Treasure Our Fair

My job is so rewarding. I think that’s why I love it so much. So many things I’ve encountered lately have really made me stand back and look at what we do here at the Foundation and how far we’ve come in just a short amount of time.

The other day when I was talking to Emily, she pulled out an old VHS tape and asked me if I had ever seen it before. It was a video made in 1993 by the Foundation titled “Treasure Our Fair,” which was our first major capital campaign for the Foundation. I watched the 8-minute video in awe, seeing all of the history of the Fair unfold and the importance of the creation of the Foundation. In short, due to harsh Iowa weather over the years, the buildings on the Fairgrounds were crumbling slowly. Countless improvements needed to be made to keep our Fair not just up and running, but the best State Fair in the nation.

In addition to the video reminder of our mission, this year’s Corndog Kickoff features the same principle. Our theme “Building a Blue Ribbon Tradition” will highlight the old and the new and the progression we’ve made over the years to make the Iowa State Fair what it is today. I’ve been digging up a few “before and after” photos that I’ll use at the Kickoff:

For more photos of the renovations made possible by donors and supporters of the Blue Ribbon Foundation, please visit our renovations page.

This Sunday, I have the honor fo speaking for a group in Nevada about the Iowa State Fair. As I was pondering what all my 30 minute presentation should cover (because as many of you know, there is a lot to say about the Fair!), I came to the conclusion to talk about what I know best and tell people the blue ribbon story. So many people know the Fair as livestock and corn dogs and it’s so much more than that. It’s family, tradition, competition and celebrating Iowa’s agricultural roots. All which continues to take place because of  the improvements to the Fairgrounds that have been made possible by our loyal supporters. Thank you all for your love of the Iowa State Fair and for making my job so meaningful and fun!

Spring Has Sprung

There were times this winter when I wondered if we would ever see sunshine again! Take  a quick drive around the Fairgrounds, though, and it doesn’t take long to see that with the warm weather we’ve been having, spring does in fact seem to be here, finally! Take a look at the spring scenes around the grounds:

Next time you’re on the Fairgrounds, take a minute to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of spring! The Fairgrounds are sure to change as the Fair draws closer! Enjoy the beautiful weather today!

And the winning bidder is……

Patrons at the 2009 Kickoff had 43 live and over 100 silent auction packages to bid on. From backstage concert passes to a private patio party or sculpting the tail of the butter cow, there's something for everyone!

Planning is well underway for the 14th annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party, slated for Saturday, July 10. Though it might seem we start working on the Kickoff in February, I actually don’t think there is a time during the year when we don’t give the event some thought. For me, I am always looking for ideas for the auction – in newspapers, magazines, festivals, art shows, etc. – if something catches my eye I always try and get a card or contact information.

This is my eleventh year of working on the auction and boy has it grown. My first Kickoff was in 2000, the last year the event was held in Pioneer Hall, with an attendance around 600. From there we moved to the Agriculture Building and then to the VI Building and now we take up almost 3/4 of it! Last year’s attendance was right at 1500! Just like the Fair, we try to keep some of the traditional aspects yet always provide something new. And, I have to admit that trying to come up with new auction package ideas is sometimes a struggle, especially as we seem to keep raising the bar. Thankfully we have a group of great volunteers who help provide a spark and come up with some excellent packages through their hard work and contacts.

In coming up with auction ideas, the sky is the limit. We throw out ideas like tickets to the Kentucky Derby, vacation homes in Arizona, free airfare anywhere in the US, suites at professional sporting events….whatever we can dream up. And then the challenge is to see who’s network might be able to come up with something plus a bit of chutzpah to see who might try the cold call approach. Our version of the “7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game only it’s “7 Degrees of Connection to the Fair.” This year my goal is to crack the cruise industry and it’s proving to be a tough nut. (And I have to be honest, I’ve been trying for the Kentucky Derby tickets now for three years and have struck out.)

So, if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them. Or, even better, if you would like to donate something to the auction, feel free to contact me! I’ve always said, you don’t have be on the auction committee to help with the auction.

Meet the Interns!

You know it’s getting close to Fair time when our office staff nearly doubles in size! That’s right…one of our interns has already started working part-time in preparation for the Fair! We have hired three very bright and talented college students for this summer- Samantha, Billy and Stefany. Sam started working with us part-time in March and Billy and Stefany will join us full-time in May. Check out their bios below to learn a little bit more about the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s interns for 2010:

Samantha Liametz

Samantha, a junior at Iowa State University, is a triple major in Journalism, Business and Communication Studies. During the school year she works for ISU’s fashion magazine, Trend, where she is currently the Communications Director. Sam also works as an office assistant at the Academic Success Center and serves as a student ambassador for the Student Alumni Leadership Council.

Originally from the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, she has never attended the Iowa State Fair, but is excited for the opportunity to experience the Fair behind the scenes as a Blue Ribbon Foundation intern this summer. Sam loves to cook and hopes to attend culinary school at some point in her life. She also enjoys volunteering in her free time.

Billy Boyle

Billy is currently a junior at Central College, majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Business Management. He is a member of the Campus Activities Board, planning comedy shows and guest speakers for student entertainment. In addition, Billy serves as the assistant editor for the college newspaper, The Central Ray, and plays on Central’s tennis team.

Originally from Perry, Iowa, Billy spent several summers attending the Iowa State Fair with his grandparents. His favorite part of the Fair is the food; more specifically, turkey legs and pork chops. Billy loves spending time outdoors, sailing, camping, fishing and playing sports. In addition, he is an avid Chicago Cubs fan and also enjoys cheering on the Iowa Cubs and the Buccaneers.

Stefany Foster

Stefany is a graduating senior at Northwestern College in Orange City majoring in Business Administration with a Marketing option. She is an active college student working in Northwestern’s Advancement Office, playing intramural sports, serving as a college ambassador and working as a server at a local restaurant. In addition, Stefany is a member of the Business Club and the Honors Club. Stefany is currently finishing up her last semester working and studying in Chicago.

Growing up in Pierre, South Dakota, Stefany attended her first Iowa State Fair four years ago when she came to college in Iowa. Since that time, Stefany has attended each year and has developed a true love for the Fair. In her spare time, Stefany enjoys exercising, reading good books and riding motorcycles.

The interns will be kept busy assisting the Foundation by organizing events and programs such as Iowan of the Day, the 2010 Iowa State Fair volunteers, official merchandise sales, and the Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction. They will also be contributing to the blog so you can see what they’re up to this summer!