A pole barn recently was renovated into an administration building for fair staff. The building has been named the Katzman Administration Building, in honor of the Katzman family, which donated money for the project.
Along with the donation, much of the work was completed by fairgrounds staff, said Larry Gaffey, the fair’s general manager.
“We’re pretty proud of it. We did the work ourselves,” Gaffey said. “One of our maintenance guys did all of the work, except for the electrical and plumbing, so we were able to build it with our staff, which was nice.
“Considering we built it ourselves, the costs weren’t outrageous. So, we pinched and saved where we could.”
Two new 50-stall horse barns are under construction and are expected to be finished for the fair. The fair received $60,000 from the county to build the barns.
Michael Deneen, draft horse superintendent, said the new barns will help attract more horse races and horse-related events to the fairgrounds.
“It will definitely help attract events throughout the year,” Deneen said. “I look forward to seeing them.”
Because of the new horse barns, fair officials will not have to rent as many tents for horses.
“During the fair, we usually rent two tents. We rent one for the saddle horses and one for the draft horses,” Gaffey said. “This year, we won’t have to rent one for the saddle horses, and it’s quite expensive to rent those tents, so the payoff is really quick on those new barns.
“But we will still have to put a tent up for the draft horses. The draft horses and saddle horses hold up nice, but sometimes the saddle horses get a little bit afraid of the big horses, so we have to separate them a little bit. We were hoping that we wouldn’t have to rent any tents, but we got a lot more draft horse entries than expected. We’re pretty excited about that. We’ve got them coming from all over the Midwest.”
Gaffey said a brush cutter recently was donated that will be used to help maintain the equine areas.
“They’re real expensive. It was nice to have someone donate that. We’re trying to make improvements to our equine area for fair and nonfair times,” Gaffey said. “We’ve got a big barrel-racing event coming in October. We’re going to have extra stall barns, and that’s going to provide some extra income for us. It helps us maintain our horse facilities. There are a lot of good horse shows that could come our way.”
On the opposite end of the grounds, a new 4-H picnic shelter has been constructed in the campground area. When it’s not fair time, the shelter can be used for community events and private groups.
“There’s going to be a full kitchen. There are bathrooms. It’s 50 feet by 80 feet,” Gaffey said. “Everyone who has seen it says it’s beautiful. It can be used for family reunions and things like that. We’ve got two (shelters) now.”
The shelter also will be used during 4-H events.
“We were renting a tent for the kids to eat their meals out by the barns,” Gaffey said. “Because of health reasons, they’re not allowed to eat their meals in the barn. Now, we’ve got this shelter. The 4-H Cloverleafs raised a lot of money (for the shelter), but we received a donation from a lady named Thelma Meyer in honor of her late husband.”
Several renovations also were made to the Activity Center.
“It’s cleaned up. It looks really nice,” Gaffey said. “It just looks better because of the fresh coat of paint.”
What’s new to do
Besides the additions and renovations, several new activities have been added to this year’s fair, including the You Bacon Me Crazy recipe challenge (See the Lynn’s Place column in this edition), which will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, at the farmers market.
Another new event is the monster arm wrestling tournament, which will begin at noon Sept. 3 in the Wiswell Center.
“We have different weight classes for men and women,” Gaffey said. “It’s a machine where people compete against each other. You’re not grasping hands, but it’s a bar that you hold. If some guys think they’re pretty good, we’ll find out.”
Additional entertainment will be offered near the Park Stage.
“As something ends onstage, there will be something happening near the Park Stage, such as dueling pianos, while we’re getting ready for the next act,” Gaffey said. “So there won’t be any lows happening in between.”
The fair will feature some of its regular activities, including contests for eating corn on the cob, chugging milk, crowing like a rooster and eating pie. In addition, a Walworth County Idol competition and patriotic outfit contest are planned.
“That’s what makes this fair successful -- the amount of participation -- and that’s what it’s all about,” Gaffey said.
Just like any year, the fair will feature a variety of food vendors, including the “wurst house,” a German-themed bratwurst stand. Different nonprofit groups will operate the stand each day.
“We have really high-end bratwurst with German potato salad, and we’ve got a huge brat that’s in a spiral, and it’s going to be on a stick,” Gaffey said. “It’s going to be called ‘Octoberfeast.’ It looks like a big lollipop, only it’s a brat.”
Grandstand entertainment for this year’s fair includes bull riding, Badger State tractor and truck pulls, All-Star Monster Trucks, rock band Skillet, country singer Scotty McCreery and the demolition derby.
“(The Skillet and Scotty McCreery) concerts are the fastest-selling concerts in ticket sales that we have recorded,” Gaffey said. “We’ve been tracking ticket sales since we started doing online sales, and these two concerts have outpaced all of them and not just by a little bit but by a lot. In fact, the reserved seats are gone for Skillet.”
The fair attracts people from throughout the region.
“We have people coming from Milwaukee and Chicago. It’s a regional fair,” Gaffey said. “It’s well beyond the borders of Walworth County. It’s a great fair. I feel blessed to be a part of it.”