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.

Spirit of Generosity

September 11, 2020
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The traditions of the Iowa State Fair are deeply rooted in the spirit of Iowa. From displaying the best in agriculture, providing world-class entertainment and bringing people together in celebration - the Iowa State Fair inspires hard work, creativity and pride.

The Iowa State Fair’s ability to attract people from all backgrounds and encourage youth involvement is at the heart of our Fair’s success. The Fair is proud to play a role in helping youth develop not only their knowledge but also their character. It takes hard work and dedication to see a project evolve from an idea to a Fair entry, just as it takes hard work, leadership and character to build a business, a community and a nation.

The “Spirit of Generosity” giving program is designed to honor the character and generous spirit of Iowans. One special Iowan we are honored to highlight is the late Mr. Richard Jacobson.

Richard “Dick” Jacobson was a true philanthropist, eager to give of his time, talent and resources to help others. Raised in Belmond, Iowa, Dick grew up knowing the value of hard work and drive. After college, service in the Army and a few years in business, Dick founded Jacobson Warehouse Company in 1968 with two employees. His hard work, leadership and creativity built his company into a business with national impact recognized for excellence in customer service and employee satisfaction.

A long-time Fairgoer, Dick epitomized what has made the Iowa State Fair the best in the nation. Since 1854, our Fair has helped grow leaders by bringing people together in competition, inspiring all to raise the bar while having fun. Dick’s generosity across the state is well known and his support of the Iowa State Fair through the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation has changed the landscape of our Fairgrounds forever.

“It’s all about changing lives“, he explained, and helping people find their path. The Iowa State Fair is fortunate that he cared deeply about Iowa’s grand agricultural tradition. His gift allows us to continue preserving the history of the Iowa State Fair, while improving the grounds and facilities for future generations.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation invites you to continue Dick’s spirit of generosity and help preserve the value the Iowa State Fair brings to the people of Iowa.  Located in the west atrium of the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building, the “Spirit of Generosity” panel is a representation of Iowa, demonstrating how independent pieces come together to create our great state and its Fair.

Recognize the hard work of your 4-H or FFA member, commemorate your family’s tradition of camping, celebrate your competitive entry blue ribbon or the excitement of your first visit to our classic Fair. With six suggested giving levels starting at $100, each donation will be recognized on the panel. You can give your donation online.


Spirit of Generosity Donor Wall:


John Putney, former Blue Ribbon Foundation Executive Director, and Dick Jacobson pictured at the construction site for the Jacobson Exhibition Center built in 2010.


Summer Recap

September 8, 2020
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September is usually a whirlwind of clean up and highlighting our favorite Iowa State Fair moments. Like all of 2020, this September looks different. The Blue Ribbon Foundation staff has stayed busy this summer but not with our normal projects.

The Iowa State Fair hosted the Taste of the Fair food events and the Special Edition Livestock Show in July and August. As part of the State Fair team, the Blue Ribbon Foundation staff pulled weeds, worked gates, baked cookies and did whatever else was needed to help make those events happen. A few other highlights from our summer:

Engraved Bricks: Staff placed 150 engraved bricks across the Fairgrounds. Each brick celebrates a special family memory or honors a loved one. The inscriptions are unique and creative. Staff will place more engraved bricks this fall. The deadline to have your brick placed this fall is September 15. You can give a donation for an engraved brick online.

Merchandise: During the Iowa State Fair, the Blue Ribbon Foundation sells official Iowa State Fair souvenirs at five different booths across the Fairgrounds. This year, we sold everything online. We’ve been busy organizing merchandise orders, packaging items, and creating shipping labels. More than 850 orders have been shipped since August 1. We still have about 200 orders left to ship. (The new chocolate chip cookie bucket ornaments are delayed. We should have them in two weeks.) You can still purchase merchandise. Check out the online State Fair Store.

“No Fair – I Do Care” Benefit Auction: Without the Corndog Kickoff, staff planned the first virtual benefit auction. Thank you to the donors that gave items for the auction and to the volunteers that helped get everything organized. The Foundation was overwhelmed with the amount of support. The auction raised $65,560 for Fairgrounds renovations. Whether you won a package or not, your participation and support made a difference. Thank you!

Big Challenges – Bigger Vision Fundraising Campaign: Improvement projects continued throughout the summer. The largest project - the renovation of the 4-H Building is complete and will be used this weekend.  Renovations of the buildings allow them to be used year round. More improvement projects will continue this fall and into next year. We are asking for your support in our “Big Challenges – Bigger Vision” campaign. Please join us in continuing to improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the next generation.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation will continue working hard on the 2021 Iowa State Fair, August 12-22 and we can’t wait until we can all be together again.


5 ways to support the Blue Ribbon Foundation

August 18, 2020
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Listed are 5 ways you can support the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation this August.

1. Check out the new online benefit auction -  From now until Sunday, August 23 – the Foundation is hosting the “No Fair – I Do Care!" Benefit Auction. To bid, you’ll sign in to the auction and set up your bidding account. You’ll be able to “watch” packages you are interested in and set maximum bids to make the bidding easy.

2. Buy an Iowa State Fair T-Shirt - You can order Iowa State Fair apparel through a dedicated Online T-Shirt Store. Select your favorite designs, place your order and get your purchase delivered to your home. The website will remain open for orders through August 28. All t-shirt orders will be shipped separately on a print-to-order service coordinated by our partner, Broken Arrow Wear.

3. Get your favorite Iowa State Fair Souvenir - The traditional collectibles are available for 2020 – charms, pottery piece, ornament, lapel pin, Sticks plaque, cookbook and the Isabel Bloom sculpture. Don’t worry - we also have hats, sweatshirts and socks to fit your apparel needs! These merchandise items will be extra special this year. Start Shopping!

4. Explore a new Partnership - The Aveda Institute Des Moines is holding a #BlueRibbon community event until Saturday, August 22. They are offering discounted services and will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Blue Ribbon Foundation. Stop by for a service or retail, and get a raffle ticket to win a free Hydrafacial!

5. Big Challenges, Bigger Vision - The Iowa State Fair has faced many challenges throughout its history – competing fairs, war, economic hardship, and deteriorating buildings are just a few.  But you, our Fair family, have never given up on the Iowa State Fair; forever encouraging us to continue, to improve, and to think of the future.  In honor of all of those who have helped make our Fair the best in the nation, the Blue Ribbon Foundation is launching the “Big Challenges – Bigger Vision” campaign.

Thank you for supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation as we raise funds to help preserve and improve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.


“No Fair – I Do Care!" Benefit Auction - August 13 - 23

August 12, 2020
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation is hosting the “No Fair – I Do Care!" Benefit Auction. Together we will take the bushel of lemons we’ve been handed and make some sweet lemonade in support of renovations and improvements to our beautiful Iowa State Fairgrounds.

The Benefit Auction starts at 10 am Thursday, August 13 and will close on Sunday, August 23 at 10 pm. To bid, you’ll sign in to the auction website and set up your bidding account. You’ll be able to “watch” packages you are interested in and set maximum bids to make the bidding easy. 

Online Auction Website:

To access the auction from your cell phone, text NoFairIDoCare to 76278

Check out some of the Auction Packages:



2020 ISF Merchandise – Available July 27

July 17, 2020
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation is excited to announce new Iowa State Fair merchandise items will be for sale starting July 27. You can support the Foundation by purchasing souvenirs online in the State Fair Store.

The traditional collectibles will be available for 2020 – charms, pottery piece, ornament, lapel pin, Sticks plaque, cookbook and the Isabel Bloom sculpture. Don’t worry - we’ll have hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts and socks to fit your apparel needs! These merchandise items will be extra special this year. We will also have some exciting new items.

Official Merchandise Sneak Peek – A Children’s Book

Fairfield & Friends: Ribbon Quest

  • Rooted in tradition, the Iowa State Fair embodies character-building competition for all ages.  From cookie decorating to butter sculpting, whistling and big wheel races, follow the adventures of Fairfield, the Iowa State Fair’s mascot, as he tries to win a ribbon. Winning isn’t just about getting ribbons. Fairfield learns much more about being a good friend and trying new things. Read the first in a series of character building adventures.  Fairfield & Friends: Ribbon Quest is a light, easy-to-read lesson in good sportsmanship.

Check out these pictures of how the children’s book was created.


No Fair – I Do Care!

July 14, 2020
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation is hosting the “No Fair – I Do Care!" Benefit Auction. Together we will take the bushel of lemons we’ve been handed and make some sweet lemonade in support of renovations and improvements to our beautiful Iowa State Fairgrounds.

The Benefit Auction will be online starting at 10 am Thursday, August 13 and will close on Sunday, August 23 at 10 pm. To bid, you’ll sign in to the auction website and set up your bidding account. You’ll be able to “watch” packages you are interested in and set maximum bids to make the bidding easy. More information will be available on our website as the auction gets closer.

We Need Your Help! Our gracious supporters have donated some wonderful packages but we could always use a few more. If you have an item, gift card, service or experience you’d like to donate, please email Robin at We will be accepting donations until July 31.

We hope you’ll support this worthwhile event! If you have any questions, please email or call our office: 515-262-3111 Ext. 371

Sneak Peek at some Auction Packages:


  • Concert tickets to see Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton, Styx, the Beach Boys and Sam Hunt at the 2021 Iowa State Fair.
  • A camping spot for the duration of the 2021 Iowa State Fair.
  • VIP Parking for a select day at the 2021 Iowa State Fair.
  • A children’s dresser that looks like a fire truck.
  • The 1993 carousel horse and 1994 butter cow lapel pins.
  • A gallery-wrapped image of the 2019 Iowa State Fair sand sculpture and midway taken by Mark Iwig.
  • An Iowa State Fair clock created by Sincerely, Sticks.
  • A tour of Midwest Foods’ production facility in Ankeny plus a delicious supply of the products they produce under the Gino’s Italian Foods and Kramer’s Salsa labels.
  • A hall bench created from a door and chair – a perfect spot to sit and put your shoes on.
  • A delightful selection of pillows made from Iowa State Fair t-shirts.

2020 Iowa State Fair Announcement

June 10, 2020
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Today the Iowa State Fair Board made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Iowa State Fair until August 12-22, 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The decision was complex and involved a wide array of factors. The Iowa State Fair’s top priority is protecting the health and safety of Fairgoers, staff, volunteers, exhibitors and entertainers. Amid the pandemic, we couldn’t in good conscience put on the Fair knowing access to emergency safety services at the Fair could be limited, public transportation to and from the Fair would not be available, the constant sanitation of seemingly infinite high touch surfaces lacked feasibility, and social distancing in lines to get your favorite Fair food or walking the Grand Concourse would be difficult.

While we can’t predict what the COVID-19 pandemic will look in August, we had to make educated decisions based on the currently know information and guidance from health experts. Waiting any longer to make a decision would be more potentially damaging to our great Fair partners and our planning.

Not getting together this August at the Iowa State Fair will be disappointing. Our staff, volunteers, entertainers, vendors and sponsors love to come together to put on 11 fantastic days each summer. We know that the Fair isn’t just an event, it’s a way of life for many, including our friends in agriculture and our young exhibitors.

Thank you for your patience in allowing the Iowa State Fair Board, staff and partners the time we needed to thoroughly review our options for the 2020 Iowa State Fair. And thank you for your unwavering support. We can’t wait to get together again in 2021. Please visit for more information on tickets, events, and other questions.

Show Your Support: If you would like to support the Iowa State Fair, you can donate to the Blue Ribbon Foundation. The Foundation has been supporting renovations and improvements for more than 20 years. Your donation is always important, but without the revenue generated during the 2020 Iowa State Fair, your donation now is even more critical. No matter what size, it will be put to good use improving our historic Fairgrounds. We invite you to join a community of generosity and become more involved with the Iowa State Fair you know and love. Donate Now

Corndog Kickoff: The Corndog Kickoff is canceled for 2020. Please save Saturday, July 10, 2021 for the fundraising event that kicks off our Fair season! The Blue Ribbon Foundation will contact supporters that already donated to the 2020 event. In lieu of the Kickoff, the Foundation is exploring other options to bring our Fair friends together, either in person or in spirit, in support of Fairgrounds renovations. Stay tuned for more information via social media and our website.

Iowa State Fair Agricultural Education

June 2, 2020
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Thank you for all you do to support the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. The Fair is Iowa’s greatest celebration with a salute to the best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. What sets the Iowa State Fair apart from other events? The incredible agricultural education opportunities.

During each Iowa State Fair, roughly 3,000 4-H and FFA students exhibit their livestock in the cattle, horse, poultry, sheep, and swine barns. Approximately 30,000 children interactively learn about farming at the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit. With almost 600 babies born in the Animal Learning Center each year, families of all ages experience the miracle of life.

Teaching our youth the value of agriculture in Iowa is important; it’s our history and future. The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. The Fairgrounds prides itself on offering excellent facilities that showcase all things agriculture.

Please join the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s mission to renovate and preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Your investment will ensure the barns, arenas, buildings and exhibit space across the Fairgrounds stay in top-notch condition. Please consider making a donation today. 




P.S. Tell a friend why you support the Blue Ribbon Foundation and help us improve the Iowa State Fairgrounds for future generations.

Project Update

May 26, 2020
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Since its inception in 1993, the Blue Ribbon Foundation has been raising funds to maintain and improve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Iowa State Fair is a tradition any Iowan can be proud of and the Blue Ribbon Foundation is dedicated to continuing that legacy. Check out the current renovation projects.

4-H Building: Progress continues on the renovation of the 4-H Building. A portion of the south exterior wall was removed, creating space for a new kitchen facility, storage area and loading bays. An expansion to the west will add classroom space, and the interior of the building will be revitalized from top to bottom with new lighting, floors and updated restrooms.


Cookie Kitchen: This brand new 4,800 sq. ft. building along Grand Avenue will be the main facility for baking the world famous ”Barksdale’s State Fair Cookies”. Fairgoers will be able to peek inside through large windows to see cookies baking and purchase a fresh cup or bucket.


Family Garden: In August, families will experience a new garden north of the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. Filled with crops, plants, trees and even a tunnel with pole beans, gourds, and other vegetables growing overhead. This unique space will showcase a combination of rural and urban agriculture. 


Livestock Pavilion Restroom: During the Fair, the pavilion hosts livestock judging, horse shows, and events like the Governor’s Charity Steer Show. The restroom updates include tiling the walls, installing metallic epoxy flooring, replacing the toilet partitions, adding solid surface sinks, new counters and improving the electrical fixtures.


You can be part of the Livestock Pavilion restroom renovation project by joining the T.A.G. Team. It’s a simple concept; Together we can Accomplish our Goals. For a $250 donation, the first 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 2020 T.A.G. Team. We haven’t reached our goal of 100 members yet. The deadline to join is June 1. Join Today.

Thank you to our current 2020 T.A.G. Team members.


Buy Your Iowa State Fair T-Shirt

May 19, 2020
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Congratulations to the Iowa State Fair T-Shirt Contest winners!

Rachel Scheel of Ankeny was the creative spirit behind the winning design. She received an Iowa State Fair prize package and will have her t-shirt design sold at the 2020 Iowa State Fair.  Morgan Adams of Arlington placed second and Allissa Johnson of Earlham placed third.

But, with such a positive response to all six designs, we wanted Iowa State Fair fans to have the opportunity to show their love of the Fair by wearing the t-shirt design they voted for.  You can now purchase one (or more) of these shirts and support the Blue Ribbon Foundation's efforts to restore and improve the facilities of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Order Online Today

Please place all orders by Friday, May 29. All orders will be delivered and shipped directly to you. You can expect to receive your order the 2nd week of June!