Iowan of the Day

Since 1997, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products partner to honor outstanding Iowans 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.

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

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

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 515‑262‑111 ext. 371. 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!


Kristin Swift - Bondurant

Kristin has a passion for education in her community. She works tirelessly to help the students in her school district through her work as President and Treasurer of the Parent-Teacher organization. Kristin serves as the President of the Bondurant-Farrar Education Foundation as well as President and Treasurer of the Athletic and Fine Arts boosters. She actively serves on the finance, wellness, negotiation, student achievement and infrastructure committees on the Board of Education. Her work ethic is not only seen in the school community but shines through her volunteer tutor work at church, serving as soccer club treasurer and helping to bring foreign exchange students to Iowa as Chair of the American Field Services organization. Kristin is known as the “go-to person” in Bondurant and even takes time to work in concession stands for school events.



Deborah Whitaker - Keokuk

Deborah has a strong passion for helping veterans. Three of her sons served in the military and while one has fallen, she has found strength and passion in helping others. Deborah has a degree in horticulture and has created the organization Veggies for Vets. Veggies for Vets supplies garden seeds, plants and more so our veterans can have fresh, healthy food to grow on their own. Growing these plants is encouragement to give veterans a sense of accomplishment. Deborah wants to help veterans in any way she can and is even working on a documentary to showcase what is needed and how to help veterans through difficult times when they return home. Through her volunteer work with veterans and horticulture skills, Deborah was invited to decorate the Iowa State Capitol Christmas tree in 2018 and 2019 and a Christmas tree at the White House in 2018. Deborah has spent countless hours providing produce to veterans and will continue to support those that have served our country.



Barb Westercamp - Cedar Rapids

Barb’s motto is “See the good and be the good”, which is evident through her countless hours of volunteer work. With her degree in education, she has felt the need to help youth in her community by working to improve literacy for the disadvantaged. Barb has been the local coordinator and a national advocate for Reading is Fundamental for 15 years and has been a Reading is Fun volunteer coordinator for 10 years. Since 1970, she has annually donated money to purchase new books and school supplies for Cedar Rapids area students. Staff, parents and students are all grateful for Barb and her books. For years, Barb has been involved with the Iowa Character Counts program, organized the Veterans of Foreign Wars youth essay contest, assisted with scholarships for the American Legion, served as coach for National History Day and has coordinated a Civility Workshop. Her efforts even expand beyond Iowa where she helped establish a library in an orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda. Barb is a firm believer that all youth should have access to books and be able to improve their literacy. She has been a strong advocate for youth within her community and surrounding areas.



Doug Sienknecht - Gladbrook

Doug is a man who is willing to help anyone who asks and even those who don’t. As a retired farmer and employee of the Iowa Veterans Home, Doug has always found time to help those in his community. He is not only very active in his church serving as Board President, but he has also spent several years on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, helped organize Vacation Bible School and even led a group of young adults on a mission trip. Active in the Lincoln AMVETS and Auxiliary, Doug is also the Chairman of the Avenue of Flags Committee and enjoys being a member of the Gladbrook American Legion. He is a volunteer driver that gives veterans rides to doctor appointments. Doug and his son built a Free Little Library near his church so members of the community could enjoy it. Doug has also been spotted volunteering at the Iowa State Fair selling water!



Emerson Bendickson - Panora

Three years ago, at age 6, Emerson Bendickson saw an opportunity to make a difference in her community. She noticed other students were not getting milk with their school lunch because extra milk wasn’t covered under the free/reduced meal plan. Emerson wanted to make a difference for the kids in her class and took it upon herself to raise money to provide extra milk for the rest of the school year. She collected pop cans and with the help of her parents, started a GoFundMe page. The Panora community supported Emerson’s project. She raised enough money to provide extra milk for the kids in need for not only the rest of the school year, but for the following school year as well. Emerson was nominated as Citizen of the Month and graciously donated the award’s prize money to the school’s extra milk fund. At this young age, Emerson has learned the value of giving back to those in her community.



Janet and Dave Ritchie - Knoxville

This hardworking duo has made a lasting impact on the individuals in their community. Janet has been a 4-H leader, member of the Daughters of Union Veterans, the Lions Club and Iowa State Rabbit Breeders Association. Dave is a Vietnam Veteran and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3519 serving as the All-State Quarter Master. He has supported the county cemetery with mowing, maintenance and preservation. Janet and Dave are members of their church quilting group and have served on the Marion County Historical Society Board of Directors. They helped start Pioneer Days and continuously support the pancake breakfast in their community. Together, they are driven and devoted to each other and their community.



Kathy Jo Porter - Waterloo

Passion is what drives Kathy Jo Porter to work endless hours. She had a vision to create an organization that would unite community members who owned (but were not currently using) items to help care for children and individuals in foster care or adoptive situations. In 2015, Kathy Jo launched Kaden’s Kloset and has worked tirelessly to get those individuals the items that they need. Those items include things like clothes, winter coats, shoes, books, toys, blankets, book bags, baby supplies, personal hygiene products, etc.She serves an average of 400+ children every year and even launched the Kaden’s Kloset Christmas Wonderland where each child in the Waterloo foster care system receives a pair of socks, underwear, pajamas, small gift, large gift, book, stocking, blanket and a stuffed animal. Kathy Jo’s nominator shares that she is the epitome of Iowa’s values and she demonstrates this daily through Kaden’s Kloset.



Bonnie Wood - Pocahontas

Bonnie has been an un-daunting advocate for Pocahontas for decades. She isn’t afraid to step up, get involved and put her community first. As the retired business owner of Quilting on Main, she has devoted her time to other community projects and organizations including the Pocahontas Chamber of Commerce, Pocahontas Women’s Club, volunteering often at the Rialto Theatre and leading Main Street Stitchers. Bonnie saw an opportunity for enhancements to her community through the Elbert Park Improvement project, adding a new playground and trail to the town. Through her work, she has been described as a “catalyst volunteer” because of her positivity, organization and passion for the Pocahontas community.



Amy Ryan - Forest City

Amy Ryan has dedicated her life to making a difference in her community. One of Amy’s biggest passions is her volunteer work as Race Director for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation where she has hosted and coordinated 5K remembrance runs/walks for firefighters/veterans. She has helped raise $75,000 for the Foundation. Amy has also helped put together Soldier Boxes, care packages for the military, every year. In addition, Amy has worked hard bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to her community. She has a goal to raise enough money for every child in town to receive a free book to read each month. Amy has a strong passion for youth in the Forest City community. Amy was described as being dependable in her nomination and that is evident through her involvement on the app “Be My Eyes”. The app allows her to video chat and provide visual assistance to blind and low vision people.



Jeannine Liljedahl - Essex

The community members of Essex look up to Jeannine Liljedahl. She proves that she has generosity in her soul and makes a great impact on those around her. With a passion for food security and inclusivity, Jeannine has shown that through her kindness and assistance, the Essex community is a better place. For 20 years, she has volunteered to meet unmet food needs of people in the areas surrounding Essex through her work with the Community Food Pantry. She is also the co-founder and director of the Little Red Wagon where meals are delivered to homebound residents in Essex. She manages approximately 100 volunteers and serves up to 2,000 meals every year. Jeannine also assists her community by serving as a board member for Southview Village for low rent housing, is an active Foundation member and gift shop volunteer at the Shenandoah Medical Center, and is a part of numerous local organizations including PEO (a women’s scholarship organization), the Shenandoah Book Club and the Essex Study and Service Club. Jeannine’s list of involvement goes on and her community feels blessed by her perseverance and work.



Arilyan Steenblock – Panora

As a junior in high school, Arilyan did her part to help with an issue many young women encounter at some point, finding themselves in need of a feminine hygiene product but not having one on hand. To help solve this issue, she started “Blessing Boxes”. These boxes are stocked with needed products in the girl’s bathroom at her school. Between using some of her own money to keep these boxes filled, and soliciting donations, Arilyan is determined to help with this on-going issue.



LaVerne Quass - Ankeny

LaVerne is committed to giving back to his community. This is evident from his 20 years of volunteering for Life Serve Blood Center. LaVerne has transported blood to hospitals all over Iowa and into Nebraska as a volunteer driver. He continues to volunteer 25 hours a week at the age of 86.   He is also highly involved in his church. LaVerne is a loyal and helpful friend, graciously aiding his friends with their appointments and outings. 



Nelda Bartels – Lytton

Nelda is known as the “energizer bunny”. She leads the designing of the face of her town; including the welcome signs as well as the plants she maintains each summer. Nelda continually volunteers to take photos for the annual Lytton Gala Days Celebration. She can be found attending local sporting events as one of the biggest fans. Nelda coordinates activities each year for the Sunday school kids. It’s safe to say that she loves her small town and the great state of Iowa.



John Keeney - Carlisle 

John has been the treasurer for the Warren County Agricultural Association for 15 years as well as a member of the Board of Directors. He has also served as the vice president on the Warren County Fair Association for 15 years. John is a member of the VFW and American Legion. He was a 4-H leader for 16 years along with his 18 years of serving on the Extension Council and Youth Committee. John is an inspiration for his service and dedication to many different organizations in his community. 



De Heaton – Corning

De averages more than 30 hours a week serving her community through her work at the Corning Opera House as the Executive Director. She oversees maintenance of the building, writes grants and makes sure that entertainment is family friendly. De is a strong advocate for music education and experience. She facilitates many youth activities such as the children’s musical, “Tea Parties”, the annual Polar Express Celebration as well as planning educational activities for students on “early out” days.



Emma Miller - Goodell

At ten years old, Emma was with her grandmother at the local cemetery paying their respects to family and close friends by decorating headstones. Emma noticed there was a large tree limb on one of the gravestones. She called her grandpa and he brought tools to help her clean up and make repairs to the area. Emma took initiative and decided to continue this as a community service project. Throughout the last two years she can be found decorating, repairing or cleaning old grave sites in the cemetery. 



Ron Stutsman – Riverside

Ron is the face of his community. He has served as Chairman of the Board for the Sharon Center United Methodist Church, President of the Iowa 4-H Foundation, and President of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. Ron makes himself (as well as his resources) available whenever needed to his community. He has served on the Hills Bank and Trust Board of Directors, President of Goodwill Industries of SE Iowa and is a member of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce Board.



Arleen Starman – Burlington

After losing her husband when he was in hospice care, Arleen was called to help others going through the same thing. She understood what the families were feeling allowing her to help them in a way nobody else could. Arleen healed others as she healed herself through her 3,247 hours of volunteering with hospice over fifteen years. Arleen is well known and loved around her community because of her 27 years of being the middle school secretary. She makes it a point in her life to make everyone feel special.



Bev Michael - Cedar Falls 

Since 1994, the Sartori Memorial Hospital has recorded 6,250 volunteer hours that Bev has contributed. She has managed the gift shop, coordinated blood drives and chaired the teen volunteer committee. Bev has served as the president of the Hospital Auxiliary, held a seat on the Iowa Hospital Auxiliary Board and co-chaired the Sartori Festival of Trees fundraiser for a number of years. She volunteers with the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, Cedar Falls Visitors and Tourism Bureau, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Waterloo Center of the Arts, and Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce.



Elsie Van Beek – Maurice

As a 15 year old, Elsie has a strong passion for recognizing and thanking veterans. She successfully raised $85,000 through selling cupcakes and soliciting donations to sponsor 83 veterans on an Honor Flight. The veterans had the opportunity to see Arlington National Cemetery along with other special memorials: a day they will never forget. Elsie volunteers with Wreaths across America, Midwest Honor Flight, Key Club (community service organization), Maurice Youth Group and is a junior member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit.