Iowan of the Day

Since 1997, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products have come together in the search for outstanding Iowans to recognize at each year’s Iowa State Fair. We look for individuals across the state who personify the greatness of Iowa with a strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others, and an exceptional sense of Iowa pride.

Every year, 10 nominees are named Iowan of the Day, receiving a special day of recognition at the Fair. As Iowan of the Day, winners receive the following:

  • Four Iowa State Fair admission tickets
  • An introduction on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage
  • Four Grandstand show tickets for their day
  • Privilege to use the Iowan of the Day golf cart for the day
  • VIP parking
  • Accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown
  • $200 cash

View a full list of the past Iowans of the Day since the program's inception in 1997.


Randy Duncan of Des Moines – Thursday, August 11

Aubrey LaFoy of Arnolds Park – Friday, August 12

Cheryl Wessels of Anita – Saturday, August 13

Steve Smith of Algona – Sunday, August 14

Curt Schwanebeck of Knoxville – Monday, August 15

Richard Vorthmann of Treynor – Tuesday, August 16

Edna Schrandt of Decorah – Wednesday, August 17

Willard Larsen of Camanche – Thursday, August 18

Bob Clark of West Des Moines – Friday, August 19

Rosemary Beach of Cedar Falls – Saturday, August 20

John and Janis Ruan, Des Moines
The Ruans represent Des Moines and greater Iowa’s interests locally and nationally. John serves on the board for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Iowa Business Council, the Downtown Community Alliance and served as chairman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Janis is best known for her community beautification, renovation and refurbishment efforts in the city. She also volunteers with Keep Iowa Beautiful, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. The Ruans are supporters of the Iowa State Fair and with their donation, created Ruan Plaza. 
Jary Quandt, Westside
Known for giving a helping hand whenever needed, Jary is dedicated to his community. He serves on the Westside City Council and is an active member in his church. He has helped with the local High School football program. In addition, Jary has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 25 years and serves as treasurer for the department. Overall, Jary is always willing to get any job done that others cannot do alone.
Richard and Juanita Schillig, Bettendorf
The Schillig’s started a 5K fundraiser to honor their son’s life and love of running. In addition to remembering their son, the event serves as a fundraiser to provide scholarships to Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf High School graduates. In the 20 years since the run started, more than 30 individual $4000 awards have been granted. Richard is active with S.U.M.M.I.T. – a program that aims to help young people make better choices by showing them different types of employment opportunities.  Juanita enjoys volunteering with their church and providing baked goods at special events. 
Bret Mace, Estherville
Bret plays a number of roles in his community. He is a member of the local Kiwanis, the Elk’s Club and serves on the board of trustees at his church. As foreman at the Estherville Power Plant, Bret works to be a leader and do whatever is needed to keep things running smoothly. He volunteered as a firefighter for 25 years before retiring from the position. Bret serves as president of the 4-H Youth Committee and vice president of the Emmet County Fair Board. He volunteers doing maintenance on the Fairgrounds and assists with events held in the off-season. 
Caroline Lehman, New London
Caroline is best known for her work with the Dover Museum located in New London. In her role as curator, she works to create engaging exhibits that show people the value of history. With her help, a railroad depot was moved across Iowa and put in place to house Dover Museum’s railroad collections. Caroline gives to her community in big and small ways. She was a part of the 175th anniversary celebration of New London’s founding. Caroline volunteers with her church, works with the local wellness center and acts as chairperson to the Henry County Historic Preservation Commission. 
Dennis Carlson, Hampton
Dennis wanted a way to educate kids about conservation and nature that would be available year-round. He created the Carlson Learning Tree Lodge on his farm. The facility can be used for education, no matter the season. Dennis is dedicated to educating and helping children. Before devoting his time to his lodge, he worked for a year as an educator in the CAL community schools. He also has given local FFA chapters unique opportunities to view his operation and gain some of his knowledge. 
Mike Quinlan, Iowa City
Mike knows community service; both his career and volunteer work have been dedicated to it. Before retiring, he worked as a parole officer for the Department of Correctional Services for more than 25 years and as a work crew leader for Americorps. Beyond his work, Mike supervised probationers and parolees on service projects in order to help them reintegrate into society. Mike served as West Branch Mayor and as the voice of West Branch football by announcing for the past 20 years. He also volunteered as president of the West Branch Lion’s Club.
Elaine Bohling, Greenfield
Elaine volunteers with Living History Farms, Iowa Machine Shed Thanksgiving Dinner, Legion Auxiliary, Des Moines Playhouse, Friends of the Library, 4-H and many more organizations. One of Elaine’s favorite volunteering opportunities is the Iowa State Fair, where she has helped with the Iowa 4-H Foundation, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Tourism and Keep Iowa Beautiful for nearly 15 years. Elaine worked with a group of young people in Fontanelle to repair and improve the community’s ‘slab’. Together, Elaine and the group were able to give the community a better meeting place and recreation area. 
Steven Palmer, Urbandale
For over 20 years, Steve has worked with Special Olympics raising money and awareness for the cause. He currently serves as President on the Special Olympics Iowa Board of Directors and represented the organization internationally, attending the World Games in China. Steve is retired from the United States Coast Guard and Army, as well as from the Polk County Sherriff’s Department. He regularly volunteers throughout his community as a member of the Za-Ga-Zig Shriners.
Shawn Tait, Exline
Shawn Tait is best known for her work with her community’s 4-H group, the Exline Ramblers. One of her bigger projects was writing and submitting a grant for memorial benches on the Appanoose County Fairgrounds. Shawn and her group of 4-Hers were able to spread some joy with their Christmas program at a care center in Seymour. Shawn also teaches English at Seymour High School and volunteers with Boy Scouts, FFA and Exline Recreation Committee.

Do you know someone who commits their life to bettering your community? Someone who deserves to be acknowledged for their efforts? Be sure they receive the recognition they deserve! Nominate your shining star by July 1 for this year’s Fair.

Download a nomination form here. Forms can also be requested by calling 515-262-3111 ext. 378. All nominations are considered for 3 years.

Nominees must be residents of Iowa. Each nomination is evaluated on a number of things, including community involvement, volunteerism, personal achievements, and involvement with youth to name a few. Nominators should provide us with supplemental materials that emphasize these areas such as testimonials, photos, newspaper articles and letters of recommendation. Any information that shows our judges the greatness of your nominee is welcomed! A sample nomination application from 2010 is available here. Or, watch our nomination video to see what to include!


Download a poster to hang up in your community and help us recognize Iowa's finest!