Bill Friedricks’ New Book Tells Story of State Fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation

The restoration of the Iowa State Fair is one of the state’s most compelling success stories, and Bill Friedricks is just the person to tell it.

Friedricks, a professor of history and director of the Iowa History Center at Simpson, has written five other Iowa-themed books focusing on the state’s most important individuals and institutions. A leading Iowa historian and award-winning author, he also serves as editor of the Iowa and the Midwest Experience book series at the University of Iowa Press.

In the recently released A Great State Fair: The Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Revival of the Iowa State Fair, he takes a close look at how the state nearly lost one of its most cherished and popular events.

From the book’s back cover:

“For decades, the Iowa State Fair was considered the classic summer exposition; it was what most Americans envisioned when they thought of a state fair.  But years of neglect almost destroyed the once grand, turn-of-the-century fairgrounds.  After a number of efforts to save the facility failed, the Iowa State Fair Board created the Blue Ribbon Foundation, hoping it could raise millions of dollars needed to restore the grounds.

“It worked, succeeding beyond the board’s wildest dreams.  Under the longtime leadership of John Putney and now guided by Peter Cownie, the foundation has raised an amazing $135 million since its creation twenty-five years ago.”

David Yepsen, the former Des Moines Register reporter and columnist and current host of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press,” said, “You could title this book ‘How They Saved The Fair.’ An eminent Iowa historian chronicles how Iowans came together- and under some inspired leadership from John Putney and Bill Knapp – built a world-class exhibition set to last another century.  It’s also a roadmap for how Iowans might join to accomplish other great things we need doing in our state.”

The book will be available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble and in local bookstores. Friedricks will be doing book signings at the state fair as well.