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 shining stars 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:

  • An introduction on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage
  • Four (4) Grandstand show tickets for their day
  • Privilege to use the Iowan of the Day golf cart
  • VIP parking
  • Accommodations at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott hotel
  • $200 cash
  • A 1-year subscriptions to The Iowan & Iowa Gardening magazines

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

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 found at your local post office in May or can be requested by calling 515-262-3111 ext. 678 or 1-800-450-3732. 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!


Cole Mace

At just 19 years old, Cole Mace’s volunteerism within the Estherville community hasn’t gone unnoticed. Whether he is assisting with 4-H workshops, setting up flags for Memorial Day or making a visit to the local nursing home, Cole is constantly putting the needs of others before his own. One of his many honors includes the Presidential Award, which recognizes students for 100 volunteer hours in one school year. He was also named “Iron Man” by his high school wrestling team for both his hard work and “team player” mentality. But above all, Cole’s genuine spirit has turned the heads of many. Today, Cole attends Iowa Lakes Community College and is in the Wind Energy Turbine Technology program. He has recently become a member of the Estherville Elks Club. While working part-time in the summer months, he still makes time to assist the fair board with any improvements needed at the fairgrounds. It is for these reasons and more that Cole Mace is a truly deserving Iowan of the Day.


Steven Leinen

Go-getter, giver, energetic and servant are some of the most notable qualities that Steve’s family, friends and co-workers would use to identify him. Steve has been involved in Relay for Life, blood drives, 4-H, the Panama Fire Department and the Panama Athletic Association. Along with that, he volunteers his time to the Booster Club, church councils and has served as a religious education teacher. It is well known that Steve doesn’t volunteer to participate; he volunteers to make a difference. According to Harlan Community Activities Director Mitch Osborn, his leadership is the “crown jewel” of Panama, Iowa. As renovations of a brand new parish hall began two years ago, Steve was the first to step in. Among all of Leinen’s volunteer contributions, he was named Citizen of the Year along with his wife DeeDee in 2007. Together they have taken part in countless fundraising activities for the Fire Department, helped the Cattlemen’s Association grow to over 200 members and have kept the Panama Athletic Association alive for the past 15 years.


Sharon Juon

Sharon Juon has captured what it means to be loyal to the Waterloo community. She is involved in Cedar Valley United Way, Black Hawk County Gaming Association, Westminster Presbyterian Church and Opportunity Works Synthesis Circle. But her impressive resume is only a slight taste of how she has impacted those around her. “She is that community leader that every community wishes they had, but few are lucky to get,” said Geoffrey Grimes in his letter of recommendation for Sharon. Sharon embodies extraordinary courage not just in volunteering within Waterloo, but through her civic involvements at the city, state, regional and national levels. Perhaps battling and surviving cancer has given her this edge to make a difference everywhere. Much of Sharon’s work as Executive Director of Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments, and elsewhere, has promoted the welfare of small urban counties in the area. At the beginning of July, she retired from the position but remains involved in various other organizations.


Dean Kluss

Dean Kluss is a jack of all trades. With a combination of his Iowa roots and leadership skills acquired from his time in the U.S. Navy, he remains a significant asset in the Clarion community. You can find him volunteering at the Church of Christ, Holmes Christmas Club, organizing Memorial Day services or serving as President of the board for the Wright County Fair. Dean is also the Youth Ministry Team Leader and Treasurer of Clarion Church of Christ.  Regardless of his busy schedule, he is always the first to lend a helping hand. “Dean has shown himself to be a man filled with compassion, humility and generosity,” said Warren Curry, Minister of the Church of Christ. “He has graciously given of his own time and money to assist both the group of young people and individual youth who may not have the financial resources at home.” According to Karen Weld, Dean’s nominator, “one of his best roles” is a role model to students. It is his constant enthusiasm that he takes with him to motivate and help the youth of Clarion. Dean will go out of his way to share his rags to riches schooling experience in hopes that others can relate and have hope.


Keith Sash

Keith Sash is dedicated to the betterment of his community. As the mayor of Gladbrook, he goes far beyond the typical job requirements. Not only is Keith a past Tama county Supervisor, but he has also served on the local school board, the Mid Iowa Co-op Board and the Tama County 4-H Board. Today, Keith remains involved in various other organizations. He is currently on the Tama County Economic Development Board, the Tama County Pork Producer Board and serves as Parade Chairman of the Gladbrook Corn Carnival Corporation Board. Sash is also a member of the Tama County Beef Producers, the Farm Bureau and the Gladbrook Commercial club. For all that Keith has been involved in; one of his biggest honors is being named a JCI Senator. This is an independent organization that mentors Jaycees and aids in college scholarships to graduating seniors. Being named a Senator is the highest international honor that can be given to a Jaycee. In fact, only 1 out of 1,000 receives the honor.


Shirley Stout Frederiksen

Under the leadership of Shirley Stout Frederiksen for Golden Hills RC&D, western Iowa has reaped the benefits.   Her areas of expertise have been in the conservation of natural resources, historic preservation, economic development and community attractions and tourism. Regardless of the project, she is constantly promoting whatever it is that needs to be done. “Shirley has been very instrumental in advocacy efforts locally, and on the state and national level,” said Kathy Dirks of Harrison County Historical Village and Iowa Welcome Center. “She has served on numerous boards taking on the leadership role, and is always one of the first to volunteer for tasks and committees.” Her passion in advocating these efforts have earned staggering results. For nearly 20 years, she worked diligently on establishing the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway. Shirley was successfully able to combat her biggest challenge of the project: documenting Native American cultures dating back to 1000 A.D. This is now the largest tourist attraction in Western Iowa to date, stretching 200 miles across 7 Iowa counties.


Beth Titman

From school and church functions, to fundraisers and putting her artistic abilities to use, Beth Titman will indeed do whatever it takes. She has led the Relay for Life program by finding sponsors, donations and people to make desserts. She has also volunteered for Project Mississippi- collecting and delivering books to the children of Lexington, Mississippi, one of the poorest counties in the United States. But her acts of service to the community do not end there. Titman has volunteered at McTeacher’s Night, a fundraiser for textbooks at McDonalds. She has also helped “beautify” Boone by volunteering her time and talents to paint the city snow plows before the arrival of every winter. These murals are done merely to spice up the long winter months- and for Boone residents to enjoy. As a member of the American Cancer Society, she finds even more ways to make a difference. “Beth is one of the many unsung heroes of cancer survivorship who tirelessly support those facing the disease,” said Joanne Hansson, a friend of Titman. Beth provides countless hours of volunteerism for events, generous donations and kind words of understanding for friends and loved ones with the disease.”


Paul Venner

Paul Venner strives to make a difference. He spends his time volunteering at Regency Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Carroll and New Hope Village, being a member of the American Legion Post and mastering his own garden to donate his home grown produce to those in need. Paul is also an active member of St Anthony Hospice. New Hope, a non-profit organization that provides residential and vocational services to the needy, has especially valued Paul’s contributions. Twice a month, he assists with the loading and hauling of recyclables and helps maintain the upkeep of the organization’s grounds. Jodie Jansen, Director of Development for New Hope, says he does it all with “dedication and a smile.” Paul is also never afraid to stop by the home of a shut-in just to turn around their day. He and his wife Rita Ann often coordinate birthday celebrations for Breda natives who may not have family around to do so. It is because of genuine acts like these that he has been chosen as an Iowan of the Day.


Ellen Lemke

Seven days a week, you can find Ellen Lemke volunteering for the Bedford community. She sings in the choir, is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and volunteers as a guide at the Taylor County Historical Museum. Lemke was featured in an Our Iowa magazine article where she shared her secret recipe to life and volunteering. “I try to stay busy,” she said. “I found out a long time ago that you can’t just sit around and twiddle your thumbs and expect to enjoy life- I don’t care how old you are, you can make life interesting if you try.” And that she does. Ellen has written humorous monologues and skits to perform at local nursing homes, churches and community groups. She is most famous for the one she calls “Putting on Panty Hose.” She not only has a knack for making people laugh, but expressing herself through poems and her weekly column for the Bedford Times-Press. Lemke has 7 published books of poetry. But Ellen is known for more than her skits, poetry and familiar face around the community. She was born in Newton in 1915 and has lived in Iowa ever since- with no intent of leaving. Her loyalty to the state of Iowa alone makes her a worthy candidate of this award.


Jack Finneseth

John “Jack” Finneseth’s unselfish support throughout Perry and Jefferson counties has been invaluable to the community. His children have been out of high school for nearly 25 years, yet he continues to announce at swim meets, time runners at track meets and organize all the Jefferson high school wrestling meets. Jack also volunteers his time to the Jefferson Public Library, Iowa Games Youth Swimming, the Iowa State Fair and Special Olympics. Jack does plenty of behind-the-scenes work, too. He has Co-chaired the Jefferson All School Reunion multiple times, taking the time to coordinate and contact all the graduates. He volunteers to put up Christmas lights at the library every winter. And he has made various improvements to Slininger Woods- 37 acres of outdoor fun donated by his family- over the years. His ability to make a difference has landed him several well-deserving awards. He is a two-time winner of the “Family of the Year” award and has been presented with both an Outstanding President Award and Super Booster Award.

Esther Bielema

Esther Bielema is a proud member of the Wall Lake community. She is the Co-Founder of the Wall Lake Historical Society and has led projects such asrestoration of the town’s "Railroad Depot" and birthplace house of famous singer Andy Williams. Esther is a member of Women’s Club, a lifelong member of the Church’s Circle, served as President of the Wall Lake Lions, several terms as the Clerk of Session for her church and brings individuals who are unable to drive to worship on Sunday mornings. She is always there to lend a helping hand. Esther has demonstrated a strong work ethic as the Parliamentarian of the American Legion Auxiliary of Wall Lake and has been a member for 65 years. In addition, she is a retired school teacher and is still very active teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School.


Jeralyn Westercamp

Jeralyn Westercamp is a great leader in her Cedar Falls community and has a numerous accomplishments because of her hard work and dedication. Jeralyn is founder and director of two non-profit organizations, CR HOMEWORKS and Kids 2 Kids: Tools 4 Schools. Through CR HOMEWORKS, Jeralyn worked with the Salvation Army to collect and distribute household items to the community’s flood disaster victims in 2008. Kids 2 Kids: Tools 4 Schools promotes literacy for disadvantaged children and gives school items to children. Jeralyn also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and her local public library. She works with the Girl Scouts of the USA and has many honors and leadership roles as a senior at the University of Iowa. Jeralyn also has recently been honored as the first Iowan to serve on the State Farm Youth Advisory Board and has served more than 900 hours at the Iowa City Veterans’ Hospital.


Troyce Vich

Troyce Vich is described by others as an enthusiastic leader in her community. She makes a great impact by volunteering at her church, Waterloo Days, Sartori Hospital’s Festival of Trees and Sturgis Falls Days. She loves teaching Sunday school and organizing dances for adults with special needs. In addition, she is one of the founding members of a women’s group, Womenade, has served on the Waterloo Public Library Board of Trustees for 12 years and is a board member of Friends of the Library. Troyce is an avid Fair lover and has been a dedicated 4-H leader for years. Troyce is very passionate about the youth in her community. She is a key leader of the "Traveling Tales" program, which promotes children’s literacy and teaches them the love of reading. Troyce goes above and beyond to visit schools and retirement homes dressed as Cat in the Hat to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday each year.


Janet Reynolds

Janet Reynolds is a proud member of Sioux City and demonstrates great leadership as a volunteer and community member. As president of the Midtown Board, Reynolds is host to many programs in Sioux City. She has been a volunteer who works with youth in 4-H afterschool programs, Midtown Community Center and 4-H summer camps. Janet also volunteers at the Jones Street Community Garden where she teaches youth how to plant and care for vegetables and is also a key leader for the Midtown food pantry. Annually, she coordinates a memorial event at the Community Splash Pad to teach bike safety in honor of a neighborhood child who passed away from a bike accident. Janet has also served as chairman of the Jones Street Neighborhood Coalition and helped renovate community parks.


Lila Bubke

Lila Bubke is a proud member of the Schleswig community and gives great effort to make it a wonderful place to live. Lila is very helpful at the local pre-school, K-8 public school and buses the children to babysitters and school. She plays a large role in school fundraisers and makes "Lila Bars", which are popular homemade treats in her community and loved by many. Lila is also liaison of the student government class at Denison High School, Treasurer of the Veterans of Foreign War Auxiliary, member of the ABC Book Group, and volunteers at her local library. She leads the Crawford County Relay for Life team, Ladies Golf Board Secretary and Treasurer and Director of Schleswig’s Town Parade Calf Show and is on the community school advisory committee.


Mary Maybee

Mary Maybee is a key leader in the Boone community and goes above and beyond to make to make it a great place to live. For six years, Mary led the local efforts for Daffodil Days, which is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. She is the Co-President of the Boone Women’s Club and President of the Boone Gold and Country Club. She also works with United Way, Daughters of the American Revolution and serves as chairwoman for many church events and programs. Mary is passionate about the youth in her community. She helped start the Boone Community Theatre and originated the Boone Summer Theatre Workshop. In addition, Mary helps plan the annual community Pufferbilly Days celebration, helps with church committees, Relay for Life, Community Betterment, Boone Jaycees, and is involved with the Boone County YMCA Board and the State of Iowa Advisory Council.


Jim Gronbach

Jim Gronbach is a great leader, volunteer and community member of Humboldt County. Jim is active in the Humboldt Community School District Facilities Committee and dedicates himself to many projects including the upkeep of several facilities. He supports the athletic boosters and donates his time and construction equipment to the Humboldt-Dakota City community and school fundraisers. Jim is passionate about helping others. He has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 25 years and assisted in the 2008 flood relief efforts. Jim is involved in his church, where he has held a number of different leadership positions and takes pride in his community. He helps out at many events such as the Humboldt Rotary Club Fly-In Breakfast and Art Festival.


Ken Petersen

Ken Petersen is very dedicated to helping others through his involvement in various organizations. He is active as the Legislative Chairman and volunteer for the Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs. Ken was a board member of Iowa Hospital Association and helped create many educational programs for all the hospitals and volunteers in Iowa. In his community, Ken is a board member of Wings of Hope Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society, Iowa Advisory Council and Commissioner for the Iowa State Department of Aging. Ken has also been involved in the Pottawattamie County Tobacco Coalition, UPRR Museum, Chanticleer Theatre, Bluffs Arts Council, Kiwanis, Rotary Club, American Red Cross, the Council Bluffs School Board and his church.


Garland Fickess

Garland Fickess is a key leader in the Bedford community and goes above and beyond to make it a great place to live. For years, Garland was the Director of Bedford Area Economic Development and led research and various successful community projects. She is currently the president of the Bedford Lioness Club and graciously opens her home to meetings. Garland has served on the Bedford Ambulance Board and volunteers for her church committees, Meals on Wheels and the Taylor County Historical Museum. She takes pride in her community and was the past president of the Bedford Chamber/Main Street, involved in the Southwestern Iowa Tourism committee, PEO and has served on the Bedford Foundation Board of Directors. Garland has always been a dependable community member.


Suzie Glazer Burt

Suzie Glazer Burt has donated countless volunteer hours in the Des Moines community and across the state of Iowa. Suzie has held numerous leadership positions and donated a great amount of funds to help charitable organizations. As a leader of the Hospice of Central Iowa Foundation, she was a vital person to help expand the Kavanagh House for patients. Suzie has also been very involved as a volunteer and is a huge supporter of the Boys and Girls Club of Des Moines. Suzie has demonstrated optimism and leadership through her involvement as the Des Moines Art Center Board of Directors. She volunteered to help 2008 flood victims and makes contributions to LIVE United 2009 United Way challenge, in honor of her late mother, Maddie Levitt. As the past chair of Variety Club of Iowa, she was involved in planning and coordinating many successful campaigns to strengthen the community.