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 $200 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.

Don’t Miss Out!

April 12, 2024
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As we are already halfway through April, we can officially say the end of the school year is in sight and the weather is continuously getting warmer! However, this also means that the deadline for our T-Shirt Design Contest is also approaching! With the deadline being May 1st, you still have a couple weeks to enter one of your original designs for a chance to have your design chosen to serve as one of the t-shirts sold at the 2024 Iowa State Fair. This is a contest for everyone and can serve as a fun way to spend your day with family and friends!

Entering in this contest can also come with some prizes if you place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. The prizes listed below will allow you to upgrade your Iowa State Fair experience and may even allow you to get an extra bucket of chocolate chip cookies!

  • 1st Place
    • Your T-shirt design is produced and sold at the Iowa State Fair
    • 2 T-shirts, 2 Gate Admission Tickets, 2 Fair Value Packs, 2 Tickets to a Grandstand Concert of Your Choice, $50 in Food Coupons, and Parking for a Select Day of the Fair
  • 2nd Place
    • 2 Gate Admission Tickets, $25 in Food Coupons and Parking for a Select Day of the Fair
  • 3rd Place
    • 2 Gate Admission Tickets and $25 in Food Coupons

Not only does this contest bring fun and prizes, but this can also serve as a great way to give back to the Blue Ribbon Foundation. The winning design will be sold during the upcoming State Fair. All of the proceeds from the sales will go to the Blue Ribbon Foundation so that we can continue to fund renovations and upgrades on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Past projects include renovations to Pioneer Hall, the Sheep Barn, and the Ye Old Mill.

You can find a further explanation of the rules and guidelines here

You can send your designs to Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org or by mail to the following address:

                Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation
                PO Box 57130
                Des Moines, IA 50317

If you have any questions, please email Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org or call (515) 262-3111 Ext 371. This T-shirt contest gives you the opportunity to be creative, as well as truly show what the fair means to you! I really hope to continue seeing more design ideas come in as the May 1st deadline approaches. Do not miss out on this fun opportunity to put your artistic talents to the test!

What the Fair Means to Me

April 11, 2024
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As the weather finally starts to warm up, it is getting easier to believe that Fair Season is approaching! Today I wanted to dive a little more into the meaning behind the Fair as well as my experience.

While driving through the empty Fairgrounds today, I got to thinking about how in just a few months, these streets will be packed with thousands of eager Fairgoers. But what is it about the Iowa State Fair that brings in so many guests? Is it the livestock shows featuring horses and cattle? Perhaps it’s the thrill park, offering entertainment for the whole family. Or is it the delicious food, from the classic corndog to the PB&J on a stick? Personally, I believe the appeal lies in the rich history of the Fair and the way it brings a community together. The Iowa State Fair celebrates Iowa’s agricultural heritage in a unique and entertaining way for all. 

When I first came to Iowa, I never expected to experience something like the Fair. Moving from the hustle and bustle of the East Coast to the heart of Iowa came with many changes – the Fair being a very positive one.  I remember my first time seeing the famous Butter Cow. This 600 pound, life-size sculpture made from butter requires an incredible amount of talent and patience. And that’s only one part of the Fair! It’s easy to see the hard work and dedication that is put into everything that makes up the beautiful and historic Fairgrounds.

I have only been with The Foundation for a few weeks now, but it’s already been such a great experience. Each day I learn something new. I sure am excited for August, and I hope you are too!

Design the 2024 Iowa State Fair T-Shirt Today!

March 29, 2024
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Happy Friday! As we are wrapping up the month of March, it is almost time for the kick-off of our annual T-Shirt Contest! This contest is sponsored by the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and allows everyone the opportunity to show off their creative talents! Not only do you have the opportunity to create the Iowa State Fair T-Shirt, but 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners also get some special Iowa State Fair prizes!

This year’s Iowa State Fair theme, “Fair Fever” gives everyone a great opportunity to be creative and show that they have what it takes to design a t-shirt. Everyone has until MAY 1 to enter their original designs. Following this deadline, the selection committee will get to work and have the top five designs selected. The top 5 designs will then be posted to the Iowa Blue Ribbon Foundation Facebook Page for public voting. This voting will be open May 8th-14th, with the winner being announced on May 15th. The prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place include the following:

  • 1st Place
    • Your T-shirt design is produced and sold at the Iowa State Fair
    • 2 T-shirts, 2 Gate Admission Tickets, 2 Fair Value Packs, 2 Tickets to a Grandstand Concert of Your Choice, $50 in Food Coupons, and Parking for a Select Day of the Fair
  • 2nd Place
    • 2 Gate Admission Tickets, $25 in Food Coupons and Parking for a Select Day of the Fair
  • 3rd Place
    • 2 Gate Admission Tickets and $25 in Food Coupons

I personally do not think there is a better way to creatively show off what the Iowa State Fair means to you than to enter this contest. You could even spend a night doing this with your family or friends to make it even more fun!

In addition to having fun, this contest is also an excellent opportunity to support the state fair! The t-shirt design that is selected will serve as one of the Iowa State Fair T-shirts sold by the Blue Ribbon Foundation. The funds raised will go towards renovation projects in order to enhance different historic locations and features on the Fairgrounds.

For further explanation, read the rules and guidelines.

You can send your designs to Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org or by mail to the following address:

                Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation
                PO Box 57130
                Des Moines, IA 50317

If you have any questions, please email Info@BlueRibbonFoundation.org or call (515) 262-3111 Ext 371. We look forward to seeing the designs that everyone submits by May 1! You can find the design winners from last year below.

Meet the New Donor Relations Intern, Lauren!

March 28, 2024
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Hello! My name is Lauren McCullum and I am the 2024 Donor Relations Intern! I am very excited to begin my journey with the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. I am a junior at Iowa State University studying Event Management. I am also a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, where I currently serve on the executive council as the Vice President of Alumnae Relations. This role has given me the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful women and keep them involved in the sisterhood. I am a people person; I’m always open to make a new friend over a cup of coffee or some ice cream!

  The Iowa State Fair has been a fond memory for my family and me. I was born on the East Coast, but moved to Iowa in the summer of 2016. The fair was my first true Iowan experience, and I could not have asked for a better introduction to the community. From the famous cookie buckets to everything on a stick, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the fair and the role it played in making me feel at home. I am very excited to experience the fair behind the scenes as an intern this summer.

I am especially looking forward to everything I will learn in this role and the people I will meet along the way. As an aspiring event manager, I have a passion for events. The Iowa State Fair is certainly one of the greatest events that I will be lucky enough to be a part of. The experience, skills, and memories I will gain in my role as the Donor Relations Intern will be incredibly valuable.

Jumping Right In!

March 22, 2024
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If you are anything like me, you are already counting down the days until the Iowa State Fair. Well, there is only 139 days to go! Until August, I will be working on many different projects at the Blue Ribbon Foundation. One of my biggest roles within this internship is helping with all things merchandise! Not only have I already been able to jump into updating the Merchandise Manual for 2024 volunteers, but I also got a sneak peek at some of the new merchandise.

Each year, the Blue Ribbon Foundation offers a wide variety of merchandise items for purchase by those who want to have part of the Iowa State Fair with them year round. This includes items like stuffed animals, apparel, books, collectibles, games and much more. While these items make great items for yourself, they can also make excellent gifts for all of your family and friends. Whether you would like to buy a cute stuffed animal for your nephew, a hat for your dad, or a collectible item for your grandma, they are all sure to put a smile on their face!

I have included a picture below of one of my favorite merchandise items so far this year. I have already put it together and can ensure you that you will have lots of fun while putting it together. Not only does it showcase several of the Iowa State Fair ribbons, it is also double sided and includes a picture of the Iowa State Fair Horse Barn. Isn’t it nice that you can buy one puzzle, but have double the fun?

I am super excited to continue to learn and grow throughout the summer as I actively work on tasks related to the merchandise. You can purchase our Iowa State Blue Ribbon merchandise items during the 2024 Iowa State Fair or on our website at www.BlueRibbonFoundation.org. Feel free to call our office at (515) 262-3111 Ext. 371 or stop by our office with any questions. I look forward to seeing fair goers with their new merchandise soon!

Iowa Ag Week

March 19, 2024
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It’s officially “Iowa Ag Week”. This week highlights the importance of agriculture to our state, its people, economy and way of life. The Blue Ribbon Foundation knows this week can’t be celebrated without showcasing the Iowa State Fair!

For example - behind a grand champion prize given at the Iowa State Fair might just be an adolescent, learning and showcasing their hard work inside a livestock barn. These youth grow into the next generation of Iowans that make our state so special. 

The Iowa State Fair livestock barns are undergoing a major $25+ million renovation. The current Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine barns have not been renovated at this scale in the century since they were originally built and are in dire need of renovation.

Each structure has its specific area that needs renovating and ranges from roofing, flooring, electrical, restrooms, and tuck-pointing; all important aspects of keeping a livestock barn running effectively. 

The Sheep Barn is currently in its second phase of renovation with restoring the terra cotta, repairing the masonry, updating restrooms, remodeling the office, repainting the overhangs, and resurfacing the lower roof levels. Over the next several years, the Cattle, Horse and Swine barns will each be part of the renovation.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation created the “Back the Barns” fundraising campaign to give anyone passionate about youth in agriculture a chance to support this renovation project. Providing youth with exceptional facilities to compete and showcase their hard work and skills every August is central to the Iowa State Fair’s mission.

Please consider joining this renovation campaign to enhance Fairgoers and livestock exhibitors’ experiences at the Iowa State Fair for many years to come. The Iowa State Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dedicated to continuing that legacy. 

Thank you for helping us celebrate “Iowa Ag Week” during March, the Iowa State Fair in August but also EVERY DAY of the year!  The Blue Ribbon Foundation is proud to support Iowans involved in Agriculture. 

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Meet The New Business Relations Intern, Jayce!

March 12, 2024
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Hello! My name is Jayce Reed and I am the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Business Relations Intern for the 2024 summer. I am overjoyed to become part of the team as I work on several different projects that aid in the planning of the Iowa State Fair. Throughout my years, I have yet to miss an Iowa State Fair. Each year, my family and I have come for various reasons, but we have always made a point to stop by the livestock shows, grab a bucket of cookies, and browse the booths in the Varied Industries building. More recently, I have also presented my 4-H Communications projects in the Iowa 4-H Building and helped with several of the 4-H livestock shows through my role on the Iowa State 4-H Council.

I am now currently a junior at Iowa State University where I am majoring in Agricultural Business. While at Iowa State, I have been actively involved in organizations including College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassadors, Collegiate 4-H, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Council, and the Agricultural Business Club. In addition, I am a member of the AAEA Quiz Bowl Team and serve as an Agricultural Business Peer Mentor for the Department of Economics. Through these opportunities I have been able to grow personally and professionally, as well as meet many new people.

I grew up on beef cattle and row-crop operation in Albia, Iowa. While growing up, I spent a large amount of my free time in the barn or showing my swine, beef, and goat projects. I graduated from Albia High School in 2022 where I was involved in 4-H, FFA, Student Council, Academic Team, cross country, and other extra-curricular activities. Upon graduation from college, I plan to pursue a career in Agricultural Marketing. My role as a Business Relations Intern will allow me to grow and acquire new skills that will benefit me for many years into the future. I am looking forward to this summer as I work behind the scenes for the best 11 days of the year!

Corndog Checkoff

March 5, 2024
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As you file your Iowa state income taxes, don’t forget that you can support the Blue Ribbon Foundation by participating in the Corndog Tax Checkoff.

Look for State Fair on line 21 of Iowa Tax Form 1040 and "check off" as little as $1 (or more!) to help preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Your gift is either deducted from your refund or added to the amount due. Contributions to the Corndog Checkoff are fully tax-deductible.

Every dollar donated to the Corndog Checkoff is directly allocated to capital improvements. For example:

  • Last fall, Hillcrest Dorm received a new roof and this spring windows will be reglazed. FFA members who serve as Grandstand ushers reside in Hillcrest during the Fair. These improvements are small but much needed.
  • Progress will continue this spring on Ye Old Mill. The next steps include painting the whole structure, reroofing the tunnel and adding a new rock landscape in the "middle" of the tunnel.
  • The Sheep Barn renovation continues to make progress with restoring the terra cotta, repairing the masonry, updating restrooms, remodeling the office, repainting the overhangs, and resurfacing the lower roof levels.
  • While work on the Sheep Barn is slated to be completed by the 2024 Iowa State Fair, the $25+ million livestock barn restoration project will continue over the next several years with work done in the Cattle, Swine and Horse Barns.

These improvements are possible because of the contributions from Fair lovers like you. Thank you for participating in the Corndog Checkoff.

Your Iowa State Fair Moment

February 26, 2024
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What is your “Iowa State Fair Moment”? Is it the first time you attended the event? Did you meet your significate other while standing in line for a corndog? Did your babysitter take you on the Giant Slide or Sky Glider for the first time? Did you win a blue ribbon for your peach pie?

All Fair lovers have at least one, if not several flashbacks that bring a smile to their face when talking about the Iowa State Fair. For me, it’s the first time I attended a concert in the Grandstand (LeAnn Rimes). It’s camping with my best friend as she showed cattle. It’s my summer as a Blue Ribbon Foundation intern. It’s getting married in the Animal Learning Center. It’s the first time I took my daughter through Little Hands on the Farm. Just like every Fairgoer, I have MANY special Iowa State Fair memories.
 
In fact, 9,958 Iowa State Fair enthusiasts have celebrated their personal Iowa State Fair memory with a donation to the Blue Ribbon Foundation for an engraved brick. Brick inscriptions all across the Fairgrounds are unique and tell stories of people’s connections to the Fair.  Engraved bricks celebrate families, loved ones that are no longer here and truly everything people love about the great Iowa State Fair. 

All of the Giving Program options are listed on the Blue Ribbon Foundation website. The Foundation has creative ways to make a donation and leave a lasting legacy on the Fairgrounds. Gifts can take many forms and are welcome at every level. The deadline to have an item in place by the 2024 Iowa State Fair is March 31.

 

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Passion for Youth in Agriculture

February 19, 2024
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The Iowa State Fair has a legacy of hosting high-quality livestock shows. As you walk through the barns, one can’t help but notice a prominent fashion accessory: western-style belt buckles. These buckles surpass functionality to show something special about the wearer, highlighting what is meaningful to them from an accomplishment in the ring, their family history or imagery of the animals they work with. These buckles are worn with pride, showcasing who the wearer is and what they want to be.

In recognition of the pride shown by our livestock exhibitors, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation has created the “Back the Barns” campaign along with a commemorative belt buckle. The livestock barns as a whole will undergo a major $25 million renovation. The Sheep Barn is currently in its second phase of renovation while the Cattle, Horse and Swine Barns will each have dedicated restorations in areas that are vitally needed.

“Back the Barns” is a way for anyone with a passion for youth in agriculture to support the renovation of the barns on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Providing youth with exceptional facilities in which to compete and showcase their hard work and skills every August is central to the Fair’s mission. Renovation of the historic, early 20th century animal barns will give generations of Fairgoers the opportunity to continue the time-honored tradition of showing their livestock at the Iowa State Fair.

Members of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s “Back the Barns” campaign are those generous donors who have pledged $1,000 per year for three years in support of the Iowa State Fair’s historic livestock barn restoration project. And yep, you really do get a special belt buckle to celebrate your investment in our mission of preserving the Fairgrounds. It’s a mutual support program – we’ll help hold up your pants; you help hold up our roof.

In addition to your one-of-a-kind belt buckle, your name will be listed on a plaque recognizing donors when the project is complete. Your support of the barn restoration project will guarantee the tradition of showing livestock at the Iowa State Fair continues to grow year after year.

Thank you!

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