May 3, 2012
Normally the area of the Fairgrounds where our office is located is pretty quiet, disturbed only by the swish of the turbine, tweet of the birds and chirping voices of children playing on the train. That hasn't been the case the past few days. It's been quite noisy as work has begun on two projects up "on the hill." Just to the east of our office a new access point is being made for Expo Hill. Between the MidAmerican Building and us, dirt has been removed and our maintenance staff is constructing the footings for a new stairway and sidewalk. We've had end loaders, dump trucks, skid loaders and now cement trucks rolling past. Thankfully the office hasn't been vibrating as it did when they drilled the footings for the wind turbine!
The other project has been in the Cultural Center. When I walked by a few days ago it sounded like the bees had moved from the Ag Building to find new digs. I walked in and discovered that construction had begun to install the elevators, making the Cultural Center fully accessible. Workers were sawing out concrete block in the area where the elevators will be. About an hour ago I checked on the progress again as I'd noticed dump trucks, mini-excavators and skid loaders working the past few days. There are now two holes where the bases of the elevators will be and various other cuts for electrical lines. Quite a challenge to make such a change in a concrete building.
And, to jump to the opposite side of the grounds, work is nearing completion on the paving of the parking lot to the west of the 4-H Building. Soon when you come to an event in this busy building, you'll not have to worry about the occasional lake that a heavy rain has made of the parking lot. Yet one more improvement to the southwest corner of the Fairgrounds that will continue to increase what we can offer, both during the Fair and throughout the year.
So, when you come to the Fair this year, you'll have to check these three areas out for sure and give yourself a pat on the back, as your support of the Foundation and the Fair has helped make these improvements possible.
April 30, 2012
Sorry we let a week get by us since our last post- it's been crazy around here lately! Monday through Thursday last week the Iowa State Fair hosted the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) Spring Manger's Conference. Designed for upper level management staff of Fairs across the United States and Canada, the program included a variety of workshops, keynote speakers, committee meetings and networking opportunities for conference attendees.
The week kicked off with a reception at Dennis Albaugh's private Chevrolet car collection in Ankeny. Much of my time was spent preparing for this party as I was in charge of decorating for a 1950s sock hop. The next day focused on a crisis management session where participants conducted case studies on crises that could happen at any time during a fair or festival. Attendees also got a tour of our beautiful Fairgrounds and facilities, then ended the evening with a fair food grazing party at the Elwell Family Food Center. Wednesday and Thursday were filled with workshops, speakers and meetings, all held at the Marriott Downtown. All of the Iowa State Fair staff worked hard to put on a successful conference. It was a busy week, but all seemed to go off without a hitch!
Now it's back to preparing for other upcoming events such as the Corndog Kickoff! We're well on our way, but still have a lot to do! Also, interns will start full time in the next couple of weeks and we are very excited to add them to our Blue Ribbon Team!
April 23, 2012
As I continue working at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, there are a couple characteristics I have picked up about the atmosphere here so far:
1. Everyone is so friendly.
From the staff within the Blue Ribbon Foundation, to the volunteers and donors I speak to on the phone, I have yet to come across someone who has not greeted me with a smile and enthusiasm. Everyone is open to answer questions and willing to help each other out with any problems or projects a fellow fair worker is enduring. While collecting donations for the Corndog Kickoff auctions, store managers are always pleased to donate items for a great cause and describe to me their favorite fair experiences growing up.
2. The fair means a lot to Iowans, and I can see why!
There is a ton of work put into the success of the fair to make sure everyone who steps within the fairgrounds has a good time. There are also so many programs, concerts, contests and shows to get involved with. As I learned about Fan Fair, Buy a Brick and other giving programs, I realize there are countless ways to help preserve the fairgrounds while literally “making your mark”. In discussion with Corndog Kickoff committee members, they told me about their fair experiences and how they continue to be a dedicated volunteer after several years. I am excited to start counting down the days until I can see more contagious smiles on fair fans, volunteers and workers August 9-19. Also, I look forward to honoring ten special Iowans who show remarkable Iowa pride through the Iowan of the Day program. The nomination deadline is July 1st and the nomination forms can be found here. I can’t wait to be blown away by reading about all the wonderful people of Iowa as the nominations start coming in!
April 18, 2012
It's hard to believe that it's April 18th already and we are only a few short months away from the 2012 Iowa State Fair!
As I was out and about last night running some errands, I struck up a conversation with a woman and she asked me where I worked. I told her I worked for the Iowa State Fair and she asked me if things were gearing up around the office. I explained to her that I was actually in crunch time mode right now getting things solidified for our May 1st marketing deadline. She laughed at disbelief since it is only April 18th, but it takes a long time to plan the greatest State Fair in the nation!
With Grandstand tickets on sale (concerts are already selling out!), and Corndog Kickoff planning in full swing, I can't help but constantly have the Iowa State Fair on my mind. It doesn't hurt that we had one of the shortest winters I can remember, and the weather has been gorgeous this spring. I can just smell the funnel cakes and corn dogs now.
As I snap back to reality, I am thankful that we are still 112 days away from the Fair though. There is still plenty of planning to be done, and we wouldn't want to stop short of anything spectacular for 2012. As you sit down in the next month or so and plan out that summer calendar, be sure to give some thought to the Corn Dog Kickoff on July 14th and the Iowa State Fair August 9-19. I promise, you won't be sorry because after all - Nothing Compares!
April 10, 2012
Being able to think creatively is one of the things I enjoy about working at the Fair. Right now trying to think of something new and different is a big part of my daily routine. This week I'm focusing attention on packages for the Corndog Kickoff. Just like the Fair, we always try and offer those favored traditional packages like helping sculpt the tail on the butter cow, getting a prime camping spot within the Fairgrounds or backstage passes to one of the Grandstand shows to name a few. But, it's always fun to let your brain wander and think of something new, the "what if's." I think of it about like you might think of "what if I won the $640 million lottery jackpot." What could be a really cool package....tickets to the Kentucky Derby, a vacation condo in Vermont, a week's stay at a home in England, tickets for the Broncos/Lakers/Cardinals? The world is my oyster to dream up my wish list. And then I talk about my wish list with our volunteers and they do some of their own brainstorming and we end up with some very cool packages.
Now, I do have to admit that we tend not to get quite as exotic as my dreams but we've had some stellar packages. A home for a week in the Vail area of Colorado, a condo in Florida, tickets to Disney World, tickets with garage passes to a NASCAR race at Homestead, a ride on the Budweiser hitch and a wonderful number of backstage passes to some of the best concerts at the Fair. Plus, the silent auction has had everything but a kitchen sink I think. If you can't find something to bid on....well, I just don't know what you might like then. I guess I would say, tell me what you'd like to see and we'll see if we can track it down.
So if you happen to have any ideas or would like to donate an item, service or complete package to this year's Corndog Kickoff, I'd love to hear from you, Robin@BlueRibbonFoundation.org. I appreciate all the ideas that are shared as that is what has built the Kickoff into such a grand summer party!
April 6, 2012
Where does the time go?! I can't believe it's Friday, or APRIL, for that matter! It's been really busy here this week getting the Spring Newsletter pulled together, assisting with the Fan Fair ticket sales, taste testing Fair Squares, meeting with Corndog Kickoff committees, and of course getting the orders placed for bricks and other giving programs. With the weeks this busy, the Fair will be here in no time!
I want to thank everyone again for their support of the Fan Fair program and helping us to raise nearly $120,000 for Fairgrounds renovations! Your continued support means we will have a beautiful Fairgrounds and facilities for future generations to enjoy. We also want to thank you for your patience as we've changed up the ticket ordering process the last couple of years. Though there have been some growing pains, we are trying our best to give you more options and control on where you are seated for your favorite concerts. Again, thank you for your support!
We also met with our Corndog Kickoff Advisory team this week and we've got some great ideas brewing for yet another great Kickoff! For those of you who have a sweet tooth like I do, you're in for a treat! Picture larger than life Fair food decorations with cupcakes on every table, and your picture with/popping out of a giant cake. Nothing's set in stone yet, but it's going to be great. A save the date will be emailed out in a couple of weeks, but put it on your calendars now: July 14, 2012 will mark the 16th annual event. Tickets will go on sale mid-May, but if you're interested in donating at a patron level, click here for more information.
Well, I better get back to it- lots to do and so little time! 124 days!
March 30, 2012
March has flown by and so has my first month here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation.
Yesterday I was able to attend my first Corndog Kickoff Meeting at the Blue Ribbon Foundation. I was overly excited to hear about upcoming plans for the event and meet more people who work so hard to make the Kickoff so great. After hearing about all the package ideas, I went home with my head spinning with possible new and creative ideas. I can’t wait to see the outcome when the kickoff is held July 14.
One of my main projects this summer is the Iowan of the Day Program. As I mentioned in my previous blog, I am already anxious to start reading nominations in search for ten Iowans to shine as stars of the day during the fair.
So far, I have been thinking up theme ideas and planning out the media kits that will be sent to media around the state soon!
I hope this post gets your mind running about whom you want to nominate for the Iowan of the Day and how you want to highlight them. You can download a nomination form here. Start to look out for forms at your local post office or call the Blue Ribbon Foundation at 1-800-450-3732. Don’t forget the nominees must currently reside in Iowa. All nomination forms must be received by July 1, 2012.
March 28, 2012
I don't think it could be any more beautiful outside today! As I alluded in my last post, on days like this, I try to find an excuse to get outside and enjoy the weather, if only for a minute or two. Well, mission accomplished! I needed to check on a tree location, and with camera in tow, I snapped a few shots of our beautiful Fairgrounds!
Many Fair-lovers only venture to the grounds once a year, in August, but we actually have many visitors all times of the year. As I sit at my desk with my screen door open, I can hear children laughing as they play in the Fun Forest right across the street from our office. I've also seen bicycles, motorcycles, state boards and dog-walkers out and about enjoying the unusually warm March temperatures. The warmer it gets, the faster the Fair seems to approach and I get more and more excited for August to be here!
Here are a few shots of some trees in bloom on the east side of the Fairgrounds:
It's because of your help and support that we can keep our Fairgrounds in prime condition and beautiful in all four of Iowa's seasons. Thanks again for all you do to keep our State Fair (and Fairgrounds) the best in the nation! Remember, the giving program deadline is the end of this week so if you're wanting an item in place for this year's Fair, be sure to get that turned in as soon as possible!
March 26, 2012
It's been 4 months since I've taken on the role as Sponsorship Director here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, and I finally feel like I'm really getting into the swing of things. I'm starting to answer the questions rather than ask them all the time (although there are still plenty of questions that come up), and I have officially started a countdown to the 2012 Iowa State Fair (135 days!). I have even started having dreams about the Fair.
Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to attend a national sponsorship conference. It was a great experience and I came back excited and ready to tackle the rest of the 135 days with vigor. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the "Fair world" and forget that there are other organizations and events out there doing exactly what I do. It was encouraging to share ideas with different industries and discuss ideas that could be interchangeable.
One random fact I learned at the conference for all you basketball fans out there: Ed Erhardt with ESPN was a keynote speaker at the conference and said that out of the 9 million brackets that were submitted online for March Madness, once Missouri and Duke lost, not one of the 9 million brackets had the chance to be perfect!
Random basketball facts aside, the conference was really encouraging and gave me a newfound appreciation for sponsorship and what we have been able to accomplish at the Iowa State Fair so far. We truly are one of the best in the nation, and I am anxious to really use these next 135 days to their full advantage and make the 2012 Iowa State Fair the best one yet!
March 21, 2012
After 13 years working at the Foundation you might think that I would have my job down pat and have a set routine. Thankfully I am very happy to report that is far from the reality. We are always searching for new ways to increase awareness of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and to introduce new ways to support our renovation mission.
In 19 years the Foundation has raised over $85 million for renovation and improvement projects. In this short time we've restored dignity to the Fairgrounds and increased the pride that Iowan's have in the grand event known as the Iowa State Fair. And, while there is still much to be done and several projects either underway or in the planning stage (Cultural Center, 4H Building, Expo Hill, Pioneer Hall), we started looking into the future. What was going to protect the investment made over the past 19 years? Thus, the idea of an endowment fund was born.
Over the past year we've been busy creating Our Fair's Future, our new endowment program that focuses on gift planning. Establishing an endowment fund now, one that will grow over time, will assure funding for perpetual maintenance and improvement of the Fairgrounds. This program has kept us busy as we've worked with the legislature in creating a fund separate from the State of Iowa, developed a planned giving section of our website and established a newsletter and e-news campaign to spread the word about our new program.
Donating to the endowment fund can be as easy as a direct gift of cash or something with a bit more planning such as an outright gift of stock or real estate/land, a gift of life insurance or retirement assets. The most common planned gift is through a bequest in a will but there are about as many ways to make a gift as there are needs to be met. (Believe me, I've been learning a lot this past year....annuities, charitable trusts, remainder gifts. I'm thinking Dad was right, this history major should have taken a few more financial/accounting classes!) And, as I've discovered, you don't have to be wealthy to be able to leave a lasting legacy to an organization close to your heart. It's just a bit of learning, some planning and maybe a lot of organizing of your papers; which are all good things to do anyway. And, to help you out, we've provided a variety of tools to help you learn, plan and organize. So, take a moment to explore these tools and help ensure Our Fair's Future.