Blue Ribbon Memories

“Fair Friends”

 My friend & I started coming to the fair in 1979.  We have made it every year since.  My friend’s sister joined us about 5 years later and comes with us now every year.  We have brought husbands, kids, and friends but have always managed to get there for a day or 2 every year.  For many years we lived in different parts of the state from each other but we now both live in Spirit Lake, IA.  As we approach our retirement from teaching we are both thinking we would love to come & volunteer at the fair.  We love coming and it is a highlight to our year and our wonderful friendship!  Wendy Wilson, Elaine Rosendahl Greer & Caroline Rosendahl Morse.

Wendy Wilson,
Spirit Lake, IA


 “When’s the Big Fair?”

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked this question throughout the years when my kids were little!  Our son’s always referred to our county fair (Warren) as the little fair and the Iowa State Fair as the big fair.  Even though our sons are now 22 and 19, NOTHING COMPARES to the memories that we have and the friendships that we have made ~ PRICELESS!  Now that they are both out of the 4H showing age people still ask “will you be showing at the Iowa State Fair this year?”  What kind of question is that?  This is their life!  Of course we will be there, there is an open class show also you know!  You could say our kids have literally grown up at the Iowa State Fair.  Our oldest son first showed in the Kiddie Kattle Kaper at 1 ½ years old and our youngest made his debut at only 6 months old.  They have neither missed a fair and wouldn’t dream of it still to this day.  My husband did do Blue Ribbon Road (now known as Blvd of Breeds) when our son’s were 4 ½ and 1 ½.  Our 4 year old thought he was something when dad let him stay over night at the fair with him for a couple of nights that year!   For some reason my husband did not want to tackle keeping a 1 ½ year old (with a broken arm to boot) over night at the fair also!  We made our “camp” out of plywood that blocked off our “living quarters” from the cows so the boys knew where they were to be.  That was always one thing we really never did have to worry about them as they never left the barn during our time at the fair.  It always seems that everyone is family and knows what kids belong where and everyone watches over everyone else’s kids!  Now my kids have kind of taken on the roll of watching over the younger kids.  Our “living quarters” are right in the barn with the cows.  Most people cannot believe this and would NEVER dream of doing something like this but we would never dream of staying anywhere else! 

 One big memory that we will never forget is in 2004 during the fairs 100th anniversary, CBS Good Morning America called Greg Palas (the director of the dairy show at that time) and asked for  someone that was outgoing and had small children to “teach” Dave Price to milk a cow on national TV at the Iowa State Fair.  Greg said the first person he thought of was my husband.  So my boys made their debut on national TV that year with my oldest son squirting milk in Dave’s face!

 We cannot wait for the boys to have children to start on the next generation of our family showing at the fair!


 Byers Dairy Farm

Jeff, Kathy, Jeffery & Bradley Byers

Milo, IA         


“Nothing Compares” to the Iowa State Fair Memories

I LOVE the Iowa State Fair. This love was ingrained in me by my mother, who took us kids each and every year without fail. We would save spare change in our glass coin jug all year to use towards the Fair admission, goodies and midway games. It was a social gathering and mini family reunion for us as well, as my mother was the youngest of 13 children and a lot of her siblings and their children would go to the Fair on the same day as us.  There was always someone to share food with, ride a ride with and see the animals with.  This was in the ‘70s and ‘80s, back when you could pay to park inside the Fairgrounds.  Our meeting place was always the hill behind Pioneer Hall.  No matter where we were within the Fairgrounds or what we were doing, at noon sharp everyone converged on the hill to eat our picnic lunch we’d brought.  It consisted of ham, potato salad and brownies, washed down with State Fair lemonade.  Then everyone got blankets out of their trunks and rested, napped, put babies down to sleep, etc.  This was extremely necessary to gear up for the afternoon and evening portion of the Fair, as when we went to the Fair, we went ALL DAY.  We left at dark exhausted, dirty, sticky and happy.  The best part about these memories is that my siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins share them as we were all there.  We talk about them often and with huge smiles on our faces.

Mom has passed away now, but her spirit of the Fair lives on in each of us.  We all take our kids, spouses, and friends, anyone we can grab, to the Iowa State Fair.  If someone tells me, “I don’t like the Iowa State Fair so I never go,” I tell them they’re not doing it right. Then I grab them up and take them with me to show them how it’s done.

Nancy Kuehl



Over one million people crowd the beautiful and historic Iowa State Fairgrounds for eleven days each August. With the amount of concerts, contests, entertainment and deep fried food-on-a-stick, there is no denying the amount of memories made at the Iowa State Fair. Some rest on tradition and others on the new experiences that come with each Fair. Regardless, there is much to be said about one of the best state fairs in the nation.

As employees of the Fair, we get to hear stories and recollections about what the Fair means to our patrons. Now, here’s your chance to share with others what the Fair means to you! Excerpts will be featured in our mailbox section of the newsletter, and the full stories will be posted here on our blog.

Please share with us some of your favorite State Fair memories and why you think “Nothing Compares” to the Iowa State Fair. Short stories can be mailed to the Blue Ribbon Foundation at P.O. Box 57130, Des Moines, IA 50317 or email


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