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.

2021 Iowan of the Day

May 21, 2021
Intern's picture


Help! We need to identify the next group of outstanding Iowans to be honored as Iowans of the Day at the 2021 Iowa State Fair! If you know someone in your community with strong character, a commitment to serving their community, and a love for the state of Iowa, nominate them for Iowan of the Day.

Ten individuals will be selected from across the state to receive a prize package including:
• Four Iowa State Fair admission tickets
• An introduction on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage

• Four Grandstand show tickets for their day
• Use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart for the day
• VIP parking
• Accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown
• $200 cash

The selection committee looks for candidates with volunteer service, community/youth involvement, awards/honors, and who are individuals with exceptional personal qualities. We recommend using supplemental material to showcase why your nominee is deserving of this honor. These materials can include pictures, newspaper clippings and letters of recommendation.
Make sure to fill out the nomination form with your name, the individual’s name, and references. The nomination form is attached in this blog post, or can be found on our website,

Nominations are due July 1. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at (515) 262-3111 ext. 378 or

Megan Decker, Public Relations Intern

Meet the 2021 Public Relations Intern

May 19, 2021
Intern's picture

My name is Megan Decker and I am thrilled to be serving as the 2021 Public Relations Intern for the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. I am originally from a farm near Rockwell City, Iowa where my family grows corn, soybeans, and popcorn. I have enjoyed my time at the Iowa State Fair through a variety of involvements in the Bill Riley Talent Show, FFA, and 4-H.

I am a sophomore at Iowa State University, majoring in Agriculture & Society with minors in both General Business and Journalism. Prior to college, I worked in the Iowa State Capitol as a legislative senate page and an intern in the Office of the Governor. At Iowa State, I currently serve as the Student Body Vice President and am a member of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassadors,Salt Company, Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and work as a fitness instructor. I have a deep rooted passion for the state of Iowa so I greatly appreciate the ability the Iowa State Fair has to bring a variety of talent, activities, and people together.

The 2021 Iowa State Fair will be here before we know it! From devouring Fair food, to enjoying a concert, or looking at incredible projects displayed from talented Iowans, August is going to be a wonderful time to see people flood into Des Moines once again for this annual tradition. I am most looking forward to having a part in recognizing incredible Iowans through the Iowan of the Day Program, and gaining a whole new perspective of what it takes to put on the Fair.

-Megan Decker

A New View

May 14, 2021
Intern's picture

It has been a month since I started my internship with the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. I was so excited to start working! What an experience it has been!  Being an avid fairgoer, I thought I knew all about the Iowa State Fair and all it has to offer. Well I was wrong. There is so much more that happens behind the scenes to maintain and restore our beautiful Fairgrounds.
One of my larger tasks right now is coordinating brick orders from donors. It has been so wonderful reading the inscriptions people have thoroughly thought out before placing an order. There are some amazing and heartfelt brick inscriptions that share a very nice message or commemorate a loved one. Placing a brick on the Fairgrounds shows how much the Iowa State Fair means to them or meant to a family member.  Our brick program is a wonderful way to leave a little piece of your Fair experience for posterity.
Another task I have been working on is the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party. Entering patrons and creating lists and spreadsheets to make sure everything is in order for the event on Saturday, July 10th.  I am so excited to help pull together the Corndog Kickoff and be part of the sneak peak of the Fair. And I am more than ready to sample all the food that will be offered!
I personally love the Iowa State Fair and it has been amazing to see how much people love the Fair and how it’s a big part of their family tradition and favorite memories.

-Reegan Den Adel


T-shirt Voting

May 10, 2021
Intern's picture

Let the Voting begin! Out of 47 designs submitted the selection has been narrowed down to six. Check out the top designs and select your favorite by voting with a Facebook “Like”. Voting will be open through May 17th. The winner will be announced on May 18th.

The top three places will receive a prize package.
1st Place
- Your shirt design is produced to sell at the Iowa State Fair
- 2 t-shirts, 2 gate admission tickets, 2 Fair Value Packs, 2 tickets to the Grandstand concert of your choice, $50 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
2nd Place
- 2 gate admission tickets, $25 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair
3rd Place
- 2 gate admission tickets and $25 in food coupons

Make sure to vote and share so others can vote too. Click here to access our Facebook page.



Retaining Wall Updated!

April 28, 2021
drewnorton's picture

The dirt is flying at the entrance of the Blue Ribbon Foundation! A new retaining wall and fence are being installed. The current wall, constructed of railroad ties was installed back in the 1980s.They were showing the passage of time, as all wood tends to do. With a wonderful donation from Lawn Ranger Lawn & Landscaping, the old railroad ties will be replaced with a sturdier landscaping block to support our foundation for many years to come!

Work started on Tuesday with the removal of the wooden fence and railroad ties. Next, they prepared the base, ensuring that the Blue Ribbon Foundation has a strong and sturdy foundation for the block wall. By the end of the week, the transformation was complete, awaiting only a new fence to finalize our office design. The new wall looks fantastic! When you enjoy the Fair this August, make sure to check it out!

Located in West Des Moines Lawn Ranger Lawn & Landscaping was established in 1998 by Mark Pedersen. Thank you, Lawn Ranger for your contribution in beautifying our Fairgrounds.

T-Shirt Contest

April 2, 2021
drewnorton's picture

Do you like graphic design? Do you like to doodle? Do you love the Iowa State Fair? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to submit a T-shirt design to the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 2nd annual T-shirt Design Contest. If you come up with the winning design, you’ll see YOUR creativity emblazoned on T-shirts throughout the Fairgrounds!

The process is simple – create your design (or designs) and email it by May 1st to with "T-shirt design contest" in the subject line. A selection committee will pick the top five designs and post them on the Foundation's Facebook and website for a public vote, May 10-17. The winning design will be announced on May 18th. Prizes will be awarded to the top three vote-getters.

First place – Your design is placed on a T-shirt and will be sold at the Iowa State Fair plus 2 T-shirts, 2 gate admission tickets, 2 Fair Play packs, 2 tickets to the Grandstand concert of your choice, $50 in food coupons, and parking for a select day at the Fair.

Second place - 2 gate admission tickets, $25 in food coupons and parking for a select day at the Fair.

Third place -2 gate admission tickets and $25 in food coupons.

Click here for a complete description of entry details and contest rules.

This is last year's winning design. 




Show Your Love for the ISF on your Taxes!

March 18, 2021
drewnorton's picture

The deadline to file your taxes is right around the corner! When you file your Iowa state income tax return, don’t forget you can support the Iowa State Fair by participating in the Corndog Tax Checkoff. This is an easy way to show your love for the Fair while supporting capital improvements.

What do you love the most? The funnel cakes, Sky Glider rides, food on a stick, free entertainment, premier livestock events, expansive art exhibits or the country’s largest state fair food department? The Iowa State Fair has something for everyone to love. Turn that "State Fair Love" into future renovations of the historic Fairgrounds.

Look for “State Fair” on line 57b on Form 1040 and check off $1 (or more!) to help preservation efforts. Your gift is either deducted from your refund or added to the amount due. Contributions to the Corndog Checkoff are fully tax-deductible. 

The Checkoff has raised more than $2 million since it started and has supplemented restoration projects from the Grandstand to Ye Old Mill. These donations have also helped improve the campgrounds, parking areas, sidewalks and restrooms.

Please join the Blue Ribbon Foundation and other Corndog Checkoff donors to ensure the future of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Thank you!

Giving Program Deadline

March 4, 2021
drewnorton's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation offers many ways to support our mission of preserving and improving the Iowa State Fairgrounds. You can honor a friend, commemorate an important event or donate in memory of a loved one. In fact, there are nine unique Giving Programs.

Take a moment to think about your family’s State Fair memories and your special place on the Fairgrounds. Each family has their own Fair Favorites.  You can capture these memories when you donate to one of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Giving Programs.  At the same time - you are investing in the future of the historic Fairgrounds.

Check out the Giving Program options:

Block by Block - This donor wall creates a quilt inside the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center to match the building’s exterior individual quilt blocks representing counties across Iowa.

Building for the Future – A granite paver or engraved seat plaque at the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center.

Buy a Brick - The most popular giving program, personalized engraved bricks grace 15 different locations on the Fairgrounds.

Courtyard of Celebration - Located on the east side of the Patty & Jim Cownie Cultural Center, these pavers celebrate all things artistic on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Growing Our Future - The individual donor plaques add a beautiful display in the heart of the Fairgrounds along Ruan Plaza.

Legacy Terrace - Tree plaques and granite pavers commemorate State Fair fans outside the Grandstand.

Shine On - Add a plaque to the base of a lamp post. There are several new lamp posts along East 31st Street or Jacobson Plaza.

Spirit of Generosity Brand New donor wall inside the recently renovated Bruce Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building. 

Trees for the Fair - With a personalized nameplate on a plaque in the Robert G. Horner and Sheri Avis Horner Service Center or a plaque at the base of a tree, the inscription possibilities are endless.

The deadline to have your brick, paver or plaque in place for the 2021 Iowa State Fair is March 31. Start brainstorming your creative inscriptions today!

Volunteer Opportunity

February 26, 2021
drewnorton's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is extra excited about hosting this year’s Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction after taking a year off. There is so much to do and see at the Iowa State Fair; this fundraising event will give you a little taste of what the 2021 August celebration will look like.

This year’s Corndog Kickoff will be Saturday, July 10 in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building. The biggest and most important part of the Corndog Kickoff is the actual 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 Information Meeting on Wednesday, March 10 at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.

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 listen in. 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 at for more details about the Corndog Kickoff Auction Committee Information Meeting.


Together Accomplishing Goals

February 23, 2021
drewnorton's picture

The Blue Ribbon Foundation created the T.A.G. Team to bring like-minded, Fair-loving individuals together to make the Iowa State Fairgrounds an even better place. It was a simple concept; Together we can Accomplish our Goals. In 2020, T.A.G. Team members supported the renovation of the east restroom in the Livestock Pavilion.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation is once again looking for 100 donors who want to make an immediate, positive and direct impact on our historic Fairgrounds by tackling a smaller renovation project. This year, we are shining the spotlight on the Agriculture Building.

Money raised from the 2021 T.A.G. Team will be used to upgrade 96 lights on the Agriculture Building’s first level, under the balcony. The high efficient, LED lighting will be energy saving. The new fixtures will be dimmable, making it possible to adjust lighting needs for rentals outside of the Iowa State Fair, like corporate events or weddings.

Originally constructed in 1904, the Agriculture Building was one of the first buildings resulting from the major effort to convert the Fairgrounds from wood frame to permanent buildings of brick and stone. The building was renovated in 1995 including a new roof, new windows and doors, in addition to brick and mortar work. The Agriculture Building is one of the best remaining examples of exposition-style architecture in the world.

The facility is now home to the famous Butter Cow as well as the Fair’s vegetable and fruit competitions. Fairgoers can see a variety of floral displays, interesting exhibits or grab an egg-on-a-stick to go.

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 in the 2021 T.A.G. Team.

We welcome your participation in our T.A.G. Team so Together we can Accomplish our Goals. Join Today.