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.

Brick Give-a-way Week 5: Livestock Pavillion

July 2, 2010
Intern's picture

Congratulations to Ashley Burns for winning a brick at the Cattle Barn!

An $800,000 renovation funded by the Prairie Meadow Racetrack and Casino provided a new roof for the aging building. Without the renovation, the Livestock Pavilion would not be able to be used year-round as it is today.  During the Fair it is also used for livestock competitions and judging or the Governor’s annual Charity Steer Show.

What is your favorite thing about the Livestock Pavillion?
Leave a comment on here or Facebook by Thursday, July 8 for a chance to win a brick at the Livestock Pavillion.

Brick Give-a-way Week 4: Cattle Barn

June 23, 2010
Intern's picture

Congratulations to Michele Deiber Kumm for winning the brick at Pioneer Hall.

Built in 1920, the Cattle Barn serves the Fairgrounds year round.  First construction created 1,520 stalls, an office, a dining room and sleeping quarters for the Cattle Barn.  The structure was created very open from one side of the barn to the other, allowing the public to easily access each year’s exhibitors.  The initial structure even had city water distributed to all parts of the building through an elaborate drainage system. 

The Cattle Barn now has an additional 480 stalls totaling to 2,000.  Today, the barn witnesses livestock shows, auctions, trade shows and meeting.  The Fair brings in up to 4,000 head with even some exotic and European breeds.

Tell us about the last time you visited the Cattle Barn.
Add a comment here or on Facebook by 10:00 a.m. June 30 to enter to win a brick at the Cattle Barn.

Brick Give-a-Way Week 3: Pioneer Hall

June 17, 2010
Intern's picture

Congratulations to Lindsey Wanderscheid, winner of the Anne & Bill Riley Stage brick!

As an exhibition hall, Pioneer Hall has served a number of purposes in its lifetime.  From a poultry building to a storage facility, the building has even operated as an employee dormitory at one point. Today, within the wooden structure, is the Museum of Iowa Agriculture.  However, as the Fair approaches, the museum is joined by antiques for display and judged competitions during the Fair. 

However, without the help of the Farm Bureau, the Pioneer Hall would have never been reopened in 1996.  The Bureau funded extensive renovations to the aging hall.  The renovation stabilized this building for the future working on the hall’s foundation and footing.

Throughout the Fair, music fills the air from the fiddlers, potters work with their clay, while blacksmiths and furniture makers diligently create.  People visit with friends over lemonade, watch women throw sand-filled rubber chickens and admire the antiques. 

What brings you to Pioneer Hall during the Fair?
Add a comment here or on Facebook by 10:00 a.m. June 23 to enter to win a brick at Pioneer Hall.

Brick Give-a-way Week 2: Anne & Bill Riley Stage

June 9, 2010
Intern's picture

Congratulations to Carol Britson, the winner of the brick at the Ag Building!

The stage was dedicated to Bill Riley in 1996 as a way to remember the many hours Bill devoted to the Iowa State Fair.  Bill began the State Fair Talent Search and served as its host for 50 years.  It was also Bill Riley that enabled the renovation of what was then the Plaza Stage.

A $100,000 contribution in 1996 funded the two phases of renovation of the stage.  During the first phase of renovation, an additional 500 square feet of stage and 3,400 square feet of roofing were constructed as the existing structure was restored.  A second phase of renovation established a sound and light control booth and created landscaped seating for 3,000 visitors. 

It was only in recent years that the stage name changed from the Bill Riley Stage to Anne and Bill Riley Stage.

What’s your favorite act to see on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage?
Add a comment here or on Facebook by 10:00 a.m. June 16 to enter to win a brick at the Anne & Bill Riley Stage.

Brick Give-a-way Week 1: Ag Building

June 2, 2010
Intern's picture

 Ag Building - Old                    Ag Building - New

The building was constructed in an exposition-style and even after its renovation in 1995, the Ag Building continues to portray the same style.  The 1995 restoration involved a new roof, updating all the building’s  windows and doors, and brick and mortar work.

For years, the Ag Building has housed the many horticultural and floricultural displays of the Iowa State Fair.  It also welcomes visitors of the Butter Cow and each year’s butter sculpture. 

What’s your favorite thing to see in the Ag Building?
Add a comment here or on Facebook by 10:00 a.m. June 9 to enter to win a brick at the Ag Building.

Building a Blue Ribbon Tradition

June 1, 2010
emilysaveraid's picture


At this year’s Corndog Kickoff , we’ll be “Building a Blue Ribbon Tradition,” celebrating all of the renovations that have been done around the Iowa State Fairgrounds. In honor of this, over the next few weeks, we will be posting blogs about the history of several buildings on the Fairgrounds. Each week, you will have the opportunity to win a brick to be placed at the building highlighted that week. Watch for more information in the days to come! We hope you learn a bit more about the history of the Iowa State Fairgrounds and why it’s so important that we preserve these  historic buildings!

Building Excitement

May 25, 2010
Intern's picture

Hey Fair-lovers! My name is Billy Boyle, and I’m one of the three interns working for the Blue Ribbon Foundation this summer. In the fall I’ll be attending Central College as a senior with a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Business Management.  I’m really excited to be working here this summer, because I love going to the Fair and now I’ll be here all eleven days!

I started last week, but I’ve already learned a lot, especially about the history of the Fairgrounds.  For example, did you know that the Iowa State Fair once had a baby elephant? Her name was Baby Mine, and she first came to the Fair in 1929 where she lived inside the barn at Grandfather’s Farm. Or did you know that there used to be airplane shows in front of the Grandstand?  Those stopped around mid-century after such wild shenanigans as when F.F. “Bowser” Frakes, a race-car driver posing as a pilot, crashed his WWI Jenny biplane into a house that had been constructed in front of the Grandstand just to be destroyed.  Or how about that some houses in Des Moines contain lumber from the old wooden roller coaster that used to span the grass parking lot between University Ave and the Grandstand?

All in all, my first week has been great. I can’t wait for all the chaos of Fairtime to get here–the long days, the people, the shows and attractions.  Slowly but surely, I’m learning the inside outs of putting together various events to raise money for the treasure that is the Iowa State Fair.  Only 78 days and counting until the first day, when I can gorge on all that wonderful food!  It will be a nice change from the leftovers I usually bring for lunch at the office.

Billy Boyle

Searching for Shining Stars

May 21, 2010
Intern's picture

First and foremost, let me introduce myself. I am Samantha Liametz, or Sam, one of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s three interns for this summer. If you have been reading the blogs you already know, I attend Iowa State University majoring in journalism, business management and communication studies. “Why three majors?” many ask.  My reasoning is because I figure you can never have enough background. 

I have been with the Foundation since the beginning of March only working part-time during the school year. This week, I gratefully welcomed our two other interns, Stefany and Billy, to the Foundation as I finished putting together my final media kits for every newspaper, radio station and television station in the state of Iowa. 

“What is so pressing that everyone in the state needs to know about it?” you ask. 

I’m glad you asked! Every year, the Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products look for 10 outstanding Iowan volunteers to recognize during the Iowa State Fair.  These people are the shining stars of your lives. They personify the greatness of Iowa with a strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others, and an outstanding sense of Iowa pride.  Anyone come to mind? 

We need your help finding the shining stars of Iowa.  By logging on to the Iowan of the Day page, you can find more information about the program including a sample winning nomination packet and a printable nomination form (or click Iowan of the Day – Nomination Form right here to print one!).  Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions or would like me to send you a nomination packet at 515-262-3111 ext. 678 or

I look forward to seeing some amazing Iowans in the upcoming weeks! Until then, have a great weekend, hopefully the weather will be as nice as they predict!


Exhibition Center Updates

May 14, 2010
allysonkrull's picture

If you’ve been following our blog since we first started it in January, you’ve probably caught mention of the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center in at least a few different posts. We are extremely excited to be opening this state-of-the-art facility for this year’s Fair!   

Yesterday KCCI came to the grounds to report progress made on the building. The news crew and Dick Jacobson, the exhibition center’s largest donor, toured the facility to see the stage of construction just 3 months prior to completion. To watch the video coverage, click here.   

Also, check out some recent photos of the construction…this facility is going to be phenomenal!   

Construction crew member installing the skylight.


View of the building taken from the northwest corner.


The main entrance of the exhibition center located on the west end.

If you’d like to help with the funding of the Jacobson Center, please take a look at our giving program, Block by Block and get your name on the donor wall for this year’s Fair!


Hitting Milestones

May 7, 2010
emilysaveraid's picture

Often, we measure our lives in terms of milestones. First day of school. College graduation. First job. The list goes on and on. Tonight, is a personal milestone: my husband is graduating from Iowa State with a Masters in Engineering. After nearly four years of juggling classes, thesis writing as well as a full-time job, it will be completed and we’ll have the diploma in hand! In fairness, I had very little to do with the process itself save for providing moral support, listening to theories about things I don’t understand, and brewing endless pots of coffee.  The journey to this large milestone was marked by many, many small ones, all leading up to the final accomplishment.

We’ve reached many milestones at the Fair as well,  restoring the Varied Industries Building and the Agriculture Building, reaching a record setting attendance of 1.1 million people, building the Animal Learning Center and opening the Jacobson Exhibition Center. Each year marks a new goal met. Throughout the year, we meet our own smaller milestones too. From record numbers of auction packages at last year’s Corndog Kickoff to a successful Fair to the best Fairgrounds 5K we’ve had, we look forward to each small accomplishment.

As Allyson mentioned previously, we’re down to double digits until the Fair, yikes! That’s a milestone in and of itself! We’ll be working hard to make sure that this year’s Corndog Kickoff and Iowa State Fair are the best yet. Tonight, though, I’m going to be enjoying this personal milestone and looking forward to the future!