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.

Happy Spring!

April 9, 2014
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Happy Thursday!

What a beautiful day it is today! The temperature has officially reached the 70s, and that added sunshine is the best. I think this means it is officially spring.
This beautiful weather makes me think it’s about Fair time! But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet, there is still much to be done. This week I stayed busy editing and signing letters, as well as stuffing envelopes for the Iowan of the Day mailings. I have signed many letters and my hand still does not hurt (here’s hoping I’ll feel the same way after I have signed the rest of the letters!!) I also spent some time with the Corndog Kickoff, updating the database on who has attended the event in the past. Updating this database meant getting to spend time working with another new program, Raiser’s Edge. It was a little bit tricky at first, but I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it! Each time I complete another new task, or work with a new program, I feel more and more like I’m getting the hang of this internship. As I’m feeling more comfortable with current tasks, I can’t help but start thinking ahead to future ones, like my media kit. I’m definitely going to have to pull out all of my creativity to come up with a great new theme in May. But, like I said, let’s not jump ahead to May quite yet. For now, I’m still enjoying April and this gorgeous spring weather. 



Here's the first stack of letters I signed this week!

Intern Updates!

April 3, 2014
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Hello again! I hope you are all having a great week. Today is already Thursday, which means we are so close to the weekend!! Time really has been flying lately, especially with my internship. The month of March went by so quickly, and I just know time is going to keep speeding up. I think that is one of the many things that excites me about this internship, the constant hustle and bustle of the upcoming Fair. Right now I am working on sending out posters and nomination forms for the Iowan of the Day. Nomination forms are not due until July 1, so you still have a while to pick the perfect person to nominate! Also, as we really dive into April, I have been in discussions with Robin about the Corndog Kickoff and the different auction packages. It has been a lot of fun to talk with her about it and learn more about the program in general. As I spend more and more time in the office I become more accustomed to the different tasks I will be completing this summer. From sending emails and making phone calls all summer, to stuffing envelopes this week, to greeting the Iowan’s of the Day at the Fair, I certainly have a variety of different things I will be doing. At least I know I will not be bored!

Have a great weekend! I’ll be sure to update you all again soon 


John Putney announcing the Iowan of the Day at the 2013 Fair


March 26, 2014
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This has been another crazy week at the Blue Ribbon Foundation! But honestly, I am having the time of my life. It has been so much fun to continue meeting people and getting to know the ins and outs of the Foundation. On Friday I went with Jenna to see Walt at the print shop and a variety of other very nice people in the Administration Building. Last week I also got the chance to see the great American Gothic statue (“God Bless America”) which will don the Fairgrounds until the beginning of September. In the office I have continued to put together contact lists and files for the Iowan of the Day nomination forms that will go out in the mail in upcoming weeks. If you know someone who is worthy of being the Iowan of the Day, go to the website and fill out a nomination form! All nominations are due by July 1, 2014.


Local Celebrities

March 26, 2014
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As much as I hate to admit, one of my guilty pleasures is keeping up with celebrity gossip. Who has lost the most weight, which star is now pregnant, and what couple split this week. There is always drama. For the most part, Iowa stays clear of the celebrity gossip. Of course we have John Wayne, Johnny Carson and Ashton Kutcher that have brought fame to our state. Over the years, there have also been plenty of celebrities that have attended the Iowa State Fair. For the 2014 Fair, there is one local “celebrity couple” that is making a grand appearance. 
Iowa native Grant Wood’s most famous painting is currently on the Fairgrounds BUT in the form of a 25-foot statue. The 30,000-pound structure, created by sculptor Seward Johnson, arrived on the Fairgrounds last week and will remain until September 1. It is standing tall in front of Pella Plaza, next to the Livestock Pavilion. 
The sculpture is entitled “God Bless America,” and depicts the famous couple – a farmer and his spinster daughter – that Wood painted in 1930. “American Gothic” became one of the most familiar pieces of art in American history. The painting of a farm couple posed before a white house brought the artist instant fame. Don’t forget that the inspiration came from a cottage he had seen in the small Iowa town of Eldon.
“American Gothic” is also one of the most parodied pieces of art. In 1996, in true Fair fashion, the painting was sculpted out of butter honoring the Fair's sesquicentennial. The Iowa State Fair is fortunate to be able to display this piece of art. We are thankful to the donors that paid the expenses for the statue to be delivered. The icon was brought on to the Fairgrounds in multiple sections on semi-trucks. I was able to watch the 4 crew members put together the exhibit using a crane. Overall, it went together pretty quickly. 
Nothing compares to the Amazingly Amusing Iowa State Fair!  This statue will only contribute to the “biggest show in Iowa”! So make sure you add the “American Gothic” to your list of must see attractions during this year’s Fair. As always, I will continue to do my best to keep all Fair-goers informed with any new Fair celebrity updates. 

New Intern

March 20, 2014
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Hi fair-goers! As it is my first week on the job, I think this is the perfect time to introduce myself. My name is Emily Friedricks and I am one of the three interns for the Blue Ribbon Foundation this summer. I am currently finishing up my junior year at Central College as a Communication Studies major and a Psychology minor. At Central, I write for our newspaper (The Ray) and play the piano. At the Fair, my project will be the Iowan of the Day Program; and I will be working with everything from the nomination forms, to greeting the winners on the day of their award ceremony. I have attended and loved the Fair all my life, so having the opportunity to spend all summer here is quite a treat. Driving along Grand Ave. this morning instantly put me in a great mood as I remembered all of the fond memories I have of the Fair. I cannot wait to make even more memories this summer. After spending my first few days in the office, I can tell it will be a busy summer, but it will definitely be one of the best summers of my life.

My sister and I at the 2013 Fair



First Day of Spring

March 20, 2014
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Today is the first day of Spring and I can't believe it’s almost the end of March. I’m more than ready for the weather to start warming up. A few personal goals for this Spring: clean out my closet, plant flowers and run outside! I am official burnt out of running on a treadmill. Last fall, I discovered a trail next to my apartment that is the perfect place to avoid traffic and escape to nature. 
I’d like to run and explore parts of the Fairgrounds this Spring. I am hoping to find routes that I could use during August to make my job easier. Maybe I can find places to escape the crowds and chaos. Since I will be planning the Fairgrounds 5K again in the Fall (mark your calendar for Sunday, November 2), I going to try and run the race route one of these days.
Also on my calendar this Spring is to organize, order, and place all of the giving program items. March 31 is the deadline to get in all of your orders for items to be placed on the Fairgrounds for this year's Fair! This includes placement for bricks, trees, lamp posts, granite pavers and seat plaques.
Whether you want to express your love for the Fair, create a memorial for a family member, or surprise a friend; you can do so through one of our giving programs, while also supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation. 
For your convenience, I've linked the different programs below if you're interested in getting something set for Fair 2014. Questions? Shoot me an email and I'll be happy to help!
Block by Block - donor wall (this program's deadline isn't until June 30)
Building for the Future - seat plaques and granite pavers
Legacy Terrace - granite pavers and trees
Shine On - lamp posts
Trees for the Fair - plaque in Service Center or plaque at the base of a young tree

Corndog Checkoff

March 12, 2014
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Once again, it's the yearly reminder that being an adult isn’t always much fun. It’s tax season. I encourage you to keep in mind one of your favorite summer traditions as you file your taxes.  
There are only 147 days until the Amazingly Amusing Iowa State Fair! Start thinking about the jaw dropping entertainment, fantastic exhibits, and delicious food on-a-stick! I hope you would agree that Nothing Compares to the Iowa State Fair
From now until the April 15 deadline, you can support the Blue Ribbon Foundation Corndog Checkoff campaign. Each year you are able to show your love for the Fair by checking off $1 (or more!) on your Iowa Tax Return to help preserve the allure of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.  
Look for the State Fairgrounds Renovation Checkoff on line 58b of Iowa Tax Form 1040 or on line 14 of Iowa Tax Form 1040A. Your gift is either deducted from your refund or added to the amount due. Contributions to the Corndog Checkoff are fully tax-deductible.  
Every dollar donated to the Checkoff is allocated to capital improvements. The Corndog Checkoff has raised more than $1.7 million, and has supplemented restoration projects from the Agricultural Building to Ye Old Mill.  In addition, funds generated by the Checkoff have helped improve the campgrounds, parking areas, sidewalks and restrooms. 
This is a simple way to give to the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  Each donation helps keep our Fairgrounds one of the best across the nation. And let’s be honest, even thinking about the Iowa State Fair is way more enjoyable than taxes. 

Blue Ribbon Foundation in the News

March 5, 2014
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What's new with the Blue Ribbon Foundation in the month of March? Check out this recent interview with Elizabeth Klinge on Mediacom Newsleaders.


21 Years

February 26, 2014
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation was started in 1993 with a mission to renovate and preserve the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The initial goal was to raise $6 million in two years and $30 million in ten years. With one individual’s leadership, the Blue Ribbon Foundation reached, and surpassed this goal. In 20 years, over $100 million has been raised thanks to the man behind the Foundation, John Putney. 
John’s belief was to show donors and Fairgoers that the Blue Ribbon Foundation would always do more than was expected. Next week will be John’s last as the Executive Director before his retirement.  I thought it would be nice to highlight some of John’s accomplishments over the last 21 years.
The first project included construction of the Service Center with a major gift from Firstar. Other major gifts and programs sparked projects around the grounds. Today more than 20 buildings have been constructed or renovated because of the Foundation’s efforts. 
Educating the Iowa Legislature and three governors about the importance of the Iowa State Fair to our great state was a primary focus. The process paid off with inclusion in the tax check-off, the ability to form a separate endowment and over $40 million in state appropriations for infrastructure projects. 
Every year during the State Fair, John hosted Iowa’s Senators and Representative for Legislative Day. John was involved in starting the Iowan of the Day program in 1997. The Foundation continues to receive the proceeds from the Woodcarver’s Auction on the last Sunday of the Fair. Merchandise sales began in 1993 in a small tent along Grand Avenue. By 2013, there were seven locations selling souvenirs and one selling Fair Squares. Together, merchandise, water and Fair Squares contribute over $500,000 annually to the Foundations fundraising efforts. 
With John’s innovative thinking behind the development of the giving programs, Iowans have been able to support the Foundation with bricks, benches, lamp posts, plaques and trees. Membership programs, like the 1854 Society, Concert Club, Jake’s Club and Fan Fair have also continued to be popular. 
The first Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing party was held in Pioneer Hall in July 1997. In 2001, the event was moved to a Saturday night and held in the Agriculture Building. The Varied Industries Building has now hosted the event since 2002. Initially the Kickoff took up 1/3 of the VI Building but grew to encompass more than ¾ of the building in 2013. The first Kickoff had an attendance of 400; 2013 saw nearly 1700. In 1997, the event raised $112,000. For 2013, funds raised totaled $346,000. 
There have always been ways for Fair-lovers to be involved  outside of the Fair. The Foundation hosted a Golf Outing from 1997 -2009 and held its first Fairgrounds 5K in 2007. 
Although my time working with John has been brief, I still feel incredibly  fortunate to have worked with such a passionate representative of the Iowa State Fair. I think the 14 full time staff, 52 interns and countless Fair employees who have worked for the Foundation under John’s leadership would agree. Thank you John for your hard work and dedication to the Iowa State Fair.   

Deadline Reminder

February 21, 2014
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This is your official reminder that the 2014 Fan Fair deadline is March 1
Do you love the Iowa State Fair? Do you enjoy live music during the summer? Are you looking for a way to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Fan Fair is the program for you. 
The Blue Ribbon Foundation's Fan Fair program is your chance to help restore the grounds of the nationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair and purchase Grandstand concert tickets before the general public. For each $150 contribution made to the program, you become eligible to purchase 2 Grandstand show tickets during a special presale. (Purchasing tickets early gives you the chance to have better seats!) 
Thursday, August 7: Newsboys with special guest Matthew West 
Friday, August 8: Happy Together Tour – Starring the Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, Chuck Negron formerly of Three Dog Night, Gary U.S. Bonds, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Gary Lewis & The Playboys
Tuesday, August 12: Florida Georgia Line
Thursday, August 14: Jake Owen & Eli Young Band with special guest The Cadillac Three
Friday, August 15: Chevelle and Halestorm
Saturday, August 16: Lady Antebellum with special guest Billy Currington
Sunday, August 17:  Foreigner with Styx
To qualify for this early ticket-buying privilege, your Fan Fair donation must be postmarked by March 1. Contributions received after the deadline will automatically be applied to the Fan Fair for the following year.
Sign up for Fan Fair online with our secure online order form. For more information, please email Drew or call 515-262-3111 Ext. 671.