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 $165 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.

2020 Iowa State Fair Announcement

June 10, 2020
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Today the Iowa State Fair Board made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Iowa State Fair until August 12-22, 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The decision was complex and involved a wide array of factors. The Iowa State Fair’s top priority is protecting the health and safety of Fairgoers, staff, volunteers, exhibitors and entertainers. Amid the pandemic, we couldn’t in good conscience put on the Fair knowing access to emergency safety services at the Fair could be limited, public transportation to and from the Fair would not be available, the constant sanitation of seemingly infinite high touch surfaces lacked feasibility, and social distancing in lines to get your favorite Fair food or walking the Grand Concourse would be difficult.

While we can’t predict what the COVID-19 pandemic will look in August, we had to make educated decisions based on the currently know information and guidance from health experts. Waiting any longer to make a decision would be more potentially damaging to our great Fair partners and our planning.

Not getting together this August at the Iowa State Fair will be disappointing. Our staff, volunteers, entertainers, vendors and sponsors love to come together to put on 11 fantastic days each summer. We know that the Fair isn’t just an event, it’s a way of life for many, including our friends in agriculture and our young exhibitors.

Thank you for your patience in allowing the Iowa State Fair Board, staff and partners the time we needed to thoroughly review our options for the 2020 Iowa State Fair. And thank you for your unwavering support. We can’t wait to get together again in 2021. Please visit www.IowaStateFair.org for more information on tickets, events, and other questions.

Show Your Support: If you would like to support the Iowa State Fair, you can donate to the Blue Ribbon Foundation. The Foundation has been supporting renovations and improvements for more than 20 years. Your donation is always important, but without the revenue generated during the 2020 Iowa State Fair, your donation now is even more critical. No matter what size, it will be put to good use improving our historic Fairgrounds. We invite you to join a community of generosity and become more involved with the Iowa State Fair you know and love. Donate Now

Corndog Kickoff: The Corndog Kickoff is canceled for 2020. Please save Saturday, July 10, 2021 for the fundraising event that kicks off our Fair season! The Blue Ribbon Foundation will contact supporters that already donated to the 2020 event. In lieu of the Kickoff, the Foundation is exploring other options to bring our Fair friends together, either in person or in spirit, in support of Fairgrounds renovations. Stay tuned for more information via social media and our website.

Iowa State Fair Agricultural Education

June 2, 2020
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Thank you for all you do to support the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. The Fair is Iowa’s greatest celebration with a salute to the best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. What sets the Iowa State Fair apart from other events? The incredible agricultural education opportunities.

During each Iowa State Fair, roughly 3,000 4-H and FFA students exhibit their livestock in the cattle, horse, poultry, sheep, and swine barns. Approximately 30,000 children interactively learn about farming at the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit. With almost 600 babies born in the Animal Learning Center each year, families of all ages experience the miracle of life.

Teaching our youth the value of agriculture in Iowa is important; it’s our history and future. The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. The Fairgrounds prides itself on offering excellent facilities that showcase all things agriculture.

Please join the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to renovate and preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Your investment will ensure the barns, arenas, buildings and exhibit space across the Fairgrounds stay in top-notch condition. Please consider making a donation today. 

 

 

 

P.S. Tell a friend why you support the Blue Ribbon Foundation and help us improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds for future generations.

Project Update

May 26, 2020
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Since its inception in 1993, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been raising funds to maintain and improve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Iowa State Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dedicated to continuing that legacy. Check out the current renovation projects.

4-H Building: Progress continues on the renovation of the 4-H 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 will add classroom space, and the interior of the building will be revitalized from top to bottom with new lighting, floors and updated restrooms.

 

Cookie Kitchen: This brand new 4,800 sq. ft. building along Grand Avenue will be the main facility for baking the world famous ”Barksdale’s State Fair Cookies”. Fairgoers will be able to peek inside through large windows to see cookies baking and purchase a fresh cup or bucket.

 

Family Garden: In August, families will experience a new garden north of the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. Filled with crops, plants, trees and even a tunnel with pole beans, gourds, and other vegetables growing overhead. This unique space will showcase a combination of rural and urban agriculture. 

 

Livestock Pavilion Restroom: During the Fair, the pavilion hosts livestock judging, horse shows, and events like the Governor’s Charity Steer Show. The restroom updates include tiling the walls, installing metallic epoxy flooring, replacing the toilet partitions, adding solid surface sinks, new counters and improving the electrical fixtures.

 

You can be part of the Livestock Pavilion restroom renovation project by joining the T.A.G. Team. It’s a simple concept; Together we can Accomplish our Goals. For a $250 donation, the first 100 donors will be accepted into this unique group. Your name will be listed as a key player in the renovation project and you will receive a commemorative pin to denote your membership in the 2020 T.A.G. Team. We haven’t reached our goal of 100 members yet. The deadline to join is June 1. Join Today.

Thank you to our current 2020 T.A.G. Team members.

 

Buy Your Iowa State Fair T-Shirt

May 19, 2020
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Congratulations to the Iowa State Fair T-Shirt Contest winners!

Rachel Scheel of Ankeny was the creative spirit behind the winning design. She received an Iowa State Fair prize package and will have her t-shirt design sold at the 2020 Iowa State Fair.  Morgan Adams of Arlington placed second and Allissa Johnson of Earlham placed third.

But, with such a positive response to all six designs, we wanted Iowa State Fair fans to have the opportunity to show their love of the Fair by wearing the t-shirt design they voted for.  You can now purchase one (or more) of these shirts and support the Blue Ribbon Foundation's efforts to restore and improve the facilities of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Order Online Today

Please place all orders by Friday, May 29. All orders will be delivered and shipped directly to you. You can expect to receive your order the 2nd week of June!

 

 

Time to Vote

May 11, 2020
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Thank you to everyone that submitted a design idea to the first Iowa State Fair T-Shirt Contest. The Blue Ribbon Foundation was blown away by the creativity and received 88 awesome t-shirt entries from all across the state. The selection committee made a tough decision and narrowed it down to the top six. Now is the time to vote.

Between now and May 18, please vote for your favorite. The winner will be announced on May 19. The top three vote-getters will receive Iowa State Fair prize packages. VOTE HERE

  • 1st Place - Your shirt design is produced to sell at the Iowa State Fair, 2 t-shirts, 2 gate admission tickets, 2 Fair Value Packs, 2 tickets to the Grandstand concert of your choice, $50 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
  • 2nd Place - 2 gate admission tickets, $25 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
  • 3rd Place - 2 gate admission tickets and $25 in food coupons

Again, the winning design will be featured as an official Iowa State Fair t-shirt available for purchase at the Blue Ribbon Foundation's merchandise booths during the Iowa State Fair and online through www.BlueRibbonFoundation.org starting on July 1, 2020. All proceeds benefit the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Thank you for participating in the contest. Stay tuned for the winner.

How Many?

May 5, 2020
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How many days is the Iowa State Fair? 11

How many people visit the Fair each year? More than a million.

Those are easy questions. What about…How many ribbons does the Iowa State Fair Queen pass out in the Livestock Pavilion? How many Fairgoers watch the shows? How many of those Fairgoers use the Pavilion restrooms? Whoa, weird question but I would guess the number is high!

The east Livestock Pavilion restrooms are currently under construction. The Blue Ribbon Foundation is looking for 100 donors to join the 2020 T.A.G. Team to help with this project.

The restrooms located within the building have not been updated in more than 40 years. The only toilet facilities in the area, they are heavily used and in desperate need of renovation to meet modern standards. The updates will bring the restroom facilities into the 21st century, providing a better service to our customers and make cleaning them more efficient for our maintenance crews. 

The updates include tiling the walls, installing metallic epoxy flooring, replacing the toilet partitions, adding solid surface sinks, new counters and improving the electrical fixtures.

You can be part of this renovation project by joining the T.A.G. Team. It’s a simple concept; Together we can Accomplish our Goals. For a $250 donation, the first 100 donors will be accepted into this unique group. Your name will be listed as a key player in the renovation project and you will receive a commemorative pin to denote your membership in the 2020 T.A.G. Team.

We haven’t reached our goal of 100 members yet. The deadline to join is June 1. Join Today

   

Thank you to our current 2020 T.A.G. Team members:

  

T-Shirt Contest Ideas due Friday, May 1

April 24, 2020
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Let’s see your Iowa State Fair creativity! If you've got an awesome idea for a t-shirt design that reflects what we all love about the Iowa State Fair, enter the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s T-Shirt Contest. If your design is chosen for print, it will be for sale as a real merchandise item that Fairgoers all across the state can wear.

Funds generated from the sale of the t-shirt will be directed to renovations and improvements to the historic Fairgrounds. The deadline is quickly approaching; send us your t-shirt design by Friday, May 1.

A selection committee will choose the top five designs. Those designs will be posted on the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s website and Facebook page with voting via Facebook “like” or online via our website. Voting will be open from May 11-18. The winner will be announced on May 19.

The top three vote-getters will receive an Iowa State Fair prize package.

  • 1st Place - Your shirt design is produced to sell at the Iowa State Fair, 2 t-shirts, 2 gate admission tickets, 2 Fair Value Packs, 2 tickets to the Grandstand concert of your choice, $50 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
  • 2nd Place - 2 gate admission tickets, $25 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
  • 3rd Place - 2 gate admission tickets and $25 in food coupons

 

Entry and Design Guidelines:

 

Good Bones

April 21, 2020
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One of my favorite television shows to binge watch is “Good Bones” on HGTV. It is about a mother-daughter duo renovating houses in Indianapolis.  The pair take some of the nastiest, most rundown houses I have ever seen and turn them into beautiful homes for their neighbors.  The show’s tagline: “Every tragic house deserves a second chance because underneath all that mess – you might find some really good bones.”

This got me thinking about the Iowa State Fairgrounds. I found a blurry map of the Fairgrounds from 1910. You can see Grand Avenue and Rock Island were the main roadways with buildings scattered throughout. As you can imagine, a lot has changed in 100 years since this map. A few key structures stood out to me – the Grandstand, Agricultural Building, Livestock Pavilion, and barns for horses, cattle, sheep, and swine.

I found these same facilities listed on the 1950 and 1999 maps. (If I had easy access to maps of every year, I have a feeling I would find these same structures.) These are the “bones” of the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

For more than 160 years, the Iowa State Fair has grown, reflecting the development and growth of our great state. These historical buildings have housed millions of exhibits, events and people. These structures were built to last but over time, each has needed its own set of maintenance.

Cue the Blue Ribbon Foundation. This is where I imagine the Foundation could have its own television show – highlighting the amazing renovations that have taken place, new projects that are being planned and the generous donors across the country that have stepped up to keep the Fairgrounds in the best condition for the next generation.  (Did I mention the two ladies in the show both have red hair? I think I’m a shoo-in as the host!)

The Iowa State Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dedicated to continuing that legacy. We invite you to join a community of generosity and become even more involved with the Fair you know and love. Donate Today.

 
 

Spring Newsletter: 2020, 2010, 2000

April 16, 2020
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s quarterly newsletter hit mailboxes this week. Checkout what is happening now and what our organization was doing 10 and 20 years ago.

What is happening at the Blue Ribbon Foundation?
Meg Courter, Iowa State Fair Sponsorship Director, shares her insight on the importance of continuing education when it comes to the Fair industry. “Staff invest in these learning opportunities because the Fairgoer is top of mind every time we consider an attraction, break ground on a brand new exhibition center or renovate a historic building on the grounds. It’s the Fairgoer experience that matters - be it participating in a time-honored tradition, or trying something new.”

Back in February, the Foundation hosted the second annual Halfway to the Fair Happy Hour Fundraiser. The event raised $20,370 for improvement projects. Thank you to the event sponsors and attendees that helped make the night possible. Just remember for next year, the happy hour event really is the perfect way to eat your favorite summertime Fair food in the middle of winter.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation has been selling merchandise items as a fundraiser for many years. This year, we need your help. Send us your creative Iowa State Fair T-Shirt ideas for the first ever T-Shirt Contest. The public will vote for the best and prize packages will be awarded to the top designs. Your T-Shirt could be sold during the Iowa State Fair!

This newsletter edition shares information about a new membership program, the T.A.G. Team. This group of donors are supporting the renovation of the Livestock Pavilion restrooms. We currently have filled 54 of the 100 available spots.  Join today because Together, we can Accomplish our Goals.

 

What was the Blue Ribbon Foundation doing 10 years ago?
In 2010, construction was almost complete on the brand new Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center. This incredible addition to the Fairgrounds has allowed for so many more events to be held during the Fair and throughout the year. Thanks to another generous contribution from Mr. Jacobson, the  4-H Building renovation will continue this spring and be finished this summer.

An Iowa State Fair Cookbook with winning recipes from the famous food department was for sale in 2010. For Fair fans that collect the books, this was the 15th in the series. Fast forward 10 years, and the 20th edition cookbook will be available this year for State Fair foodies.

Three interns were getting ready to join the Foundation staff for the summer. Interns are critical to the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s operations. Each intern takes on a project and becomes part of the team, helping our organization continue to be successful. We will have four college students join us this summer.

Even 10 years ago, the Blue Ribbon Foundation was recruiting volunteers to help at our events. Every year it seems like we need more and more volunteers to keep our organization going. The summer intern will start reaching out to volunteers in June with the online sign-up for the Corndog Kickoff and Iowa State Fair.

 

What was the Blue Ribbon Foundation doing 20 years ago?
In 2000, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation released a History Book filled with 146 years of memories, traditions and historical information about the Iowa State Fair.  The book has photos, stories and celebrates the one-of-a-kind event. There are still a few copies left and available for sale in the State Fair Store.

Staff asked donors to provide their email address for a new database. With plans to bring communication into the 21st century, the Blue Ribbon Foundation created an email newsletter campaign to keep supporters up-to-date. (This is still relevant 20 years later. If you want to receive our monthly ENews, send your email to Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org and we will add you to the list.)

With the support of Cookies Food Products, the Blue Ribbon Foundation promoted the Iowan of the Day program. People across the state were encouraged to nominate the volunteers in their communities to receive a special day at the Iowa State Fair and highlight the positivity in our state. Nominations are currently being accepted for this year’s program.

The 4th annual Corndog Kickoff was scheduled to be held in Pioneer Hall. There is no doubt staff were busy organizing live and silent auction items to display at the event.  From Fair food, Sky Glider rides and fireworks – the Corndog Kickoff has only grown and gotten better in 20 years. Check out our website for details about becoming a Patron or giving to the Auction

 

To shape your future, you need to understand your past. The Blue Ribbon Foundation thanks the donors that helped shape our organization 10 and 20 years ago. We look forward to growing with our current and future supporters.

 

Looking for the next "Million Dollar Idea"

April 13, 2020
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Let’s flashback to the 2013 Iowa State Fair. With a theme focused on “Happiness Is”, there were plenty of new and exciting attractions mixed in with classic entertainment. The top new food was a shrimp corndog and improvements had been completed on the Cultural Center. The attendance reached 1,047,246. And… the Blue Ribbon Foundation sold 5,500 of a single t-shirt. (That’s more than we had ever sold before!)

The famous “Butter Cow Security” t-shirts were a huge hit! An unfortunate vandalism situation turned out to be an opportunity for Fair Fans and Butter Cow lovers across the country to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission.

Fairgoers lined up on Grand Avenue outside the merchandise trailer to buy a yellow “Serve & Protect” t-shirt. The creative idea came from Broken Arrow Wear. The local printing company had already produced some of the 2013 Iowa State Fair shirts the Blue Ribbon Foundation was selling.

The idea quickly developed into a design and shirts were printed. Those shirts sold-out almost immediately. The demand was high with entire families buying multiple shirts at one time. One simple t-shirt generated $100,000 for improvements to the historic Fairgrounds. This is a perfect example to show how people are passionate about THEIR Iowa State Fair. 

Fast forward to today. Merchandise sales have helped the Blue Ribbon Foundation raise a total $165 million for renovations over the last 27 years. The Blue Ribbon Foundation wants Fairgoers to show us their creative ideas. During the month of April – we are hosting a t-shirt contest

To enter, send us your t-shirt design by May 1. A selection committee will choose the top five designs. Those designs will be posted on the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s website and Facebook page with voting via Facebook “like” or online via our website. Voting will be open from May 11-18. The winner will be announced on May 19. The top three vote-getters will receive an Iowa State Fair prize package.

Click here for a complete list of Guidelines and Rules.

 

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