23, May
Joseph and Edward Ryan Trust Gifts $50,000 to the Muscatine County Fair for the New Event Center

WEST LIBERTY, IA- The Muscatine County Fair Event Center is receiving a major gift of $50,000 from the Joseph and Edward Ryan Trust. The Ryan Trust is going to sponsor the Kitchen, which will be named after the trust.
“This is big for the Event Center, as the current activity center has no kitchen, and we see a large need for one in a new facility like this.” Said Kelsey Meyers, Muscatine County Fair Manager. “With a capacity of 500, the new facility will need robust kitchen facilities to accommodate catering. I cannot thank the Ryan Trust board members enough for this generous gift.”
The enhanced capacity will allow the event center to host larger conferences, meetings, and events. Currently, no buildings on the fairgrounds have a commercial kitchen. The kitchen will be a prep area for caterers to prep and serve food. The kitchen will have extensive counter space, storage, commercial refrigeration, and more.
The Ryan Trust Board, which includes Bob Cline, Priscilla Haessig, and Jason Cassady, manages trust distributions, and meets four times a year to review funding requests and make financial awards to organizations that meet the criteria and have compelling and thorough grant applications. Since its inception, the Ryan Trust has given over three million dollars to West Liberty Area projects. The Muscatine County Fair has been the recipient of Ryan Funds multiple times and one of the keynote historic buildings is named The Ryan Building.
The Ryan Family
The Ryan family settled in the West Liberty area in the 1800s and farmed just south of Highway 6 on the west side of town heading towards Iowa City. They were located right on the border of Johnson and Muscatine County, and the family farmhouse still stands today. The Ryans were a conservative, hard-working farm family and members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in West Liberty. They had three children – two sons (Joe and Ed) and a daughter (Eileen) – and none of them married. Joe and Ed farmed the family farm all their lives. Eileen became a nun and Catholic school teacher and joined a convent located in Dubuque, Iowa. Joe was the oldest, the dominant of the three children, and graduated valedictorian of West Liberty High School in 1929.
In 1934 during the Great Depression, banks were struggling, and the Ryan family was evaluating options for their savings. Since they were right on the county line, they looked at banks in Iowa City and West Liberty, ultimately deciding on West Liberty State Bank.
That one decision would prove monumental for West Liberty. In 1991 Joe Ryan met with the Barclay Law firm to set up a trust for the family estate. Having no heirs, he set up a very simple trust leaving the entire estate for the benefit of West Liberty area residents. The Ryan Trust has funded many important projects over the last 20 years that have significantly enhanced the quality of life for West Liberty area residents.
Muscatine County Fair Impact
The fairgrounds are listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, which is managed by the National Park Service. The Federal Government has identified the significant history of these grounds and the unique architectural styles and features. Two of the historic structures have been renovated with Ryan Trust Funds.
The Ryan Building is the first historic structure seen when entering the grounds. Built in 1915, it has unique architecture with decorative windows and a cupola on top. It is one of the oldest buildings on the grounds. Over the years it has housed canned goods, baked goods, quilts, antiques, and vegetables. Combined with a generous donation from the Steen Family, Ryan Trust Funds were used to completely rehabilitate the building.
Heritage Hall was another historic structure supported by Ryan Trust Funds. Another building with a long history, Heritage Hall was used as a dormitory for 4 H members in the mid-1900s and to house POWs during World War II. It is now used to display a large antique collection which includes one of the largest hobby steam engine collections in Iowa.
Fair Manager, Kelsey Meyers, says the new event center will enhance the historic district and pull more people throughout the grounds. They anticipate rentals that utilize multiple buildings and sites on the grounds.
“Outdoor weddings and events that create an experience are very popular,” said Meyers. “We have potential clients that have expressed interest in having an outdoor wedding, cocktail hour in a historic building, and then moving to the event center for the reception. We will be able to offer a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else.”
To donate to the project contact Kelsey Meyers at the Muscatine County Fair Office at 319-627-2414 or at [email protected].


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