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.

Engraved Brick Deadline – September 15

September 14, 2021
drewnorton's picture

Did you visit the Iowa State Fair for the first time this August? Or did you win a blue ribbon in the “My Favorite Meatloaf” competition? Maybe your granddaughter showed her goat and the entire family was there to cheer her on.

Commemorate your experience with an engraved brick. A brick is the perfect way to leave a permanent legacy while supporting the renovation and preservation of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Each brick celebrates a special family memory or honors a loved one. The inscriptions are unique and creative. Staff will place engraved bricks this fall. The deadline to have your brick placed this fall is September 15. You can give a donation for an engraved brick online.

The bricks are used to complete the walkways of 15 different locations: 4-H Exhibit Building, Anne & Bill Riley Stage, Campgrounds Gate Five, Maytag Family Theatres, Elwell Family Food Center, Administration Building, Agriculture Building, Dairy Parlor, Livestock Show Pavilion, Pioneer Hall, Ye Old Mill, and the Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine Barns.

Standard bricks are available for $100. Inscription allows for up to three lines using a maximum of 14 spaces per line. Special logo bricks are available for $125. Please enclose or email a black and white copy of your business or personal logo with your order form.

Thank you for celebrating the Iowa State Fair and supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation. 

Thank You!

September 7, 2021
drewnorton's picture

The first thank you of many goes to the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s volunteers. Thank you to the 594 people that filled 1,378 volunteer shifts during the 11-day Fair. We couldn't have a successful event without your support.

Thank you for helping with merchandise, selling bottled water, assisting with Jake’s Club, BINGO…and the list goes on and on. Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteers are truly some of the best Fairgoers. Thank you!

Mark your calendar for the 2022 Iowa State Fair – August 11-21. We’d love to have you volunteer.


Did you take pictures of your crew volunteering during the Fair? Email them to us at

​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​

What's New at the Fair?

August 10, 2021
Intern's picture

The wait is almost over! In just a few days, the 2021 Iowa State Fair will be here. As we patiently wait for the fun-filled 11-days to come, here are some Blue Ribbon Foundation highlights to look forward to during your time at the Fair.

This year’s merchandise will be sold at various locations across the Fairgrounds including the Service Center, Cattle Barn, Little Hands on the Farm, Agriculture Building, Varied Industries Building and the Museum. All locations will open at 9:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM.

Below are some of the new items that will be offered at this year’s merchandise booths:

2021 T-Shirt Design Winner


Silicone Cup

2021 Pottery

Lapel Pin

Don’t be dehydrated while you are at the Fair! Our water booths are open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and can be found at the following locations:

Service Center, Cattle Barn, Agriculture Building, Riley Stage, Little Hands on the Farm, Heritage Village, Thrill Town and Thrill Ville.


As you stroll through the Fairgrounds, be sure to check out some of the newest renovations and improvements.

Sheri Avis Horner Pavilion



T.A.G. Team: Lights in the Agriculture Building ​

Elwell Family Park

With a busy Fair, here are some important events happening throughout the eleven days:

Outhouse Races: August 17 @ 2:30 PM, Grand Concourse

BINGO: August 18 @ 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Grand Concourse

Legislative Day: August 19 @ 12:00 PM, Farm Bureau Shelter House


Woodcarver’s Auction:

  • Live In-Person Auction: August 22 @ 3:30 PM, John and Emily Putney Family Cattle Barn’s Penningroth Media Center
  • Online Auction opens August 21 @ 10:00 AM and closes on August 22 @ 5:00 PM


Iowans of the Day will be honored the first ten days of the fair at noon on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage. These Iowans are recognized for outstanding service to their communities. Below are the dates and 2021 recipients:

Thursday, August 12: Joy Thiel

Friday, August 13: Kris and Steve Gunderson

Saturday, August 14: Gregg Obren

Sunday, August 15: Jody Rudolph

Monday, August 16: Julie Hitchins

Tuesday, August 17: Georgia Campbell

Wednesday, August 18: Janet Wissler

Thursday, August 19: Bill and Connie Ridgley

Friday, August 20: Carol Messer

Saturday, August 21: Barbara Kniff-McCulla


The anticipation is building up for tasty food, crazy rides, friendly faces, and fun events. We cannot wait to see you at the 2021 Iowa State Fair!

Woodcarver's Auction

August 5, 2021
Intern's picture

Have you ever wondered how you could purchase a masterpiece carved out of wood created at the Iowa State Fair? You have the chance to take one of these unique carvings home at the 2021 Woodcarver’s Auction. The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation will host this year’s auction as a hybrid with some items sold in person and other items sold online.

The live in person auction will take place the last day of the Fair on Sunday, August 22 at 3:30 PM at the John and Emily Putney Family Cattle Barn’s Penningroth Media Center. Additionally, twenty-five of the carvings will be available for online bidding starting Saturday, August 21 at 10:00 AM and closing on Sunday, August 22 at 5:00 PM. All proceeds benefit the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission of renovating the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Be sure to watch the wooden creations emerge when Keenan and Jenkins carve four times throughout each day of the Fair, August 12 -22, at 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 3:30 PM and 5:30 PM. Past carvings have included wildlife animals and sports team’s logos! The carving takes place between the First Church and Pioneer Hall.

Link to online auction:


Limited Edition T-Shirts!

July 30, 2021
Intern's picture

Don’t forget to order your exclusive Iowa State Fair merchandise! While there will be a wide variety of Fair t-shirts available at the Fair, the limited edition T-shirts are only available on the website. Get your T-shirts just in time for the Fair!

While the winning T-shirt is only available at the Fair, our online store includes the top six designs from our T-shirt design contest in May. On top of this, there are many new designs that highlight different things we love at the Fair. These designs can only be purchased on our online store.

Be sure to place your order soon to make sure it is here by the Fair. Who wouldn’t want to wear their ‘I’m gonna pop some tags’ shirt at the governor steer show? Check out this design along with many others on our online store.

Orders through the website are open until August 27. All orders will be mailed directly to your home. Check out the link below to access T-shirt store to order your famous Iowa State Fair shirts! (All shirts come in multiple color and size options)




Famous Faces

July 28, 2021
Intern's picture

A few weeks ago we had some of the Foundations’ famous faces at our Corndog Kickoff. We are thankful to team up with so many talented people to share the love of the Iowa State Fair.


In 2006, Sarah Pratt became the Fair’s fifth butter cow sculptor. Sarah had an apprenticeship with Norma “Duffy” Lyon for 15 years before she became the main sculptor. Her twin daughters now work alongside her. They became her official apprentices shortly before turning 14, the same age Sarah was when she went to work with Norma. When Sarah isn’t in the 50 degree cooler, she works as a special education teacher.

Sarah Platt

The Iowa State Fair Food Department is the largest out of any state fair in the country. There are 203 divisions, 809 classes, and over 9,000 entries. Russel Place received 2nd and now make all of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation BBQ. This will be sold at the 2021 Fair.


Russel Place

Dan Livengood, Creator of go fish game and it’s a fair game. In 2004, Dan helped create the “Fairopoly” game. The Foundation called on him again in 2009 to help create the “It’s a Fair Game.”

Dan Livengood


Karen Brockelscby is a quilter extrordaire. She is a part of the Ankeny Quilting and Sewing Circle. Karen has donated many items to our auction throughout the year. She makes the famous t-shirt that are made into pillows. She also donates quilts to the Corndog Kickoff Auction. Karen’s quilt is featured in the top row in the middle of the 2021 Ornament.


Karen Brockelscby

-Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern

New Hands on the Farm

July 22, 2021
Intern's picture

One of the most beloved attractions at the State Fair is the Andringa Family Foundation Little Hands on the Farm. This interactive exhibit has been teaching kids about life on the farm for years. Little Hands has been engaging kids and handing out those signature Pioneer hats since I was barely old enough to fit one on my own head.

The opportunity to dig in the dirt, ‘milk’ a cow, and pick up a hard-earned popsicle at the end of the route draws kids and families back year after year. This year however, has presented a new set of challenges. COVID-19 is not going to cancel the Fair this year, but it has still brought about some necessary changes across the Fairgrounds.

For the Little Hands Exhibit this looks like reducing the amount of touch points involved by introducing a new passport. Instead of having items that would constantly need to be sanitized by volunteers, kids will earn a stamp at each stop. After completing their tasks, they will still receive a snack at the general store but now they will also have their souvenir passport as a reminder of all they learned at Little Hands to take home.

New passports aren’t the only change you will see at Little Hands this year. It also gained several new sponsors including Kemps Dairy, Iowa Select Farms, Henning Construction, Renewable Energy Group, Sylvan Learning Centers and Iowa Egg Council. These new sponsors have allowed for several new upgrades to the Farm to be possible.

A brand new chicken coop, signs, and even a new milking cow are a few of the additions you will want to keep an eye out for as you make your way through the farm this year. We know change can be difficult at times and this new process may be an adjustment. However, it is always exciting to see good things become even better and for our favorite things, like Little Hands on the Farm, to be able to happen again, in a way that is safer for everyone.  


Volunteer Reception

July 21, 2021
Intern's picture

Last night the Blue Ribbon Foundation held our volunteer reception at the Oman Family Youth Inn. As the Volunteer Relations Intern it was great seeing all the volunteers I will be working with in the next few weeks, and to get to see the volunteers who were at the Kickoff again! It was incredible seeing all the people who make what the Foundation does possible.

This was one of my first big events since the pandemic shut everything done. It was both nerve-racking and electrifying to give a presentation that wasn’t on zoom to the 250 plus volunteers who were at the event. Overall, we have over 700 volunteers who help at the Fair and I am so excited to meet everyone who wasn’t able to make the reception.

At the reception we gave volunteers their materials they need for their shifts, including the 2021 volunteer T-shirt! We also enjoyed a delicious lasagna dinner made by Campbell’s and heard from Gary Slater (CEO of the Iowa State Fair), Peter Cownie (Director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation), Robin Taylor (Assistant Director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation), and Me, Gabby McCoy (Volunteer Relations Intern).

Volunteers who were not able to attend can pick up their materials in our office located in the Earth Home on the Fairgrounds. It is right across from the fun forest and the Mid-American stage. Volunteers can pick up their materials any time between 8 am and 4:30 pm Monday-Friday. The deadline to pick up materials is Tuesday July 27. All materials re  maining after this deadline will be mailed.  

At the event we had a big schedule laid out that showed all of our open shifts and we still are in need of volunteers. Our biggest needs are on weeknights and both weekends of the Fair. If you are interested in volunteering you can sign up at and view all the available shifts left.

Any questions about volunteering email me at or call 515-262-3111 Ext. 379.

- Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern


Corndog Kickoff Intern Reflection

July 19, 2021
Intern's picture

Over a week has passed since the annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Grazing Party took place in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building. The event was a huge success, breaking a previously set record by raising three quarters of a million dollars for the renovation and preservation of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Having never attending the event previously, I was extremely impressed with the time and dedication put in by the staff and volunteers to ensure the event went off without a hitch. It was also a joy to see that many people in the same room together again since the pandemic.

The four of us interns each had a role to play in the preparation, planning, and executing steps that took place for the Kickoff. Whether that was putting together silent auction packages or setting up table decorations, each detail added value to the final product. In the week leading up to the Corndog Kickoff, the Varied Industries building transform into an I SPY extravaganza for the 2,200 people in attendance.

My favorite part was seeing people flood into the area and watching them enjoy each aspect of the event. I was able to enjoy my favorite Fair food, a Cattleman’s Hot Beef Sundae, before the Iowa State Fair this year. From the variety of Fair food offered, to the exhilaration of the Live Auction, there was never a dull moment at the 2021 Corndog Kickoff.

New Fair Shirts at our Online Store

July 15, 2021
Intern's picture

Now is your chance for exclusive Fair merchandise! We always have a variety of Fair T-shirts available on our website and at our booths during the Fair, but for a limited time, we are opening an online store with limited edition designs. This is your chance to get your Iowa State Fair apparel that is unlike anyone else’s, just in time for the Fair.

Available designs include the top six designs from our T shirt contest in May. There are also several new designs, highlighting the things we love most about the Fair with both humorous and classic looks. The styles featured on the website will not be available in our booths at the Fair-with the exception of the contest winner shirts from 2020 and 2021.

Be sure to place your order soon to ensure you’ll have your new Fair T-shirt in time for the Fair itself. What is a better indicator of a true Fair fan more than wearing a T-shirt that says ‘I’m just here for corndogs and beer’ while eating your long awaited corndog at the new Iowa Craft Beer tent? Be sure the visit our online store to check out this design, and many more.

Orders through the website are open now until August 27th. All orders will be mailed directly to your home. Follow this link to access our T-Shirt Store to order yours today!

(All shirts offer multiple color and size options)