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.

Fair Memories

June 25, 2013
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With June coming to a close and August just a few short weeks away, I'm getting a lot of Fair nostalgia and going back to the reasons I took this position in the first place. The Iowa State Fair has been part of my life ever since I can remember, as I'm sure it has for many of you.

As kids, my siblings and I would wake up early on a weekday morning at our northern Iowa farm so we could load up in the family van and head down to the Fairgrounds so we could be there when they opened at 8:00. After we'd all gotten a nap in (though I could never sleep because I was so excited) and we'd approach the Des Moines city limits, my dad would start reminiscing about his own Fair memories, showing purebred Suffolk lambs and Duroc hogs through the Bison FFA chapter. He'd talk about "sheep heaven," which was what all the exhibitors called the loft above the sheep barn where they slept, although he said they never got much sleep because of all the razors and sheep bleating below. Hearing my dad talk about the Fair made me realize how important this place was from a young age and how much it meant to so many people.

After we'd found a place to park outside the grounds, we'd head to the gate beneath bright August sun. There was always a sense of adventure I felt when I reached the gate and peered inside at the 4-H building, the livestock barns, and the food vendors that awaited me, and when we stepped inside, I knew it would be a great day.

We would make our rounds doing the typical highlights--waiting in line to see the Butter Cow at the Ag Building, cutting in lines to get our free egg on a stick from the Iowa Egg Council, surveying the "Biggest" animals, taking note of all the neat 4-H projects we could draw inspiration from for next year and sometimes locating our own to see what ribbon we received, grabbing all the freebies we could get our hands on at the Varied Industries Buildind and sticking our hands in the hot tub (which I find really weird now but we got really excited about it!), watching the swans and waterfowl at the Natural Resources Building, and grabbing our one choice Fair food. I always went for Dippin' Dots or some kind of ice cream treat.

After a long day of walking in the heat, we'd unwind with a ride on Ye Old Mill and some fresh-squeezed lemonade at our favorite stand outside the Hog Barn by the Avenue of the Breeds entrance (still my favorite part of the Fair!).

It's gotten harder to get to the Fair the past few years for my family what with my brothers in football. And now that I've taken this job nearly three hours from home, it's gotten very hard to be away from my family. But when I come to the Fairgrounds every day for work, I'm reminded of home in some sense and the memories we've shared here.

I'm looking forward to seeing my family enjoy the Fair this year while I'm working to improve the grounds with the Foundation so that they and families from all over can continue to enjoy and make these memories that are so precious.

What are your favorite Fair memories? I'd love to hear all about them.

Until next time,



June 24, 2013
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We are another week closer to the fair, but even closer to the Corndog Kickoff! Tickets are still $75 until June 30th and you can order them by phone or online. As Kate mentioned last week, not only will there be a ton of cool packages to auction off, the entertainment this year is definitely something you don't want to miss. I would tell you, but I think it's best you just come and see for yourself!! You will surely be getting your moneys worth.

Aside from Corndog Kickoff preparation, there is just over a week left to nominate for Iowan of the Day.  If you haven't seen it yet, I put together a video that goes into greater detail of how this program originated. It is actually up on the Iowa State Fair youtube page or on our facebook page if you want to catch the inside scoop. I didn't even know prior to promoting this program how exactly Iowan of the Day came about. Being that the foundation would not be nearly as successful without our volunteers, it only makes sense to give back! This is our way of saying thank you to not only people that volunteer at the fair, but all the individuals that make a difference in their respective communities. I'm pretty confident the judge panel is going to have a tough time narrowing it down to just ten!

Have a great week!

Until next time



Busy, Busy, Busy

June 21, 2013
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Hi everyone!

How is it June 21st already? This summer is flying by, but probably because we are so busy preparing for the Corndog Kickoff and the Iowa State Fair! I say that we're "busy" right now, but I know for a fact this doesn't even compare to how busy we will be during the Corndog Kickoff or the Fair! Although feeling too busy often makes me feel anxious, I understand that feeling a little overwhelmed is part of this internship. After all, it's what makes all of this so exciting!

On Tuesday, we hosted a potluck dinner for the volunteers who are helping prep for the Corndog Kickoff. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we enjoyed everyone's special dishes outside on the patio at the Blue Ribbon Foundation. After dinner, we discussed what's new to the Corndog Kickoff, and I truly believe that guests will be not only be impressed but also entertained!

I'm eager to see the Corndog Kickoff come together with the decorations, auction items, live entertainment and, of course, the volunteers! The Corndog Kickoff volunteer schedule is almost full, which makes me sigh a breath of relief. Without our gracious volunteers, the Corndog Kickoff wouldn't be possible, so I am thankful that I will be working with people who care enough about the Iowa State Fair to donate their time and energy!

Soon enough it will be August 8th, and the Fair will begin. I know I will be truly busy by then!

Until next time,



The Grandest Show Around

June 19, 2013
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It's been a while since I've written here. In fact this is only my second post, but that's because I've been so busy helping to implement the Corndog Kickoff! And let me tell you, the event is going to live up to your expectations and its theme as the Grandest Show Around.

We've got a lot of new and exciting things happening this year at the event. For instance, I've gotten the chance to work on a slideshow featuring Fair photographs and posters dating all the way back to the Fair's beginning in 1854 to present day as well as announcement slides that will be displayed on a HUGE screen. This screen has been graciously donated to us for use the night of July 13 by HD on the Go. We'll even be able to post winners of the silent auction there!

Speaking of auction, the auction booklet is available to see NOW on the Blue Ribbon Foundation site! You can find it on the Corndog Kickoff page under Auction. I'm so jealous organizing all of the packages because they're seriously awesome! Anyone want to take a flight to New York with overnight stays included to catch some Broadway shows? How about watching a Vikings game from the Premium Touchdown seating area? Or what about scoring the many amazing hand-crafted items like a grandfather clock? You MUST be there to get in on these sweet deals, and what better way to get yourself a treat than to know that your donation will be going directly back to the Foundation?!

Okay, so the auction is a big part of the event, but if you're going (and you should be), I know you're all stoked about the food too. The new item I'm sure will have people guessing and lining up just to try is maple bacon ice cream. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm all about trying crazy food, so I'll definitely be in line for that one!

The Grandest Show Around centers around a circus theme, so we'll have some really cool additions to our Kickoff this year. For instance, a calliope will be set outside the doors welcoming guests inside. There will be more surprises related to the theme too that we're really excited about. Keep posted with us to learn more.

I probably don't need to say anything more about the Kickoff to get you to want to come, but, as always, there will be Sky Glider rides and fireworks to cap off the evening. So make sure you order those tickets if you haven't already! Check out our website's Corndog Kickoff page to do so, and don't forget to pick up a 2013 Corndog Kickoff crock while you're at it!

Can't wait to see you there!


51 Days

June 17, 2013
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I think if I asked you all to raise your hands if you're excited for the fair, I'd get an overwhelming response. We are less than 2 months away- 51 days to be exact! Whether you are looking forward to the food on a stick, the people watching or the entertainment, there is something there for everyone to enjoy. As we get to 4 weeks..3 weeks...2 weeks...1 week away, I know I am going to be on the edge of my seat! I will get the chance to meet and host the 10 chosen Iowan's of the Day, assist with our merchandise booths and help out wherever it is needed. It is going to be a lot of work- but rewarding nonetheless! 

Speaking of Iowan of the Day, you still have a little over 2 weeks left to nominate any shining star in your community. One of these days they might have to extend the duration of the fair just so we can choose more than ten :) I've been nothing but impressed with the nominations that have been trickling in. The nominations that stand out the most are the ones that tell a story. I've realized that these people don't just volunteer, they make it a lifestyle. I look forward to reviewing the rest until July 1!!

But in the meantime- preparation for the Corndog Kickoff on July 13 is in full force. Soon we will be mailing out the auction booklet and tickets that have already been ordered. There are so many different working parts to an event of this nature. Whether it be the donations themselves, compiling the auction booklet, mailing out tickets, making the decorations or setting up for the auction itself- it will soon come together as what we hope to be another record breaking year!

I hope everyone has a great Monday! Until next time.


The Good Stuff

June 14, 2013
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Hi everyone!

After what seemed like weeks of rain, the sun has decided to come out a little this week! It's finally feeling like summer, which means the Iowa State Fair is drawing nearer and nearer!

The Corndog Kickoff is first in the line-up, however. Personally, I'm very excited about this event because I will have the chance to meet some of the Fair volunteers a little early and participate in my first event on the Fairgrounds! On Tuesday, a few volunteers, the interns, and Allyson painted centerpieces for the tables at the Corndog Kickoff. Although it was pretty hot and humid outside, the centerpieces look terrific so far and some of us finally got a suntan (or a suburn)! With the Corndog Kickoff only a month from today, auction items are also delivered quite frequently. All I can say is that I think the bidders will be pleased with what they have to bid on!

Neither the Corndog Kickoff nor the Blue Ribbon Foundation's booths at the Fair could have the success that they do without the help of our gracious volunteers. I can already tell several of these volunteers have a true passion for the Iowa State Fair, as well as an eagerness to help others and give back to the community. In an average office, I might work with ten other people who care about what I'm doing as much as I do. Working with volunteers is different, however, in the best way. I have the opportunity to work with 300+ people who deeply care about the Iowa State Fair. It's refreshing to see so much "good" at once!

If you are interested in volunteering at the Iowa State Fair, you can still sign up online or e-mail me for a registration form. Be sure to sign up soon, though, because volunteer spots are filling up quickly!

Happy Thursday!




June 10, 2013
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I have decided to take a little different approach to this week’s blog. As I have been here for over two months now, I am getting a better feel for what the Iowa State Fair is all about. It is one, big, happy camaraderie that I feel extremely lucky to be a part of for just a short amount of time. And along with that, I have been exposed to so many different aspects of the state of Iowa that I honestly did not know much about before. I always say that people are the nicest in the Midwest (especially Iowa- and Nebraska since I’m from there!). Let’s just say that being able to run the Iowan of the Day program has locked in that philosophy completely. Although I am unable to meet the many nominees that I have been reviewing for the past week, it is evident how many people truly make an impact in their communities- and of all ages.

I think if you were to ask any of my Drake teammates, they’d tell you I’m a pretty energetic and passionate player. I will be just as excited to play the 100th game of my collegiate career as I was my first game as a fourth grader. I know this might sound crazy, but reading through the hundreds of nominations gives me this same type of excitement. I didn’t think it was possible to get an adrenaline rush working a full-time internship, ha! The bottom line is that I have seen first-hand how many people in Iowa go above and beyond for others, and thus make my job even more enjoyable. I owe it all to IOWA and the Blue Ribbon Foundation for giving me such a unique opportunity.

I have told myself from the get-go that I will choose a profession where going to "work" is one of the best parts of my day. While there are certain parts of a career we may not necessarily love, we simply cannot function without it. Thankfully, before I decided to play basketball at Drake, I knew that no college athlete can survive without loving what they do. It is such a demanding environment that without enjoyment, it is next to impossible to stick it out. I’m convinced that the same goes for the workplace. And let me be the first to tell you that I definitely love my job here. While Spalding was my first true love, the State Fair comes in a close second :)

PS- don’t forget to nominate a deserving friend or colleague for Iowan of the Day!!

Until next time


Nothing but Atypical

June 6, 2013
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Hi everyone!

You could say that this week hasn't been a "typical" work week. The tents are up, the crowd has gathered, and everyone is eating the same thing for lunch... pork! The World Pork Expo began on Wednesday and lasts through Friday. People from all over the world attend this event--I noticed one man traveled all the way from China!

Although the Fairgrounds are full of excitement right now, we are still hard at work at the Blue Ribbon Foundation. Volunteer forms for the Iowa State Fair are still flooding in, and I couldn't be more excited about it! Although scheduling volunteers has been and continues to be quite the challenge, I can't wait to finally meet all of the volunteers!

Don't forget that you can still sign up to volunteer at the Iowa State Fair online. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

I have a feeling we won't have a "typical" work week again with the Corndog Kickoff next month and the Iowa State Fair coming up after that. We have a lot to accomplish, but much more to look forward to!




A Little Taste of August

June 4, 2013
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What do you get when you cross the Blue Ribbon Foundation with June, July and August? A lot of fair preparation!! With the World Pork Expo going on right outside our windows, it's hard to not get a little bit antsy for the real deal. Grand ave is quickly filling up with booths, tents and stands giving us all a little taste of what is coming in August. On top of Iowan of the Day, the Corndog Kickoff and lining up our many gracious volunteers, I'm sure we will make a little time to walk the Fairgrounds in midst of the World Pork Expo! For people from all over the world to come not only to Des Moines, but better yet the Iowa State Fairgrounds, is something pretty special. If there is all sorts of buzz going on now, just imagine what it will be like in a couple months!

Remember there is still plenty of time to nominate someone for Iowan of the Day! There are some great examples of supplemental materials that our judge panel is looking for on our website. If you need some ideas, you can certainly look there. The time put into a nomination will be worth it in the end. Even if your nominee isn't chosen this year, they will still be considered for the next three years. Along with that, past nominators are more than welcome to re-nominate or send in more supporting materials. I have a giant box of worthy Iowan's of the Day under my desk- but don't worry, there is still plenty of room for more!!

Until next time!



Volunteers Galore!

May 30, 2013
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Hello again!

This is only my third day this week due to Memorial Day, but I have been so busy! Volunteer registration forms for the Iowa State Fair were mailed out last week and online volunteer registration opened as well. I returned on Tuesday to countless e-mails and letters filled with completed registration forms from potential volunteers. That's exciting stuff here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation! The phone also seems to be ringing off the hook, and I'm constantly trying to answer questions. Things have definitely picked up since last week, but I enjoy the fast pace of it all because that means the Iowa State Fair is inching closer and closer!

If you didn't receive a volunteer registration form in the mail and would like to volunteer at the Iowa State Fair, you can still sign up online. If you prefer to have a registration form mailed to you, please feel free to contact me

Today I was told my days at the Blue Ribbon Foundation will get even crazier when Fair time rolls around. Although I am a bit anxious about keeping up, I know working with the volunteers will not only be fun, but also rewarding.