, Drew Sniezek.

What about 20 years ago? (2001)

  • Donor profile: David Wescott 

Waverly, Iowa native David Wescott spent countless hours volunteering for multiple days at the state Fair each year. On top of the time he dedicated, David also made generous donations to the Foundation in the form of the brick, bench, and tree programs. David’s pride for the Iowa State Fair was evident in the contributions and dedication he shows each year.

  • In 2001, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hired one Public Relations Intern for the summer to coordinate the Iowan of the Day program and assist with the Corndog Kickoff.
  • “Some Fair!” Competition invited Fairgoers to share their perspective of favorite Fair memories through a 500 word essay. The top three entries received a Fair prize package.
  • A couple of timeless traditions included in this newsletter were seeking volunteers for the 2001 Iowa State Fair and nominations for 2001 Iowan of the Day.  

 

Some programs like the Iowan of the Day still remain in 2021, while others programs are completely different from 2001 and 2011. What remains the same is the spirit of service from the supporters of the Blue Ribbon Foundation that commit to ensuring a great atmosphere at the Fair for generations to come.

 

-Megan Decker, 2021 Public Relations Intern

 

A New Home for the Tractor Pulls

June 3, 2021
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The Iowa State Fair is constantly growing and changing in order to offer the best experience for Fairgoers. One of those changes was to expand upon a very popular attraction: Grandstand concerts. In 2018, the Iowa State Fair’s renovations included creating a new stage area, expanded seating and new restrooms. Grandstand seating capacity went from around 10,000 to nearly 15,000 and the number of headliner concerts increased from nine to eleven.

While this was great news for concert-goers, it also saw the hiatus of another Fair tradition, the tractor pulls. For the past few years concerts have been filling the Fair evenings with music and crowds of fans but the unmistakable roars of competing engines has been absent. The tractor pull debuted at the Iowa State Fair in 1968, when crowds first became entranced with the thrill of seeing just how far an engine could go. Fans would gather to see who could pull the sled, weighing up to 60,000 pounds, the farthest. Drivers would clamor to prove their engine was the strongest, many blowing smoke and bobbing up on their back wheels in the process.

Certainly this tradition was missed but not forgotten as plans for its return were in the works. Thanks to a generous gift from Denny and Candy Elwell, 2021 will mark the return of the tractor pull with the creation of a new home, The Elwell Family Park. This park, located just west of the grandstand will host two tractor pulls at the upcoming Fair and will expand to include more events and seating in coming years. This year Fairgoers can once again expect to hear the Earth-shaking roar of tricked out engines and experience the adrenaline rush of watching motor engineering being pushed to its limits –and maybe a few feet farther. 

 

Meet the Volunteer Intern!

June 2, 2021
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Hello everyone! My name is Gabrielle McCoy, but people call me Gabby. I am serving as the 2021 Volunteer Relations Intern for the 2021 Iowa State Fair. I am in the midst of my first few days at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and I am loving it! I have grown up surrounded by the State Fair.

I am a sophomore at Wartburg College majoring in journalism and communication with an emphasis in public relations and multimedia journalism as well as a minor in Spanish.  I am the social media and event coordinator for multiple organizations on campus. I am involved in Public Relations Student Society of America, the school newspaper, Dance Marathon, Homecoming committee, and the Wartburg Cheer Team. Growing up in Carlisle, Iowa I was involved in band, speech, sports, and 4-H, while also completing 900 volunteer hours. As a 4-H member, I was a Healthy Living Ambassador, spoke to congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. and served on the State 4-H council. My family has camped at the Iowa State Fair for over 20 years. I have volunteered at the Fair since I was little and worked as the Communications Assistant in the 4-H building.

I am so excited to be working behind the scenes at one of my favorite events. I can’t wait for the Fairgrounds to be flooded with people, especially after missing last year. I am most looking forward to working with all the volunteers that make the Fair happen while also sharing my passion for the Iowa State Fair.  

Gabrielle McCoy

2021 Volunteer Intern

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