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.

And the award goes to….

It’s a Fair Game was the big new item that the Foundation introduced last summer at the Fair. Following the success of Fairopoly in 2004, we had wanted to create a pathway game of the Fair so that Fair fans could enjoy the trek around the grounds from the comforts of home. Something that was really necessary this winter with all of our snow!

Well, recognition of our game just went national in January. It’s a Fair Game was the recipient of the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Pyramid Award. There are only 5 categories for this national award and we won for consumer programs. Dan Livengood, co-creator of It’s a Fair Game, jumped through all the hurdles this fall to fill out the application to be considered. From there, the file is reviewed and, most often, passed over, as there are only 3 finalists per category. Dan was tickled pink when he found out in late November that our game was selected as one of the finalists. As with an Oscar, it’s just an honor to be nominated!

In January, Dan attended the PPAI annual convention in Las Vegas where the award was announced at a special, black-tie recommended banquet. He was all set to applaud graciously for the winner of our category when, much to his surprise, it was our game that was announced the winner. Walking onstage, Dan said he imagined that’s what winning an Oscar was like.

Dan Livengood, on right, accepting the Pyramid Award.

It’s a Fair Game was a collaborative effort between myself, Dan and Cathy Rickers, the illustrator. The time, thought and planning (as well as laughter when coming up with the text for the path and when seeing Cathy’s latest images) that went into the game was quite extensive. So, to have it go over well with fans of the Iowa State Fair is great but the cherry on top is having it recognized within a very competitive industry as something special too. That makes all the frustration of trying to fill in the last 3 spaces with something creative all worth it.

Dan Livengood, Robin Taylor and Cathy Rickers with their creation at the 2009 Corn Dog Kickoff.

For more information on the award you can read an article in the PPB magazine’s March issue or see our press release. And, if you don’t have a copy of the award-winning It’s a Fair Game, there are a few left after the 2009 Iowa State Fair. To order just go to our website or contact the Foundation at 1-800-450-3732.

My View…

Finally, a sunny day! The image I’ve included is the view from my desk. I have to admit, I really love my office and the view it affords me of our fairgrounds. When I’m stumped, need to collect my thoughts or just take a short break as I wrestle with numbers, I gaze out my window. I’m always amazed at the activity that I see going on, even without the Fair. For instance…..

    As I snapped this picture a maintenance truck was going by loaded with snow. With the Iowa Beef Expo starting next week, our maintenance department is trying to clear snow out of the barns area for all the cattle and trailer traffic. On several days next week, I’ll look out and see pickups and trailers parked along the road in front of our office.People walking their dogs or running. Yes, even on these cold days, I always see two or three people go by.

    School buses – I’m assuming they are drivers in training. And speaking of drivers in training, many a “mean” parent has made a child stop and start a manual transmission car on the road in front of our office. I just hope that they don’t want them to practice parallel parking between my car and another!

    Tactical units – one summer day I observed a tactical unit practice hostage rescue by storming the Cultural Center. And, when a presidential candidate visited, a Secret Service agent (fully armed) walked by to take up a position on our roof.

    I know the Fair is about two months away when I see the golf carts go back and forth from the Cultural Center to Grand Avenue for the Pork Expo; a month away when our crews put up the tarps on the AE Dairy Stage and about two weeks away when Campbell’s moves in their Corn Dog stand.

    And I get such pleasure in the simple act of watching the squirrels. On hot summer days, I’ll often see one taking a break by laying spreadeagle on the top board of the bench outside. And, now in this snow covered world, I’m amazed how they can seek out a nut they buried in the fall -though I have to admit it hasn’t been recently. (I’m just waiting to see a salted nutroll rather than an acorn get uncovered some day.)

The fairgrounds is always busy, no matter what time of the year and I feel lucky that I get to see it from such a neat vantage point. As I watch the seasons change out my window, I’m reminded again and again of what the Foundation is trying to accomplish and how worthwhile it is to preserve and improve such a treasured fairgrounds. As Allyson mentioned in her opening blog, we really hope you’ll be able to get a new appreciation of all that happens during the year and how much we value your support.

Robin