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 $200 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.

Everything's Better With Bacon

June 4, 2014
Intern's picture

Oink! Oink! There is much excitement going on this week at the Iowa State Fairgrounds as the National Pork Producers Council is hosting the 26th Annual World Pork Expo, which has brought producers from all corners of the world and industry experts to share ideas, exhibit new technologies, and celebrate one of my favorite foods—the “other white meat.” Growing up on a hog farm, I felt a little closer to my home while driving to work this morning. In the midst of living in Des Moines metro area, it was certainly a nice change of pace to see a few pairs of boots, smell the wood shavings at the hog show, and, of course, eat a good ‘ole pulled pork sandwich today at lunch.  

If you need to know anything about me, everyone in my family could tell you that I absolutely love food—especially when it entails something sweet. At the Fair a few years ago, I was one of the first people in line at the infamous “Fried Butter” stand. Today was no different, and I made the hike down the Grand Concourse to try out the “Bacon Wonderbar” with my fellow interns Emily and Stephanie. Lucky for me, my older sister, Sterling, is an exhibitor with her company at the Expo this year and was willing to sample the delicacy with us, a chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bar with bacon bits to top it off! I have to admit, it was not too shabby. After all, everything is better with bacon, right?

If you can’t make it to the World Expo this week, there is another chance for you to check out the Fairgrounds, maybe sample some food oddities, at the 18th Annual Corndog Kickoff on July 12. I can’t guarantee there will be any Maple Bacon ice cream, but I am certain there will be some of your other Fair food favorites for you to “pig out” on! Be sure to get your tickets soon at the  Blue Ribbon Foundation website or by giving us a call at 1-800-450-3732.

Stephanie and Emily, the other interns, myself, and my older sister, Sterling, with our "Bacon Wonderbars" at this year's World Pork Expo held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

All the Fairgrounds Has to Offer

June 2, 2014
Intern's picture

When someone mentions the Iowa State Fairgrounds, what do you think of? Food on a stick? The Giant Yellow Slide? The Butter Cow? Well, what about pork. The Iowa State Fairgrounds is the home of the amazing Iowa State Fair, but it is also home to many other events as well. And one of them is literally days away! The World Pork Expo has arrived, and starting on Wednesday, people from all over will drive through the gates of the Fair to enjoy it. I was doing a little light reading on the Pork Expo, and people come from literally all over the world for this event. There was an FAQ about it and one of the questions was, “what paperwork do I need to get into the US?” As someone who is from the Des Moines area, but never been to the Pork Expo, I was blown away by this question. I guess I have been really missing out all my life. Well, not this year! I am eager to see what all of the buzz is about, and not to mention eat some really great food.

While we’re on the subject of buzz, have you heard the buzz about the Iowan of the Day program? It’s the Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products’ way of honoring Iowans who are the best of the best. They have a strong work ethic and sense of Iowa Pride, are heavily involved in their community, and have many personal achievements, among other things. If this sounds like someone you know, then be sure to nominate them! The 10 winners will receive $200 cash, an introduction on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage, four Grandstand concert tickets for their award day, use of the Iowan of the Day golf cart, VIP parking, accommodations at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott hotel, and a one-year subscription to The Iowan and Iowa Gardening magazine. Don’t let those deserving of this award go another day unnoticed; nominate your all-star for this year’s Iowan of the Day!


John Putney and 2013 Iowan of the Day winner Keith Sash on the Iowan of the Day golf cart

I Can't Believe It's Been Three Weeks

May 30, 2014
Intern's picture

I can’t believe it’s the end of May, and I have been here three weeks!!! Time is flying by. They sure know how to keep us busy here, which helps the “time flying by” thing too. Volunteer forms have been coming in like crazy. Spots have been filling up, and almost all the 9am – 1pm shifts have been filled! This is wonderful news, but I do hope some other volunteers are really looking forward to the 1pm – 5pm or 5pm – 9pm shifts. Today is also a big day as the 2014 Corndog Kickoff volunteer letters are to be mailed out. I have received numerous emails and phone calls about volunteering at this event, so hopefully these letters reassure everyone that they have not been forgotten and they haven’t missed anything yet. I hope everyone has an amazing weekend, and don’t forget to send in those volunteer forms!!


Tags: volunteer

Just a Little Bit of Time

May 28, 2014
Intern's picture
You know when people say, “Time sure flies,” or “Look how the time has gone!” or “It’s crunch time!” I know exactly what they are talking about. It has already been one week in the Foundation offices and time is surely flying by with lots to get done! This past week has been filled with racking all the information about the Foundation and State Fair into my brain and learning about the programs I will be helping out with. I have begun to design invitations for VIP events at the Fair and Corndog Kickoff media kits to hand out to radio stations and newspapers for publicity. In no time, I’ll be primed to use Adobe InDesign like a pro.
 If you check out the Blue Ribbon Foundation Facebook page or your local Community Calendar, you’ll be likely to find the Corndog Kickoff scheduled for July 12. I’ll regularly be giving updates on auction packages, fun events to look forward to, and posting photos from previous years to get everyone geared up for the big day! Just don’t forget that it is “time” to get your tickets if you haven’t already. I guarantee you that it is a night you won’t want to miss!
A good friend of mine and avid State Fair fanatic like me, Mr. Bill Riley Jr., once gave me a little speech about time. Before each talent show he would remind the competitors, “When the crowd applauds at the end of your performance, soak it in for a second. It is for you—you entertained them.”  Time is a precious little thing that comes and goes faster than we want it to, but we have to enjoy every second of it—even if it is for a few moments. Within these next few months, as the Fair gets closer, it will seem like there is less time than there was the day before to get everything we want to complete and finished. Somehow, the organized chaos that we call the Iowa State Fair will all come together…just give it some time and remember to enjoy the ride. When those 11 days have come and gone, give yourself a pat on the back—you were a big part of it. 
I've learned a thing or two from advice on "time" from Mr. Bill Riley Jr. Before you know it, it will be "time" for the Fair once again!
I've learned a thing or two from advice on "time" from Mr. Bill Riley Jr. Before you know it, it will be "time" for the Fair once again!
Time is getting closer to food, fun, and some pretty cool auction items at the Corndog Kickoff on July 12.

Corndog Kickoff

May 27, 2014
Intern's picture

I hope everyone enjoyed their long Memorial Day weekend!

The weather may be a little cloudy outside, but that hasn’t put a damper on the mood of the Foundation staff. Everyone is busy working in anticipation of the upcoming Corndog Kickoff. July, 12 may seem like it’s far away, but there is a lot of work to be done to pull off this huge event. From making phone calls to possible donors, to updating donation forms in a database, to actually picking up and organizing auction packages, everyone has something to do. I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of the auction packages as they have come into the office, and let me tell you, they are pretty cool! If you are interested in being part of the 18th annual Corndog Kickoff you still have plenty of time to buy tickets. Tickets are $75 prior to June, 30 and $100 after that; they can be ordered online. Not only does this event include a live and silent auction, it also includes a variety of Fair foods. What better way to get excited for the 2014 Iowa State Fair than by eating a bunch of your favorite Fair foods. I know all this Corndog Kickoff talk is certainly getting me excited for all that is to come. I cannot wait for both the Corndog Kickoff and the Iowa State Fair. Seeing all of our hard work pay off will be truly amazing!


Some of last year's Corndog Kickoff Auction Packages


May 23, 2014
Intern's picture
Do you love the State Fair?  Do you love volunteering?  If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you should consider volunteering with the Blue Ribbon Foundation at this year’s Fair.  From selling water, Fair Squares, and merchandise, volunteering with the Foundation offers many different options to fit your needs.   
Each volunteer is required to work one 4 hour shift (merchandise volunteers are required to work two 4 hour shifts.)  By working a shift, you will receive a t-shirt, a ticket into the Fair, as well as a parking pass for the day you work.  You are more than welcome to work more than one shift too!! Each volunteer must be 16 years of age or accompanied by a parent/guardian. 
For more information and to fill out the online form go to:
For many years, my family and I have volunteered at the fair.  From serving people a pork-chop on a stick, to answering questions about the sheep industry, there was always a certain interaction with another person that stuck with me, helped me grow as individual, and overall has prepared me for this position to help other volunteers.  
I hope to work with you at the fair as we share our love of volunteering and our great state fair!!!

Meet Paris

May 20, 2014
Intern's picture

Hello all! My name is Paris Schnepf and I am one of this year’s summer interns for the Blue Ribbon Foundation, working specifically with the donors throughout the fair and managing ticket sales. Just recently I finished my sophomore year at the University of Iowa (Go Hawks!) where I am majoring in Communication Studies and Entrepreneurship in the Performing Arts with a minor in music. I keep busy throughout the school year working as a waitress at the Bluebird Café in North Liberty, singing in an A Cappella group called “Take Note,” and volunteering through the University of Iowa Dance Marathon Family Relations Committee. You can catch me playing my guitar or singing any time of the day or training for the Chicago Marathon this upcoming October.

I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it was this morning to arrive on the grounds and walk into the offices for my first day. The Iowa State Fair truly is my second “home” away from home. Rather than heading somewhere far away for vacation every summer, my family looked forward to the trip to Des Moines to show off our 4-H projects and eat fried Mac-and-Cheese bites. For several years, I competed in the Bill Riley Talent Search and fell in love with the loud applause from the audience. Above all, one of my greatest memories of the fair revolve around my experiences as the 2011 Iowa State Fair Queen.  I look forward to gaining new perspectives of the Iowa State Fair, learning the “ins and outs” and making contributions each day to the Fair YOU, and I, both love.  

One Big Family

May 19, 2014
Intern's picture

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone is having a great start to the week. Lots of exciting things have happened since I last blogged. One exciting thing, I finished my school year at Central and started working full-time at the Blue Ribbon Foundation. It has been good for my time management skills to balance both Fair work and school work, but I’m happy to be focusing on the Fair for the rest of the summer. As well as finishing school, another exciting thing has happened; both of the other interns have started working. It’s fun to have the office full of chatter and smiling faces. Earlier today Peter called us one big family, and that’s truly how it feels. Everyone here is so friendly and we all get along really well. Today we took a staff field trip to the State Historical Society to look at some old Fair posters and photographs. I know the fair has been around for a long time, but seeing these photographs made those past Fairs seem even more real, and made me even more excited for this year’s Fair.
 Speaking of this year’s Fair, it’s only 79 days away! Now that we are less than 100 days away, it seems like it’s just around the corner. I have received several nominations for Iowan of the Day and I am eager to receive more. If you haven’t nominated anyone yet, there is still plenty of time! Nomination forms and examples of supplemental materials can be found online. If you have already nominated someone and have more materials to add to your nomination, you’ve still got time for that as well! We will continue to accept nominations and supplemental materials until July, 1. 

Enjoy your week!

2014 Corndog Kickoff Tickets

May 15, 2014
drewnorton's picture
Corndog Kickoff admission tickets are now officially on sale!
We are counting down and the event is only 58 days away! Saturday, July 12 will mark our 18th annual Corndog Kickoff. We invite you to join us in "Rock'n Round the Grounds". Don't miss another great lineup of auction items as well as Fair food, SkyGlider rides, fireworks and more.  Be sure to get your all-inclusive kickoff tickets prior to June 30 to receive the discounted ticket price.
If you've already donated as a Corndog Kickoff Patron, your tickets are included with that donation, but you are welcome to purchase additional tickets as well. It's not too late to become a Patron and reserve your table for the night. 
Check out these pictures from last year's event:

Meet Stephanie

May 14, 2014
Intern's picture

Hello Fairgoers, enthusiasts, lovers, and more. My name is Stephanie Boardman, and I am the 2014 Volunteer Relations Intern for the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  I am currently in my first week of work at the Foundation as I just finished my junior year at the University of Northern Iowa where I am double majoring in Marketing and Public Relations.  At UNI, I am very active with Alpha Phi Sorority where I am the chapter’s Vice President of Marketing, as well as Future Business Leaders of America- Phi Beta Lambda where I currently hold the position of National Parliamentarian.  This summer I will be contacting, coordinating, and working with volunteers from across our great state for the 18th Annual Corndog Kickoff and the 160th Iowa State Fair.  I am very excited for this year to see the “other side” of the fair.  In the past I have been a camper, shown cattle, pigs, and horses for both 4-H and FFA, competed as a county fair queen and cowgirl queen, and volunteered numerous times with Iowa Pork Producers at the Pork Tent, Ag Building, and Animal Learning Center.  I look forward to working with all the amazing volunteers this year and continuing to ensure “Nothing Compares” to the Iowa State Fair.

- Stephanie