Foundation Newsletters: Now and Then

We’re already less than 50 days from the first day of the Fair. Can you believe it’s already July? Here at the Foundation, July is a busy and exciting month, with the Corndog Kickoff right in the middle and Fair preparations in full swing. July also brings another newsletter! The Summer Newsletter will highlight all things Blue Ribbon Foundation including renovations, merchandise, the Corndog Kickoff, donors, and more! You’ll also get a sneak peak at a couple new things this year: painting classes at the Fair and a Luxury Vacation Raffle. 

As we near the beginning of another Fair, it’s a perfect time to take a glance at the past. Although a lot has changed since 1994, the Foundation has had the same mission of preserving the historic Fairgrounds all along. Check out what was going on around this time ten, twenty, and even thirty years ago: 

10 years ago:

2014 was a record year for sponsorships. It also marked a milestone for a certain longtime supporter of the Foundation…

  • 65 years of a fan-favorite Fair Food stand

The West Des Moines United Methodist Church set up their first food stand at the Iowa State Fair in 1949. Featuring a homemade menu, coffee served in a china cup, and six varieties of made-from-scratch pie, it has been a favorite for many Fair-goers. Beginning as a portable stand, the now permanent booth with bar-style seating continues to be a go-to for many and a longtime supporter of the Blue Ribbon Foundation.

  • Corndog Kickoff: Rock’n Round

The 18th annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party featured a rock n’ roll theme. At this point, the event had grown to raise more than $3.1 million, collectively!

  • Donor Profile: Debra Rose

An East Coast native, Debra moved to Des Moines in the early 2000’s to continue her career in the jewelry industry. Soon after settling in, she decided to check out the Iowa State Fair and ‘see what the hype was all about’. Immediately, she was fascinated by the food, farm equipment, and livestock, and her love for the Fair became as deep as any other Iowan’s. Debra helped create the Iowa State Fair charm bracelet and still designs the unique charms every year.

20 years ago:

The year 2004 marked 150 years of the Iowa State Fair. Take a look at some highlights of that summer:

  • Corndog Kickoff: “Here’s to another 150 years!”

The 8th annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party was a milestone for the Blue Ribbon Foundation. After raising a record-setting $200,500, the 2004 Corndog Kickoff brought collective proceeds since its inception in 1997 past the million dollar mark

  • Fairgrounds Feature

Upkeep of the beautiful landscaping of the Fairgrounds has always been an important job. It’s not easy to keep those plants flourishing under the blistering sun all summer long. In 2004, Fairgrounds gardener Bob Cooper was responsible for the abundance of healthy, beautiful plants such as marigolds, zinnias, roses, and various trees. Those cheerful flashes of green, red and yellow were a perfectly added touch to the Fair.

  • Donor Profile: Margo Fox

Deemed as an “original” Blue Ribbon volunteer, Margo has been with the Foundation from the very beginning. In 2004, she was recognized for her longtime commitment to the Foundation through volunteering and raising funds. To this day, she and her husband Chris continue to be great contributors to the Foundation.

30 years ago 

The Ye Old Mill has been a beloved Fair ride since the very beginning...

  • Facelift for a Favored Boat Ride

A $100,000 commitment from Boatmen’s Bank of Iowa fueled the 1994 renovations of the Ye Old Mill. All boat canal, wood structure, and boats were replaced.

  • Grandfather’s Barn Reopening!

Grandfather’s Barn is the only remaining building from the original farmstead, purchased in 1886 as the new home of the State Fair. In 1989, the barn was closed due to dangerous amount of deterioration. However, thanks to a contribution from Vermeer Manufacturing of Pella, Grandfather’s Barn underwent a total renovation, opening back up for the 1994 Fair. Still open to this day, it hosts “The Wine Experience” at the Fair, an educational exhibit about Iowa’s growing wine industry.

  • Donor Profile: Jan Pallesen

Three hand-crocheted Afghans were made and donated by Jan Pallesen and given away in a drawing during the Fair. Mrs. Pallesen worked in the Fair Housing Booth for many years and enjoyed bringing her eight children to the Fair each year.

I find it fascinating to see what has changed over the years and what has been here since the very beginning. The Corndog Kickoff has continued to have impressive growth since hitting the million-dollar mark back in 2004, and State Fair Originals like the Ye Old Mill and Grandfather’s Barn are still going strong. 30 years from the first renovations, the Ye Old Mill recently received some more updates, thanks to donations from the 2024 T.A.G. Team. The historic building now has a new roof, refurbished boats, and an updated mechanical system. Next year, additional interior improvements will be made. You can learn more about what’s going on at the Foundation this summer in the 2024 Summer Newsletter, to be mailed this week.

-Lauren McCullum, Donor Relations Intern