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.

Volunteer Reception

July 21, 2021
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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
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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
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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)



New Murals!

July 14, 2021
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New artwork is being added to our beautiful Fairgrounds! I am very excited about this one. Four new murals are coming to the Iowa State Fair. The murals are located on an old electrical building southwest of the Varied Industries Building.  Trust me, you won’t miss it!


With there being four different murals on this building, there is something for everyone! Whether you are looking for senior pictures, photos with friends, or just something to commemorate your time at the Fairgrounds. This is a perfect for a photo shoot!


Each side offers something unique. One side is a greetings from the Iowa State Fair with a Blue Ribbon on it. Another side is representing a huge part of the Fair, the animals! There are eight special creatures on this side of the building. You will have to come to the Fair to find out what the other two are!


Thanks to a grant from the Meredith Corporation Foundation, all four side of the building will feature different aspects of the Fairgrounds. The murals are being coordinated by Liz Lidgett of Liz Lidgett Gallery + Design and Des Moines artist James Navarro.


The Liz Lidgett Gallery + Design have murals all over Des Moines. This includes art for the Blank Park Zoo, Outlets of Des Moines, Exile Brewery, Drake University, Kinship Brewery, and many others around central Iowa! They also do home design and commission pieces.


No matter if you are visiting during the Fair or just enjoying the Fairgrounds any other time of year you will be able to visit these murals. The creation of these started the first weekend in July and will be ready for you to check them out at the Fair from August 12-22!

Photo of one of the murals. 

Photo of one of the murals being painted. 

-Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern

Corndog Kickoff Silent Auction

July 1, 2021
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Last year at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, we adapted to the circumstances brought on by the pandemic and moved the annual Corndog Kickoff auction online. We were so overwhelmed with your support. This year, we are thrilled to have both the silent online auction and the original in-person live auction. Having an online option will open up bidding for an entire extra day so you will be able to see the fantastic auction packages for longer! To get started, create an account at this link to view the auction items sooner.  

This past week has consisted of moving and organizing auction items as we are just shy of a week from the Corndog Kickoff. The William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building on the Fairgrounds will soon be filled with plenty of items, people, and food. Do not miss your chance to participate and/or attend the 2021 Corndog Kickoff… Whether that is in person or online.

Here is a sneak peek on silent auction bidding items:

Wave to the crowds at the Iowa State Fair parade from a blue ribbon blue El Dorado Cadillac convertible. The parade is the evening of Wednesday, August 11 and kicks off the the 11-day Fair. Come and enjoy the Fair too with two tickets and a parking pass.

Enjoy the show by Chris Stapleton with special guest Nikki Lane on Thursday, August 19 with four tickets in Stage Section C10, Row 28, Seats 11-14. A parking pass and gate admission for four are included.

This framed pennant is a souvenir that harkens back to an early time at the Iowa State Fair. In red with white lettering and pink and blue tinted designs featuring a merry-go-round, ferris wheel and harness racing, the framed piece measures 34" x 16".


Bidding opens at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, July 9 and will close at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 10.

2021 Corndog Kickoff Details:

Saturday, July 10 6:30 p.m.

William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building

Buy Tickets Here

The Fairgrounds Beyond the Fair

June 29, 2021
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Working in the Blue Ribbon Foundation office on the Fairgrounds is a unique experience all its own. The office is located in the Earth home, nestled in the side of Expo Hill across from the Fun Forest. While this may seem like a simple, out of the way spot, I’m learning that summer time anywhere on the Fairgrounds is rarely ever quiet.

Last week the Fairgrounds hosted the National Junior High Rodeo, the week before that was the World Pork Expo and now this weekend is the Goodguy’s Car Show. While the Blue Ribbon Foundation is not directly involved in these events, our efforts in preserving the Fairgrounds are what makes it possible for outside events to occur.

Each day at work, I get the chance to see visitors enjoying the buildings, benches, and stages that we work to preserve. I had no idea how much goes on beyond the 11-Day Fair and the visitors the Fairgrounds attracts all summer long. Walking around during the World Pork Expo two weeks ago, and driving through the campgrounds during the National Junior Rodeo last week, I got a glimpse of just how many different places people travel to the Fairgrounds from. International guests regularly attend the World Pork Expo and the camping spots for the Junior Rodeo marked spaces for riders from Hawaii, Canada and across the United States. 

Each of these events bring their own flavor to the Fairgrounds in the form of new visitors, exhibitors, and general traffic. The Pork Expo required a pass for entry, the Rodeo came with hundreds of golf carts and soon the grounds will be parked full of antique cars. While a Fairground full of zooming golf carts and navigating opened and closed entry gates just to get to work can seem like a nuisance, the chance to share this place we love with so many people is well worth the hassle. Overall, it has been exciting to see all the little ways the Blue Ribbon Foundation has contributed to making these events possible and to see guests from around the globe get to discover the beauty of our Fairgrounds that we know and love.

-Kara De Bruin, Sponsor Relations Intern

2021 Merchandise

June 25, 2021
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Collecting lapel pins every year is one of the many Iowa State Fair traditions Fairgoers enjoy. As we long for the eleven days in August in our favorite place, we also can look forward to the brand new merchandise that will be offered this year by the Blue Ribbon Foundation. From charms to shirts to cups, the variety of items offered will help you commemorate the 2021 Iowa State Fair.

This past spring, the Blue Ribbon Foundation hosted a t-shirt contest on Facebook. The winning t-shirt will be available for purchase at the Fair August 12-22. “We’re Back!” and could not be more excited.

The Reichardt Family Giant Slide is celebrating its 50th Year of gracing the Fairgrounds in a new location. In addition to the anniversary of the Reichardt Family Giant Slide, we are also celebrating its brand new location. The new home for the slide is on the north side of the Walnut Center. This location will provide expanded space for riders and spectators. Display this much smaller Giant Slide on your charm bracelet along with the 2021 “How Do You Fair?” logo charm.  The past year’s charms will be available to purchase. Another item that is sure to be a Fair favorite is the multi-colored silicone cups with the Iowa State Fair logo. The famous Fair mascots, Fairfield and Rosetta, will also make an appearance on magnets.

Whether you have a green thumb or prefer visiting someone else’s patch each fall, you can show off your Iowa State Fair worthy vegetable crop by adding this Isabel Bloom pumpkin to your collection. Along with the 2020 Isabel Bloom pumpkin sculpture and annual plaque.

Each year, 600 Fairgoers prepare more than 3,400 entries to compete in the Iowa State Fair’s Fabric and Threads Department. From embroidery, crocheting and constructing clothing to the creation of 590 quilts — the attention to detail is as apparent as the amount of fun! Commemorate the sewing talent with this ornament.

With so many things to look forward to, the 2021 Iowa State Fair cannot come soon enough!

Isabel Bloom Sculpture                                2021 Giant Slide Charm



2021 Silicone Logo Cup                               2021 Giant Slide Lapel Pin


Fairfield and Rosetta Magnets 

-Gabby McCoy Volunteer Relations Intern

Iowan of the Day Deadline is Coming Up!

June 24, 2021
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The summer months in Iowa are filled with warm weather, the occasional (but very seldom) rain storm, and incredible programs and events hosted at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. A couple of the programs and events that we have been preparing for here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation include the Corndog Kickoff, volunteering at the State Fair, and the Iowan of the Day program.

July 1st is coming up soon which is the deadline for Iowan of the Day nominations. Past winners have a plethora of community involvement, volunteering, and demonstrate a strong work ethic. These attributes can be shown in the application by recommendation letters, newspaper articles, and even videos. I have greatly enjoyed reading about the incredible Iowans that have been nominated for this honor. Ten Iowans will be selected to be Iowan of the Day at the 2021 Iowa State Fair. Iowan of the Day recipients receive a prize package including:

  • $200 cash award
  • Accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Hotel Downtown
  • Four Iowa State Fair Admission Tickets
  • Four Grandstand concert tickets
  • Privilege to use the Iowan of the Day golf cart for the day
  • Introduction and award presentation on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage

If you know someone who you think could be a 2021 Iowan of the Day, nominate them today!

Link to Nominate Someone

Megan Decker, Public Relations Intern

What is going on at the Fairgrounds in June?

June 21, 2021
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Over the past weeks, the Fairgrounds have been occupied with people. Two weeks ago on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday - the World Pork Expo was taking up most of the Fairgrounds. It was wonderful to see people walking around, giving us a little taste of what the Fair is like and how busy it will be. The Varied Industries building was buzzing with people milling around and so many booths to explore.

During the World Pork Expo there was free food available, you were offered choice of pork burger or ribs, a bag of chips, and small water. Our Office got to enjoy the pork burgers and they were awesome! While walking towards the food, myself and the other interns wandered around the Fair, down the main stretch, through the Varied Industries building. Outside south of the Varied Industries building were trailers and equipment everywhere. It was so nice to get a glimpse at what the Fair will be like.

This week is the National Junior High Rodeo. They are using more of the Fairgrounds, and lots of golf carts. It has been fun to see the golf carts go by the Blue Ribbon Foundation office, as many of them are decorated with fun flags and patriotic colors. It has been very exciting to see all of the people for this event arrive on the Fairgrounds. We are interested to see what other lively things will happen this week at the Rodeo. There are so many entertaining things happening on the Fairgrounds before the Fair, but I am most ecstatic about our Corndog Kickoff. This will be my first time at the Kickoff so I am so ready to try all the Fair food and see all of our beautiful auction packages!

Have you purchased your tickets? Buy now! Join us at the event as we raise money to keep improving the historic Fairgrounds that as you can tell are busy through the entire year.

A Real Life Etsy Shop

June 17, 2021
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Food… Games… Prizes… Music… There are so many different things happening at the Corndog Kickoff, and that doesn’t even include the Auction! Over the past month, I have seen our office fill up with incoming auction items. Quilts, paintings, coffee grounds, salsa, soaps, candles and beyond have slowly taken over all available counter space. Taking pictures and sorting through this impressive mountain of items has been one of my favorite tasks so far. As someone who has not attended a Corndog Kickoff before, I had no idea the amount of donations we received or how unique many of the items can be.

Small businesses play a huge part in our state and they offer a personal touch that you can’t find just anywhere. The local talent displayed in some of these donations were too good not to share. Here is a quick peek at some of the unique items you can look for at this year’s Corndog Kickoff.

"Tweet" is a whimsical mixed media piece featuring birds, created by using pieces of sea glass, roosting on twigs. The artist is 16-year-old Reagan Peterson from Urbandale.

One thing you will not find anywhere else is Dirt Road Candle Co’s State Fair and Lemonade Stand scented Candles. These are hand poured by Michelle Myers from Lewis, Iowa and can even be recycled with a new scent when your candle runs out.

Another wonderful wall piece is "Sunset Ride" which is an original watercolor painting of the Sky Glider at sunset. This painting is by Jodie Hand, from Mrs. Hand Painted from Johnston.

Arguably, the most unique item of all were roasted crickets from Gym-N-Eat Crickets by Shelby Smith from Ames. The flavors of these cricket snacks include fiesta, buffalo ranch, hot & spicy, smoky bbq, sea salt & pepper and dill pickle. These are perfect for someone who is a more adventurous eater than I am.

Don’t miss out! The items we received from businesses both big and small, along with many individual donations will be available online this year through mobile bidding. This means you can bid on your favorite items from anywhere. Mobile bidding opens Friday, July 9th at 10:00 AM and closes the next day at 8:30PM. All bidding will take place through the GiveSmart App. Be sure to sign up early for the chance to preview all the auction packages before bidding goes live.