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 $195 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.

Spring is Here!

March 27, 2023
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Woah, time has been flying by, and spring is finally here! These past few weeks have been so much fun at the Foundation and getting started on projects and preparation for the Fair. I have been able to start on many projects and responsibilities that I will be handling throughout the spring, summer, and Fair; one being merchandise.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation has a variety of merchandise ranging from apparel, books, games, keepsakes, and so much more! Through this internship, I will be helping assist with all things merchandise, which can be seen through packaging and shipping orders, creating and updating a merchandise manual for volunteers, organizing the new 2023 merchandise coming in for the Fair, and many more tasks. This responsibility has been so much fun, and I cannot wait for all the new merchandise to come!

Merchandise is great to have as a way to have part of the Fair with you all year round, and they make great gifts for everyone! Speaking of great gifts, wouldn’t it be so cool to have a surprise in your Easter baskets this year with something special from the Iowa State Fair? There are many items the Foundation offers that would be fantastic to add to an Easter basket this year to bring a smile to your children’s, grandchildren’s, sibling’s, niece’s, or nephew’s faces and start the excitement early for the Fair. Some fan favorites with the kids are the famous butter cow stuffed animal, Fairfield & Friends: Ribbon Quest children’s book, the Go Fish playing cards, the ‘It’s a Fair’ board game, and chocolate chip cookie and butter cow socks. You can check out and purchase all these items by ordering online at, calling the Foundation’s office at (515) 262-3111 Ext. 371, or stopping by the office. We are located on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in the Earth Home (under the wind turbine, by the Cultural Center and Fun Forest). We are open Monday – Friday from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Taking on this responsibility has taught me so much and has been a great opportunity to tackle it. I hope you get to enjoy some of these fantastic merchandise items. Who knows, maybe you will have a special surprise in your Easter basket this year!

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- Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern 

Meet the 2023 Public Relations Intern: Macy Loecke

March 21, 2023
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Hello, my name is Macy Loecke and I am the Foundation's 2023 Public Relations Intern! I am thrilled to get to work and see the fair from a diferent aspect. Most of all, I am excited to meet and interact with some awesome Iowans and fair-goers. Currently, I am a senior at Iowa State University where I am majoring in Agricultural Communications and minoring in Public Relations. I will be graduating next December and following graduation I plan to obtain a career related to Agricultural Marketing and Communications. I am happy to be a part of such a great team, and hope to gain lots of valuable skills! 

Throughout my time at Iowa State, I have been involved in various clubs and organizations such as Collegiate 4H, Block and Bridle, the Agricultural Business Club and PAS. These organizations have helped me to meet some wondeful people and build many great connections as well as my professional portfolio. In my free time, you can find me hanging out with my family or animals as I am a big animal lover. 

I grew up in Northeastern Iowa and graduated from West Delaware in Manchester, Iowa. I was involved in track, cross country, golf and student council. I was also involved in 4H, FFA and county council where I discovered my passion for agriculture through exhibiting beef and swine at the county and state fair. I have been lucky enough to attend the fair every year since I was a little girl and it holds many special memories. I am so happy to be back and hope to give back to an organization that gave so much to me! 

Jumping Right In!

March 20, 2023
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What a week it has been! With only a week here so far, I have jumped right into many projects regarding all things Fair! Being an avid Fairgoer, I thought I knew so much about the Fair already, but I was completely wrong! I knew all about the food, exhibits, and attractions, but not all of the hard work put in behind the scenes!

So far, I have jumped into projects from writing blog posts, creating magazine advertisements, and obtaining so much information about my position, the Foundation, and the Fair overall. It has been so much fun getting to know everyone and learning more about the Fair!

Currently, I am working on creating a magazine advertisement for the “Back the Barns” fundraising campaign that will be published in an issue of the Livestock Plus Inc. The Iowa State Fair livestock barns as a whole will undergo a major $25 million renovation starting this spring. This new fundraising campaign will support the project. Each structure will have dedicated restorations in areas that are vitally needed such as roofing, flooring, electrical, restrooms and tuckpointing. I have been able to gain a great understanding of this fundraising campaign while also being able to be creative in making the advertisement. Being able to gain new skills and strengthen the ones I possess has been a great experience so far!

I am grateful to be helping out with the campaign because I was a youth in agriculture who found their love for the industry by showing livestock at the Iowa State Fair. This campaign resonates close to my heart, and I am so glad to have the opportunity to advocate for helping youth in agriculture. The “Back the Barns” campaign is great as it pushes towards helping the youth in agriculture and the Fair. If you would like to become a member and donate to the “Back the Barns” campaign, you can donate online at or call the Foundation’s office at (515) 262-3111 Ext. 371. 

The past week has been so much fun getting to dive into the start of this internship! I am so excited to get started on more projects and preparation for the Fair! I cannot wait to see what the rest of the spring and summer hold!

- Faith Kuehl, Business Relations Intern

Meet the 2023 Donor Relations Intern: Regan Freland

March 17, 2023
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Hello! My name is Regan Freland and I am the 2023 Donor Relations Intern for the Foundation this summer! I cannot begin to describe how excited I am to get started and be able to take part in the Fair from a different perspective. The Iowa State Fair has always held a special place in my heart. I grew up showing dairy cattle here at the Fair. My family and our cattle were also a part of Boulevard of Dairy Breeds. Since then, I have stayed active at the Fair by coordinating volunteers and helping run the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit. You can also find me in the cattle barn working night line for families; staying up all night long tending to the cattle’s needs.

 I graduated high school from PCM, Monroe where I was active in basketball, softball, track, FRC SHY, National Honor Society, Student Government, FFA, FCA, and Big Student Little Student. I am now currently a junior at Iowa State University, but I am planning to graduate in December! I am majoring in communications with a focus in marketing and public relations. On campus, I am a part of the communications studies club. I also work part time at American Eagle as a brand ambassador. Before transferring to ISU to focus on my studies, I was a member of the Simpson College women’s basketball and track team. This past summer, I was honored with the opportunity to play on the D3 Team USA basketball team where I competed in Brazil. 

 I am excited for this opportunity to help plan and organize the events that make the Fair possible. I am also grateful for the opportunity to learn and gain skills along the way. Most of all, I am looking forward to all of the wonderful people I will get to meet and make a connection with. Throughout the summer, I will keep you updated on the latest news here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation!

Meet This Year's Business Relations Intern, Faith!

March 14, 2023
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Hello Hello! My name is Faith Kuehl and I will be the Business Relations Intern for this summer! I am super excited to dive deeper into all of the behind the scenes hard work put into making the Fair so successful. I am currently a sophomore at Iowa State University where I am majoring in Agricultural Business and Marketing with a minor in Finance. With this wide range of academics and degrees, I have been able to take many different classes with different focuses to cover all my favorite interest areas! Looking ahead to the future, I am wanting to obtain a career within Agricultural Marketing, and this internship will help me in so many ways to sharpen and obtain new skills that will benefit me in the future.

At Iowa State currently I try to be involved as much as I can, as there are many organizations I am a part of. I am currently a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassador, a member of the Agriculture Business Club, am currently serving as the treasurer of the professional agriculture sorority of Sigma Alpha, and am an Agricultural Business peer mentor for the Department of Economics. Through all of these organizations I’m able to advocate for an industry that has given me so much and give back to the community of Iowa State. With all of these extracurricular activities, I sure stay busy up at school, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I grew up on a small, rural farm just outside of Woodward, Iowa, where my family owns and operates a diverse agriculture operation which ranges from growing and harvesting corn and soybeans, baling, trucking, and farm tile drainage. Growing up, I was also fortunate enough to be able to show cattle through 4H through my county fair and the Iowa State Fair. This is where I found my love for the fair! My family and I have been coming to the fair each and every year for as long as I can remember. We love to try all the new foods, see all of the livestock exhibits, and everything the fair has to offer! I am looking forward to this spring and summer and getting to be a part of the best State Fair around!

Book Festival featuring Iowa State Fair

March 3, 2023
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2023 DSM Book Festival: Baking Blue Ribbons at the Iowa State Fair

Have you ever attended the Iowa State Fair and marveled at all the food contests? How would you like to enter your own favorite recipes? 

During the upcoming DSM Book Festival, join the panel of culinary experts for everything you need to know about Iowa’s #1 in the nation state fair food department. Authors Kay Fenton Smith and Carol McGarvey will share highlights from their new book, Baking Blue Ribbons. They will be joined by state and national food competitors and judges with tips on how to bake your way to the top. Plus, they’ll have samples to share! 

The panelists have won awards for everything from pies and cinnamon rolls to triple layer cakes and bacon mac and cheese. 

  • Dianna Zaiger Sheehy began entering pies at the Fair in the 1970s. She has competed in national baking championships from coast to coast. Today, she is a top food judge. Her pie workshops are a fan favorite at the Elwell Family Food Center.  
  • Brian Keul has been called the “King of Cakes.” He is known for creating new twists on the classics with unique flavors and decorating techniques. Brian is proof that many of Iowa’s best bakers are men.    
  • Brooklynn Sedlock is an up and coming youth chef who never backs down from a challenge. She began competing at the age of 4 and has won countless ribbons. She’ll share advice for all ages along with one of her favorite events for kids—The Ugly Cake Contest.  
  • Iowa State Fair Food Superintendent Pat Berry will be the special guest to answer your questions on how to enter any of the 650+ individual food contests at this year’s Fair.           

The "Baking Blue Ribbons" panel will be on Saturday, March 25 during the DSM Book Festival from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at Capital Square in downtown Des Moines. 

Buy your copy of the book before the festival from the online State Fair Store. You can also purchase merchandise at our office. We are located on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in the Earth Home (under the wind turbine, by the Cultural Center and Fun Forest). We are open Monday – Friday from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Volunteer Opportunity

February 28, 2023
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Save the Date: This year’s Corndog Kickoff will be Saturday, July 8 in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building.

The most important aspect of the Corndog Kickoff is the auction. Since the event started in 1997, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been able to offer attendees many unique packages for bidding. Funds raised from the Corndog Kickoff go right back into Fairgrounds renovation projects – including those small bathroom upgrades, sidewalk repairs and even large scale improvements for Fairgoers.

This is where you come in! The Blue Ribbon Foundation would like your help to generate new ideas for one-of-kind packages and turn those ideas into reality. We are holding a Corndog Kickoff Auction Committee Meeting on Thursday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. at our office. If you love the Iowa State Fair and are comfortable talking to people, this would be an easy task for you. Robin Taylor, Blue Ribbon Foundation Assistant Director, will be holding the meeting to highlight more about the Corndog Kickoff Auction Committee.

If you have the slightest interested in volunteering, you are encouraged to attend. Robin will explain the committee and answer any of your questions. If you have some spare time and wondering how to get involved in the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts, this is a good place to start. The Corndog Kickoff couldn’t happen without individuals who volunteer. We hope you find volunteering with us a rewarding experience.

Please email Robin or call 515-262-3111 Ext. 373 for more details about the Corndog Kickoff Auction Committee Meeting. 



Pictured Above: Corndog Kickoff volunteers putting together auction packages they helped create. 

Corndog Checkoff

February 17, 2023
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The 2023 Iowa State Fair theme is “Best Days Ever”! Would you agree that some of your “Best Days Ever” might have been experienced at the most important celebration of the year - the Iowa State Fair? With your dedication attending the Fair, you probably have many days you didn’t think could get much better!  

Since 1854, the Iowa State Fair has been a critical piece of our rich history – a true reflection of the state’s culture, industries, and quality of life. The Fair is committed to both maintaining the traditions Fairgoers love and generating improvements that make it the place to be in August for both first-time and hundredth-time Fairgoers alike. When the Fair thrives, our state thrives and we all enjoy some of the best days ever.

Only at the Fair can you… watch a concert, win a ribbon, arm wrestle, spot a mullet, ride a giant slide, sheer a sheep, eat a deep fried Oreo, throw a cow chip and pay your taxes.

Tax paying? What! There are hundreds of experiences that you can only find at the Iowa State Fair. While we are months away from August, during this tax season you can help keep the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds in top-notch condition by donating to the Corndog Checkoff.

The Corndog Checkoff allows Iowans to make charitable contributions to the Blue Ribbon Foundation when filing state taxes. When completing an Iowa tax form, look for “State Fair” and simply fill in the desired donation amount. If receiving a refund, the amount of your donation will be automatically deducted. If taxes are owed, simply add the donation to the amount you send in to the Department of Revenue.

Thanks for your donation! You can help the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s fundraising efforts by sharing this opportunity. The more people aware of the Corndog Checkoff, the more people will donate. 

Back the Barns Fundraising Campaign

February 9, 2023
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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. Each structure will have dedicated restoration in areas that are vitally needed such as roofing, flooring, electrical, restrooms and tuckpointing to name but a few.

“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.   

The Blue Ribbon Foundation received an initial $5 million donation from the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation to kick-start the renovation project.  Jeff and Deb Hansen and Iowa Select Farms have committed $2 million specifically for the Swine barn portion of the renovation. The Foundation will also receive $12 million from the state’s “Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.”

Please back our barns renovation by joining this campaign to enhance the Fairgoer experience for years to come. Members of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s “Back the Barns” campaign are those generous donors who have pledged $1,000 per year for 3 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 commemorate your investment.

It’s a mutual support program – we’ll help hold up your pants; you'll help hold up our roof.

  • Your membership can be paid in many ways
    • A one-time $3,000 gift
    • An annual gift of $1,000 for a 3 year term
    • Quarterly gifts of $250 for a 3 year term

These belt buckles don’t just represent the rich agriculture heritage of Iowa but are a symbol of your generosity in supporting the next generation of 4-H and FFA youth that will lead our state.

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 -  Join Today!

Work in Progress

February 1, 2023
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation is looking for the final 3 donors to join the 2023 T.A.G. Team. These 3 individuals will make an immediate, positive and direct impact on our historic Fairgrounds by tackling a smaller renovation project. These last 3 generous Iowa State Fair enthusiasts will complete our group of 100 and $25,000!

Money raised from the 2023 T.A.G. Team will be used to renovate the north and east exterior doors of the Agriculture Building. The very talented carpenter in the ISF maintenance department is already making progress on the new doors.

The updated doors will be detailed with proper craftsmanship to match the historic style. Each custom door will be engineered for function and longevity, following accessibility guidelines. The new doors will enable better security and provide weather-proofing to fix previous issues of large gaps and easy to pop locks. 

For a $250 donation, only 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.

Please consider joining our T.A.G. Team so Together we can Accomplish our Goals. Donate today

Thank you to these donors that have supported our mission:

Paul and Crystal Abbe
Blake Anderson
Ernie and Paula Barnes
Darrell and Lynda Bauman
Dustin and Chris Beener
Craig and Shellie Benson
Randy and JoAnn Berry
Michael and Karla Blanchard
Frank and Nancy Bodine
Lynn and Elaine Bohling
Mary Boysen
Ronald and Joyce Brewster
Joe and Bonnie Buman
Jill Byerly
Kenneth and Linda Cairns
Melanie Carmichael
Gary and Cynthia Cheney
Donna Clark
Philip and Caren Clevenger
Don Corrigan
Jeff and Meg Courter
Daniel Cretors
Paul and Kiki Curtis
Erik Davis
Doug and Heather Den Adel
Dale and Susan Derscheid
Gary Dinsdale
Kelly and Dave Donato
Douglas and Patty Dyar
Mark and Tammy Ebensberger
Rachel and Zach Eubank
Jeff and Vickie Farver
Colene Ferrin
Kay Eker Finders and Gordon Finders
Larry and Sandra Fleck
Tracy Forbes
Richard and Beth Frank
Michael and Ann Gersie
Jim and Kathy Gocke
Bill and Marilyn Grochala Gorham
Alan and Lisa Hagie
Becky Hauser
Joe Hintzsche
Skip Hitchcock
Zane Hoffman
Allen and Wanda Holm
Melinda Huisinga
Donald Irwin
Julianna Kasper
William and Sarah Keel
Kenneth Kessler
Michael and Anne Long
Penny Lorey
Lori Malone
Larry McConnell
Rollie and Patty McCubbin
Andrew McDowell
Judi Mireles
Jason and Cara Morse
Ken Morse
Tony Mudderman
Patrick Nepereny
Sheldon and Elizabeth Ohringer
Doug and Marcy Ostrander
Lori Pearson
Dixie Pencil
Stephen and Patricia Peters
Stuart Peterson
Matt and Anna Pilcher
Gary and Bobbi Port
Dennis Prather
Howard Rescot
Brooks Reynolds
Martin and Jo Reynolds
Tricia Rosendahl
Kevin Schlutz and Linda Martin
Jon and Laura Scoles
Sherry Sears
Shannon Shepherd
Bruce and Linda Simonton
Mike and Janet Sinclair
Cindy Spiker
Glenn and Ginger Sterk
Gary and Lisa Stump
Adam and Aundrea Suntken
Bret and Beth Jensen Thies
Tindle Family
Chuck and Kathy Van Dike
Jeff and Shelley Wangsness
Kelsey Warfield
Dave Windisch
Gary and Sandi Yates
The Yedlik Family
Eric Youngberg and Gary Krogh
Rod and Deborah Zeitler
Ronald and Mary Beth Zelle
Louie and Deb Zumbach

Progress Pictures:

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