The blue ribbon is a symbol of something of high quality. The association comes from The Blue Riband, a prize awarded for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by passenger liners and, prior to that from Cordon Bleu, which referred to the blue ribbon worn by a particular order of knights. The spelling blue riband is still encountered in most English-speaking countries, but in the United States, the term was altered to blue ribbon, and ribbons of this color came to be awarded for first place in certain athletic or other competitive endeavours (such as county and state fairs). It also may be applied to distinguished members of a group or commission who have convened to address a situation or problem; the usual usage is "blue ribbon commission" or "blue-ribbon panel".
In some fair competitions in the U.S., particularly 4-H and FFA livestock and horticultural events, blue ribbons may be awarded to any project or exhibit which meets or exceeds all of a competition's judging criteria. In Canada blue ribbons are awarded to second place, with red ribbons awarded to first.
The project may not necessarily be the first place finisher, however. In such cases, a purple ribbon may given to the champion and second-place (or reserve) champion.
Awards are generally given according to the following scale
Blue ribbons have been used as awareness ribbons for numerous different causes. Notable examples:
Against child abuse. The National Exchange Club’s national project, the Prevention of Child Abuse, was adopted in 1979 with the encouragement of National President Dr. Edward North, Jr., a physician from Jackson, Mississippi, who observed increased incidences of abuse through his medical practice. The blue ribbon became the emblem of the project following the example of Bonnie Finney. The club sponsors numerous Blue Ribbon Campaigns and Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. In the wake of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, the Penn State Nittany Lions football team announced that they will wear a blue ribbon to support child abuse victims.
The blue ribbon, shaped like the letter "P", is used within the United States as a symbol for Parkinson's disease.
Anti-smoke campaigns. In Canada, it is the symbol of an anti-tobacco, anti-second hand smoke campaign. It has the same meaning in Japan. Students of the Hugh Boyd Secondary School in Richmond, British Columbia started the "Blue Ribbon Campaign" in 1999. Each year it has grown and now has taken on a national scope.Singapore is the first country in the region to adopt The Blue Ribbon initiative started by the World Health Organisation Western Pacific Region, on a nationwide scale with 10 markets and food centres.
Against child beating. In the U.S.A., a Blue Ribbon Campaign against child abuse originated in the spring of 1989 when Bonnie Finney of Virginia tied a blue ribbon to her car antenna, as tribute to her three year old grandson, Michael Bubba Dickinson, who died at the hands of his abusive mother, Belinda Finney Dickinson and her boyfriend. Both were convicted, however, she on the lesser charge relate to child-neglect and abuse, and he on the full murder charge. The blue color of the ribbon symbolizes the color of bruises.
In the Philippines, there is a Blue Ribbon Committee in the Philippine Senate, a committee that serves as an oversight to government accountability and investigations against corrupt officials.
In spring 2007, thousands of World bank employees started wearing blue ribbons as a symbol of support for the cause of good governance. This was seen as a silent protest against World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, who had to step down several weeks later due to charges of nepotism.
In the United States of America, a blue ribbon is a symbol for remembrance of fallen police officers. The ribbons are displayed by the survivors of fallen police officers and are very symbolic of the COPS organization, Concerns Of Police Survivors. In Australia, a blue and white checkered ribbon is commonly used.
In Sweden there is a temperance organization with the name "Blå bandet" (The Blue Ribbon).
In the US town of Enterprise, AL on March 1st, 2007 a tornado destroyed Enterprise High School and part of the city killing 8 students and 1 Enterprise resident. A Blue ribbon with a White ribbon is used (the schools colors) to commemorate the loss of life that day. Other ribbons are blue with white lettering, often stating "We Will Never Forget 3-1-07".
In the city of Belleville, Ontario, the blue ribbon is used in the Violence Awareness and Random Acts of Kindness campaign.
A blue ribbon is also the ribbon used for awareness for the disease of neurofibromatosis.
A blue ribbon is used for awareness of bullying.
Blue ribbons were adopted as a symbol of unity and remembrance in Oklahoma City after the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.
Blue ribbons were used by emergency services after the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia to mark properties and areas with possible human remains or a confirmed fatality occurred. The blue ribbons were attached to stakes outside the particular property or area.
Beginning in the 1940s, Warner Bros., in a cost-conserving effort, began to reissue its backlog of color cartoons under a new program which they called Merrie Melodies "Blue Ribbon" reissues. For the reissue, the original front-and-end title sequences were altered.