Back the Barns

As we all know, livestock shows are a huge part of the Iowa State Fair. They provide youth with the opportunity to compete and showcase their skills, as well as entertainment to Fairgoers. At my first Fair, I remember walking through the barns and being amazed at the skill and hard work of the 4-H and FFA members. Now as an intern, I’ve learned even more about what goes into getting those spaces ready for the Fair – from the physical upkeep and renovations to the hard work from the livestock exhibitors. I’ve also enjoyed hearing stories from Chloe (public relations intern), and Jayce (business relations intern), who both have a history in showing animals at County and State Fairs.

The “Back the Barns” campaign supports youth in agriculture just like my fellow interns. It also makes it possible to host other events in the barns such as the Beef Expo and Open Show. This $25 million renovation project on the Cattle, Horse, Sheep and Swine Barns began in 2023 and has already shown great progress. Each barn, all built in the early 1900’s, will receive necessary renovations such as new roofing, lighting, flooring, painting, and more. Currently, the Sheep Barn is undergoing its second phase of renovations. Come Fair time, you will notice many updates such as a refurbished east entry, wood deck & masonry repair, new roofing, interior painting, as well as new restrooms and offices.

Future updates to the barns include: electrical improvements, Wi-Fi, and fire protection/sprinkler systems and some new HVAC systems.

Enough talk about the future; let’s talk about what we can do right now to get involved. Members of the “Back the Barns” campaign are generous donors who have pledged $1,000 a year for 3 years in support of our mission. Each gift goes directly towards the future renovations of the State Fair’s historic livestock barns. Membership may be paid in one of these three 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

Here’s the best part: members of “Back the Barns” each receive a special belt buckle to celebrate your investment in our mission. These unique belt buckles serve as a symbol of your part in supporting the next generation of 4-H and FFA youth that will lead our state. In addition to the buckle, your name will be displayed on a donor recognition plaque once the project is complete. 

A special thank you to those donors who have joined the campaign:

Greg & Andrea Abel

A-O-K Family Farms Inc.

Jerry & Florida Arthur

Ernie & Paula Barnes

Darrell & Lynda Bauman

Larry & Kathy Beaty

Richard & Sharon Bender

Joel & Kirsten Bobb Family

Dean & Jill Borgman

In memory of Gary “Yogi” Braet

Terry & Chris Branstad

Alan & Deb Brown

Gene & Betty Burgett Family

In Memory of Roger Caltrider

Jeff Chelesvig

Bill & Ange Clark Family

Phil & Caren Clevenger

Tom & Sonya Colvin

Peter & Mary Cownie

Matt & Brandy Crawford

Paul & Kiki Curtis

Joel & Sandy Dieleman Family

Justin & Cara Dix Family

Alice Draper

Peter & Nancy Dyson


Fagle Farms

Falvey Family

Jeff & Vickie Farver

Brian & Jen Feldpausch Family

Richard & Mary Feldpausch Family

Tim & Phyllis Fevold

Randy & Vikki Fischer

Larry & Sandra Fleck

Tracy Forbes

Randy & Bonnie Forburger

John & Jane Frimml

Mike Gaul Family

Eric & Tara Gerdes Family

Michael & Ann Gersie

Get Families Back to Work

Bill & Marilyn Grochala Gorham

Adam & Katie Goshorn Family

Beth Grabau

Kathryn Griffin

John & Barb Hagie

Michelle Harland & Silas Harland

Danny Hartgers & Family

Hawk Angus Cattle Co.

Brent & Renee Highfill

David & Kathryn Houston

John & Shirleen Huber

Dean Hunziker

Iowa Mold & Engineering, Inc.

J.W. Welding, Inc.

James & Ashley Johnson Family

Tom & Robin Jurgens

Doug & Jessemynn Kanis

David & Irene Kasal

Julianna Kasper

Bill & Sarah Keel

Kenneth Kessler

Kollmorgen, Schlue & Zahradnik, P.C.

James Kopel

Gary & Diane Laabs

Perry & Darlene Lamp Family

Mike & Carri Lauterbach

AJ & Kim Lewis Family

Jean Lyle

Brian Machan

Brad & Mary Manatt

Larry McConnell

Rollie & Patty McCubbin

In Memory of Harley De McDonald

Doug McKechnie

Douglas & Regina Milroy

Andy & Kerri Minor

Patrick Nepereny

Pete & Brenda Petersen

Craig & Lori Peterson

Plum Creek Angus

Ronald & Mary Esther Pullin

Martin & Jo Reynolds

Bob & Mary Ritz

In Memory of Wilber & Coleen Robson

Bob & Lynne Schueler

Russ & Christy Schwartz Family

Jon & Laura Scoles

Sherry Sears

Keith & Barb Sexton

Don & Jennifer Slagle

James & Vista Smid

Glenn & JoAnn Smith

Ray & Jan Smothers

David & Mary Steele

Glenn & Ginger Sterk

David & Judy Stewart

Stockman's Inn

Adam & Aundrea Suntken

John & Teri Sweeney

Bret & Beth Jensen Thies

C.W. & Kay Thomas

Kent & Marcy Thomas

Travis Thomas

Donald & Cheryl Timmins

Jerry & Sandy Urfer

Gary & Judy Van Aernam

Ronald Van Genderen

Dennis Walker

Jeff & Shelley Wangsness

Jason & Melissa Wehrle

Bonnie Wetzel

James & Carolyn Wilkins

Edward Wollner

Norm & Marj Wonderlich

Yedlik Family


Your generosity directly supports the future of our livestock barns and every purpose they hold. If you’d like to become a member of Back the Barns, you may donate online at Back the Barns Campaign - Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation ( or call the Blue Ribbon Foundation at 515-262-3111 Ext. 371. 


-Lauren McCullum