When you think of a fair, visions of funnel cakes, ferris wheels and carnival games may pop into your head. In Wisconsin, those elements ring true, but agriculture is at the heart of it all.
“All of our fairs promote agriculture as the primary backbone of the fair. They serve as the voice of agriculture,” says Jayme Buttke of the Wisconsin Association of Fairs. “Fairs provide the fairgoer an educational opportunity on agriculture that you can’t get unless you visit a farm. With our attendees being four or five generations removed from the family farm, fairs are a great way to see agriculture showcased.”
Wisconsinites have many opportunities to attend a fair. The state has 75 state-aided county and district fairs, and the Wisconsin State Fair, held annually in West Allis. The State Fair attracts visitors from all over Wisconsin and beyond. Fairs include activities ranging from animal shows and baking contests, to live music and entertainment, to midway rides.
Fairs Focus on Agriculture
Buttke says that in recent years, fairs across the state have embraced creative ideas to maintain their agricultural roots and educate the public about everything from dairy production to plant growth.
“Our fair members have realized that they need to provide more hands-on agricultural education,” she says. “They have created areas with interactive displays on how your milk gets to the grocery store, or how to plant seeds that produce a corn crop. Playing in a corn or soybean box instead of a sandbox, learning how to make ice cream or milk a cow are a few other hands-on examples.”
“The first county fair was held in 1842 in Waukesha County. A total of $40 in awards were presented,” Buttke says. “Today, more than 385,000 exhibits by 50,000 exhibitors are displayed at county, district and state fairs annually. More than $900,000 in awards is presented.”
She says that although the cash prizes are enticing, they aren’t the real rewards.
Wisconsin Fairs Are Fun For All
“Learning how to do a project, doing the work yourself and then being able to showcase that to your parents, grandparents and friends is the real prize,” Buttke says.
Each of Wisconsin’s 75 fairs is unique. Buttke says that this is another advantage, as they help connect a community and highlight togetherness.
“Fairs offer something special to their community and are often the highlight event of the summer as an opportunity for civic organizations to participate and give back to the community as well,” she says.
Click here to learn more about Wisconsin’s many fairs and when they’re happening.