Iowa Food and Family Project wows state fair with LEGO® display

Iowa Food and Family Project wows state fair with LEGO® display

Posted Aug. 23, 2013

A one-of-a-kind sculpture consisting of nearly 40,000 LEGO® bricks attracted strong interest and record crowds to the Iowa Food & Family Project’s (Iowa FFP) “Get Connected to Farming” exhibit at the 2013 Iowa State Fair.

An estimated 300,000 fairgoers visited the display featuring a unique sculpture built by Sean Kenney, a LEGO® Certified Professional. Made completely of LEGO pieces and taking 300 hours to create, it featured a colorful representation of Iowa’s landscape including rolling farm fields interspersed with farms and towns surrounded by food grown, made and sold in Iowa.

Visitors to the IFFP exhibit tested their farming knowledge, mingled with farmers, participated in celebrity LEGO brick-build contests, created their own farm-themed creations using LEGO pieces and donated nearly $2,000 to the Iowa Food Bank Association (IFBA).

The exhibit featured a contest asking visitors to guess how many LEGO bricks were in the food and farming sculpture. More than 10,000 fairgoers submitted guesses – a record number. Karla Velasquez of Aurora, IL, received $500 in groceries courtesy of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association for her winning guess of 38,725, just six bricks shy more than the actual number of 38,719.

“Growing up in Iowa, I understand and appreciate the importance of agriculture. I think it’s neat how the Iowa Food & Family Project connected with fairgoers through LEGOs,” Velasquez says. “My family and I will make good use of the groceries as we travel to Iowa City to cheer on the Hawkeyes this football season. The Iowa State Fair is an annual event for our family, so we look forward to see what Iowa Food & Family Project has in store for next year.”

Placing second in the contest with a guess of 38,752 was Brian Wardenburg of Williamsburg, while first runner-up with a guess of 38,765 was Beau Christiansen of Ames. Both are winners of Casey’s Pizza-for-a-Year courtesy of Casey’s General Store. Martina Wolf of Des Moines was chosen randomly from the Iowa FFP’s more than 3,000 Facebook fans and also won $500 in groceries.

Aaron Putze, director of communications for the Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa FFP coordinator, said this year’s theme combined with the use of LEGO pieces and activities resonated with people of all ages.

“Our presence captivated the interest of fairgoers and offered our nearly 300 volunteers, many of whom were farmers, the opportunity to have unique conversations about today’s farms and to personalize their dedication to providing wholesome food for everyone,” Putze said. “The interactive exhibit also was the catalyst for a dramatic increase in traffic to our online presence, proof that people want to have ongoing conversations about food and farming topics.”

Special guests who visited the exhibit included Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich, WHO-TV anchor and reporter Erin Kiernan and 2013 Iowa State Fair Queen Kelsey Smith. Mascots Cy, Herky and Subman mingled with fairgoers and numerous reporters provided live and recorded coverage of the exhibit’s purpose and activities.

Those donating to the IFBA were also eligible to win a special gift. Denise Bubeck of Grimes received five cases of fresh pork loin courtesy of Iowa Select Farms. Bubeck will enjoy one case of fresh pork while the remaining four will be donated to a community food pantry of her choice.

For a complete list of all “Get Connected to Farming” prize winners and a fair photo gallery, go to

Exhibit sponsors were the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Farm Credit Services of America, Midwest Dairy Association, Syngenta, Iowa Food Bank Association, Iowa Grocery Industry Association and United Soybean Board.

Also during the fair, the Iowa FFP teamed with the Iowa Soybean Association, GROWMARK and the Iowa State Fair to support the packaging of more than 255,000 servings of soy-based meals for Meals from the Heartland on the fair’s opening day on Aug. 8.

The Iowa Food & Family Project ( is dedicated to uniting Iowans in conversations about today’s farms and food system through personal engagement and advocacy. It believes the more we know about farming, the more we grow and proudly serves as presenting sponsor of the Iowa Games and supporter of Live Healthy Iowa.