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.

Other Duties as Needed

October 29, 2012
robintaylor's picture

When I started with the Foundation back in September 1999, I hadn't realized how beneficial my hobby of gardening and landscaping was going to be. With a small staff, we wear many different hats to make sure that everything gets done. So, in late October of that year, my co-worker Amy and I journeyed from our downtown office out to the Fairgrounds to lay bricks with the help of John Cruse, a gentleman brick-layer through and through. Yes, the engraved bricks have been put in place by the Foundation staff, with an occasional assist from Maintenance. Definitely not a normally requested skill for an office job. Now, I have quite a few years under my belt and know some of the intricacies of coaxing a brick from a pad in order to put in a newly engraved brick.  And, I now know which brick pads I like to work on and which ones I try to avoid at all costs.  Each of the locations have their own personalities in how they seem to cooperate - Cattle, Maytag, Ag are easy whereas Pella Plaza, the Pavilion and Administration are ones I like to avoid.

It's always fun in the summer to introduce the interns to this tradition as I'm sure it's not a skill they anticipated learning when they applied for an internship. In the summer we will have several hundred bricks to place, so it truly takes a divide and conquer approach with several "teams" working a full day at it.  At this time of year, we have 50-75 bricks so it's a much less time consuming task.  So, today Allyson and I divided up the bricks, tools and sand and enjoyed a few peaceful hours out on the grounds.  I have a few more to finish up tomorrow afternoon as I had a few uncooperative locations so I will get to enjoy another nice Fall afternoon at "work" on the Fairgrounds.


October 24, 2012
jennabeary's picture

A gentleman came into the office today to purchase some merchandise, and in casual conversation mentioned that the 2013 Iowa State Fair was 287 days away. At first, I was stunned at this comment. It felt like the 2012 Iowa State Fair ended just days ago - not over two months ago. 287 days seems like an eternity right now, although I do know that it will go much quicker than anticipated.

The other thing that struck me about this comment was that someone (besides Iowa State Fair staff) had a countdown going when the 2013 Fair was still 10 months away. The holiday season is right around the corner, and most people are talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas and all that entails. To think that amongst all of the excitement and anticipation that the holiday season provides, some people looked past that and have a countdown until August 8, 2013, confirms what I already know to be true. Our State Fair really is the best State Fair. 

For those of you that are counting down to the holidays as well as the 2013 Iowa State Fair, don't forget about the Iowa State Fair merchandise that is available year round at the Foundation that can be purchased here. I, like you, am counting down until Christmas and starting to think about the gifts for all of my loved ones. We have a great selection of Fair themed gifts for all of those Fair lovers in your life. And as I experienced today, they are as excited as ever for 2013!

Blue Ribbon Internships

October 19, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

As I've been working on my fall to-do list here at work, it has me thinking back to five years ago when I was an intern with the Foundation. I've recently posted the internship description to recruit new hires for next spring and summer and remember how excited I was about the opportunity when I applied, and even more ecstatic after I was hired and had experienced it first hand. For someone who has a terrible memory, I remember a lot of that summer - how much I learned, the new friends I made, and of course, how much fun I had.

We are taking applications for one spring/summer intern and two full time summer interns. As a Foundation intern, you get to experience the Fair behind the scenes as well as many other opportunities I don't think you can find at every job. Work is divided up among the interns but you have the opportunity to coordinate and schedule 500+ volunteers, head a state-wide recognition program (Iowan of the Day), work with our executive director on donor relation projects, and help plan a party/fundraiser (the Corndog Kickoff) for nearly 1,500 people! The best part is, in our small office, we are a tight knit group and we really let the interns take ownership of their projects. While a lot of work and responsibility, it's a wonderful experience for any college student looking for a great summer internship.

A couple of events I'm working on right now include our annual Fairgrounds 5K that will take place in just a few short weeks, and also our holiday party we have each December. I remember attending and helping with both of these events after my internship was over; I couldn't get enough. Speaking of the 5K, be sure to sign up this weekend to receive the discounted entry fee. Starting Monday, registration will go up to $25. Either way, the money goes toward to a great cause so we hope you can join us on November 4th!

I couldn't find any photos of us from that summer, but I did find a couple from other Blue Ribbon events I mentioned above. Our group of interns grew really close that summer and while we don't talk regularly, I still consider them friends and will never forget our summer together. Brooke is missing from the photos below, but our group consisted of four college girls- Tara, DeEtta, Brooke and myself.

Tara, DeEtta and myself helping at the very first Fairgrounds 5K in 2007.


Interns at the 2007 Blue Ribbon Foundation holiday party!


If you're a college student, or you know of one that might be interested, please pass thing opportunity along - we are always looking for good help! And as I'm sure many of the interns before and after me can attest, it's an amazing experience!

A Different Perspective

October 16, 2012
robintaylor's picture

This past Saturday my husband and I attended Farmstasia, the gala/auction that Living History Farms conducts each fall to raise funds for their education and outreach programming. I have been a volunteer at Living History Farms since 1993 when I joined their interpretive ranks. As I married and had a family, my ability to volunteer two full weekend days a month changed so now I try to help with special events. This is my second year of involvement with Farmstasia, serving on the planning committee and helping with the auction packaging, set-up and check-out.  It's kind of a busman's holiday as I get to do something I really enjoy without the pressure of coordinating the event.

I am the only non-LHF staff or board member on the committee and, at the event, there are only a handful of volunteers, otherwise it is all a staff effort. Only in it's fourth year, Farmstasia makes me think of what the Corndog Kickoff was at its start. While there was a committee that helped with the planning, the actual event was run by the staff with a handful of volunteers.  My how we've grown! While offering help wherever needed, trying to be as flexible as possible in my volunteer role, I was reminded how fortunate the Foundation is to have such a strong core of volunteers for the Kickoff, Fair and 5K. When you ask us, "Hey, I'm done with this project, what else can I do to help?" that willingness to just pitch in is very much appreciated. I know that in the frazzle of getting an event off the ground I don't always show that appreciation or find that next task but the ask and the help is very much appreciated and doesn't go unnoticed.

So, from one volunteer to another - "Thank You!" Your help is a key factor in our success

New Route

October 12, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

As temperatures cool and the leaves begin falling off the trees, it has me hoping the warm weather will stick around just a little longer. Each fall, I need the winter weather to hold off until at least after the first weekend in November. Why? The Fairgrounds 5K, of course! The past three years we have been blessed with beautiful weather and large attendance and I'm hoping for the same again this year.

I've been organizing the 5K for the past month or so, and in doing this, we decided it was time to change up the route again. While much of it will be the same, the direction and some of the Fairgrounds you see this year will be a little bit different. Also, for the walkers, don't worry, your route has also been changed and is much more scenic than last year! Check out the new route!

Early registration for the race ends October 21, so be sure to sign up before then if you want the discounted rate. Otherwise, you can sign up before the 31st and last chance is the day of the race. It's a great time, reason to get off the couch on a fall Sunday and the money goes toward a great cause. Not a runner? No problem! We've got a one mile walk and a kids' run to entertain the whole family!

I'll keep my order in for great weather and we'll see you in a few short weeks!




October 9, 2012
robintaylor's picture

The past two days have been spent enjoying conference rooms A & B in the Varied Industries Building. While the scenery could be improved, as could the comfort of the chairs, the reason for being there was a good one. The Fair Board, CEO and staff from the administration offices and maintenance were there to discuss programming ideas for 2013 and future Fairs plus planning for capital improvements.

For both, we were divided into random groups of seven (each including two Fair Board members). For the programming task we were to come up with ideas for areas such as competitive events, ag. education, special events, marketing, the Foundation and concessions. All ideas were valid as it was a chance to throw out ideas and see what might stick. Some things that came up were new food competitions for concessionaires to create a "wow" item each year, what we might try and bring to Kid Zone, expanding ag education into horticulture, adding in more free demonstrations, new entertainment venues, youth contests, garage band contests.....lots and lots of ideas. From there each group narrowed their list to a top five which we compiled with the others. Now there is a "new" list of considerations to look into as possiblities for next year's Fair and those in the future.

With the capitals, we'd already done legwork on this starting in 2010 by coming up with a wish list that was compiled by all the departments. We've tackled some of those already with elevators in the Cultural Center, rewiring in the Sheep Barn and paving the lot west of the 4H Building to name a few. We went through the list again to divide them out into short term (complete by next year's Fair), intermediate (2-4 years) and long term (5+ years). It’s interesting to see how opinions vary across departments. Maintenance looks at deterioration and hours needed to maintain a facility, interim events looks at rental potential and competitive events considers how many head of livestock can be housed and contest scheduling. Generation of income, visitor safety, Fair-goer experience and historical value are all part of the evaluation process.  Many questions are raised with no definitive answers. When finished, the Board has a list of recommendations to utilize as they allocate funds for capital projects needed in both the short and long term. Unfortunately the Fair hasn't won a $200 million lottery jackpot as that would make these hard decisions on where limited funds would go very easy - we'd just do it all!

It’s planning sessions like these that underline the importance of developing an endowment fund. No matter how much we might ignore it, the future does become the present and, if there is no long term preparation, our goals are not accomplished. The mission of the Blue Ribbon Foundation is to renovate and restore the Iowa State Fairgrounds. We’ve accomplished a lot but know there is much left to be done. This will take careful planning and a long term vision to make sure that the work continues and the improvements are maintained.  With your assistance, and maybe some planning of your own, we can work together to steward the renovation of the Iowa State Fairgrounds, preserving a wonderful summer tradition for generations to come.

New name!

October 4, 2012
jennabeary's picture


Jenna Beary? Who's that? I know it seems like the Foundation has had a lot of Jennas this year, but we don't have a new addition around here -  I just changed my name. On September 22nd I married my best friend and went from Jenna Reece to Jenna Beary. It was a perfect day, and I am so excited to be married! Now starts the process of changing my name (a bit of an overwhelming task!), so know that if you receive something from Jenna Beary, it's just me. Same girl - different last name. 

On another note, it's October 4th which means that we are exactly a month away from the 6th annual Fairgrounds 5k Fun Run & Walk. Be sure to get your entry in before October 21st - after that the entry fee raises to $25. The grounds are beautiful right now and the weather is starting to cool off, so we're hoping for a perfect fall day and another great turnout. Don't forget to register online at We'll see you then! 

A New Look - Expo Hill

September 28, 2012
robintaylor's picture

It was such a beautiful day that I decided to take a walk over lunch to enjoy the weather and the peace of the Fairgrounds. As I left the office, my feet directed me to the stairs leading to Expo Hill, one of the new features added in time for this year's Fair. And, I recently found out that this is not the first set of stairs here. When Exposition Hall still graced the top of the hill there was another staircase here providing access to the building. At the top, I paused a moment to take in the new look of the hill area....sidewalks, landscaping, benches, a stage. What a difference!

Following the path provided by the new sidewalks, I circled the stage, crossed the plaza and then descended to Grand Avenue via the pathway installed in 2011. As I did, I was taken again by the flow of the site and what potential it provides for entertainment, exhibitors and vendors in future Fairs as well as a great location for a wedding, party, concert or other outdoor function. Thanks to grants provided by the Energy Department of Iowa Economic Development and MidAmerican Energy, we've been able to turn an under utilized and not very attractive space into a showcase of green initiatives and renewable energy products. The solar cubes, cooling benches, pavers and bollards all use solar energy to light the pathways and provide unique accents to the area. The MidAmerican Energy visitor's center receives energy from several solar panels installed on its roof and has a monitor inside that displays what was generated, what's being used as well as information about its geo-thermal system plus energy created at one of its wind farms in Iowa. What a nice whay to show off Iowa's committment to renewable resources. If you are in the area in the evening, stop by and see the site lit at night. It takes on a whole new look!

We still have one more component to complete before putting the project to bed though. Because what we're doing is going down a new path, it's taken a bit longer to figure out how to utilize the solar film on the stage covering. But by next year's Fair we should be able to provide solar generated energy for the stage. And, one other neat bit is that USAShade, the manufacturer of the covering, is going to use our stage in their promotions to show a new way of using their product. I guess it's true that while the Iowa State Fair is a grand agricultural tradtion we're also maintaining our history of being a venue that helps introduce the latest in technologies for the benefit of all.


Happy Fall!

September 24, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

It's official- Fall is here! The Fair might be over, but the Fairgrounds are still very active with a lot of off-season events. While there is some function on the grounds nearly every weekend of the year, Fall is exceptionally busy with a variety of events. For those of you who only come out to the Fair once a year in August, I encourage you to take a look at the list of events coming up to see if anything spikes your interest. Or, just to come out, enjoy the beautiful weather and go for a walk or play in the park here on our historic 400-acre campus!

It's because of your support of the Foundation that we are able to rent out our facilities to be used year-round. Without the money for renovations, the buildings wouldn't have heating or air-conditioning, nor would they be as clean and functional as they are today. Coming up this weekend is Iowa's largest craft show as well as an antique auction.

Check out the October schedule below- there is something for everyone in the upcoming month:

Oct 6: 
Polk County Health Department Drive-Thru Flu Clinic

Oct 6 – 7:
- Cat-N-Around Cat Show
- Flea Market
- Two Rivers AHSI Arabian High Point Show

Oct 6 – 8:
- Midwest P.O.A.C. Extravaganza

Oct 7 – 11:
- National Goat Expo

Oct 9 – 13:
- International P.O.A. Sale and Futurity

Oct 10 – 13:
- POAC International Sale & Futurity 2012

Oct 11 – 14
- Take2 Children's Consignment Sale

Oct 11 – 15
- Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Book Sale

Oct 19 – 21
- Des Moines Obedience Training Club Fall Agility Trial

Oct 20 – 21
- Des Moines Lapidary Society Annual Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show
- Great Iowa Pet ExpoO

Oct 27
- First Fleet Concerts present: Wiz Khalifa "The 2050 Tour"

Oct 27 – 28
- Des Moines Bead Bazaar
- Des Moines Better Living Exposition

Also, don't forget to register for our Fairgrounds 5K which will take place on November 4th. Enjoy this fall weather and come out to the Fairgrounds to see the beautiful grounds as the leaves start to change!

Fairgrounds 5K

September 10, 2012
allysonkrull's picture

I'm always amazed at how quickly fall approaches each year, but I'm always happy when it gets here. Things quiet down a little bit here at the office, the weather is comfortable, it's football season (Go Cyclones!) and boots and sweaters are just around the corner! With fall, brings our annual Fairgrounds 5K. For those of you who have been with us since it started six years ago, you are aware of some of the changes that we've made over time. Last year we made quite a few little tweaks to our event and we came out with our best year yet. I am excited to have another great year with the 5K run, 1 Mile Walk and the Chase the Cow Kids' Run!

If you like to run, walk, or just plain love the Fair, we encourage you to come out and support our event on November 4th to raise money for the historic and beautiful Iowa State Fairgrounds. It's a great opportunity to see the Fair in a different setting; without the hustle and bustle of the Fair. Also, we've been very fortunate the past few years to have wonderful weather as well, so don't let that November date deter you from signing up!

Online registration is up and running so be sure to sign up soon (before Oct 22) to get the early registration price. For all the details regarding the sixth annual Fairgrounds 5K (volunteering, sponsoring, or participating), please check out the 5K page. Or, send me an email for any specific questions you might have. I will keep posting more details as we get closer to the event.

Here are a few photos from last year's event: