Walworth County Sunday | Janesville Messenger | Stateline News



Walworth County Sunday | Janesville Messenger | Stateline News


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Thursday, 21 September 2017 14:26

Merrill Center back on track

STATELINE NEWS -- The Merrill Community Center in Beloit has new life thanks to Community Action Inc.

Community Action purchased the center in July and re-established programs at the facility on Sept. 5. The center at 1428 Wisconsin Ave. closed last November due to financial reasons.

Marc Perry, director of community programs, said Community Action purchased the center to continue to serve residents in the Merrill neighborhood.

“We’ve been working with the Merrill neighborhood consistently with different initiatives since 2007, but this gave us the opportunity to have a permanent space,” Perry said. “We’ve been doing housing rehab. We have a community garden (in the neighborhood). We’ve been working with the neighborhood watch group for quite some time, but this allowed us to have a daily presence in the neighborhood.”

Community Action Executive Director Cecilia Dever said Merrill Center staff and board members  approached them about buying the facility last year.

“When the Merrill Center staff and board contacted us about possibly purchasing the center, I brought it back to my board,” Dever said. “At the time we voted, we believed it fit within our mission, and we decided to maintain the services at the center.”

Perry said little work had to be done to the building to prepare for the reopening. He said officials also communicated with residents to inform them that the center was reopening.

“The building was in very good shape for the most part,” Perry said. “We did some painting. We did some de-cluttering and moving staff in and getting our Internet up and running, getting computers up and running and figuring out what worked and didn’t work. The other part of it was reaching out to the community so they knew that we had purchased (the center) and we were reopening it and that programming was going to restart right away.”

The center offers programs for children between the ages of 6 and 12 and for senior citizens.

“The Merrill Center means a lot to the people in this neighborhood,” Perry said. “When the doors closed, there were a lot of people who were hurt and sad and concerned and worried about the seniors and children in the community. The community wanted the Merrill Center, and we wanted to make sure the doors were reopened. We needed the space, and we needed the programming. It’s the neighborhood hub.”

The center’s after-school program is held from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, when students receive assistance with their homework and participate in games and activities.

“The kids learn socialization skills. We have a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. So, the Boys and Girls Club staff comes in every afternoon and runs programming for the kids,” Perry said. “We send staff to Merrill Elementary School every day and pick the kids up after school and walk them here as a group to make sure everyone gets here safely.”

Perry said the after-school program already is at capacity with 35 children, but a waiting list has been established.

“We’re already at our limit. We’re really excited,” Perry said. “The parents of the community have responded and have notified other parents. I think the best part is how supportive the rest of the community has been about us reopening, how appreciative everybody has been and how respectful everyone has been. It’s genuine support. People are genuinely happy that we’ve reopened the center and that Community Action is in charge of it.”

Dever said some residents have suggested that the after-school program also be offered Fridays.

“We’ve said let’s get the program up and running and then we can see about that,” Dever said.

Betsy Schroeder, principal at Merrill Elementary School, said she is pleased that the center has reopened because it gives students a safe place to visit after school.

“We’re very excited about the Merrill Community Center reopening,” Schroeder said. “It meets the needs of our neighborhood. Many of our students participate in the after-school program. Having the center gives students a safe place to go after school, and it allows them to participate in activities.”

The center offers programs for senior citizens from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Activities include bingo, health education programs and field trips.

“The biggest benefit for (the seniors) is that they can get connected to other seniors, and it allows them to be in a safe place,” Perry said. “They know they can walk through the doors on program days, and they’re going to be treated with dignity and respect. They’re going to be appreciated. They’re going to have the opportunity to interact with their peers and learn some things that they may have not been exposed to.”

Perry said about eight seniors have participated.

“Word is starting to spread, and seniors are starting to recruit other seniors. Our target is 25 seniors, ultimately,” Perry said. “All of the seniors in the program were in the program before. Several of the kids were here before. It’s really nice that they’ve been back.”

Community Action’s Personal Responsibility and Education program staff and Neighborhood Revitalization and Stabilization Areas staff also are located at the center. The NRSA program helps residents find affordable housing, and the PREP program educates students ages 11 to 19 about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy.

“In the first five years of (PREP), the teenage pregnancy rate in Beloit was lowered by 22 percent, and they give PREP some of that credit,” Perry said.

More programs could be added in the future.

“As we connect with our partners and talk to the community about what their needs are, over time we will add more programs here,” Perry said. “We always assess what we’re doing as an agency overall. Whatever the community needs is what we will try to respond to. What their greatest need is, is what we’re looking for.”

Perry said Community Action wouldn’t have purchased the Merrill Community Center without grant funding from the United Way Blackhawk Region.

“United Way gave us some of the initial funding to get this place up and running, so we definitely want to acknowledge them,” Perry said. “It was their support of Community Action that allowed us to purchase the center. We approached them about purchasing the Merrill Community Center, and they were very receptive.”

For more information about the Merrill Community Center’s programs, call 608-313-1300 or go to

Friday, 15 September 2017 08:44

Let's get pickled

STATELINE NEWS--At Bushel & Peck’s Local Market in downtown Beloit, some of the most popular items sold -- cherry bomb hot sauce, cherry lavender jelly, classic dill pickles and pickled beets -- are made in the market’s own preservation kitchen.

The foods prepared in that kitchen, which began operating in 2010, fit in with the locally sourced milk, cheese, meats and more offered in the market. And many of the finished products, like the hot sauce, also are used in food served at the market’s café. 

“It’s a way to enhance our farm-to-table spirit,” said Bushel & Peck’s co-owner Jackie Gennett, who noted that with the exception of an ingredient like sugar, the preservation kitchen produce comes from area farms, including the one she runs.

“I do a lot of experiments at home,” Gennett said. “I’ll take a new type of pepper and experiment until I get the recipe right.”

She’s found more consumers like the idea of not only buying preserved food, but making their own, so Bushel & Peck’s offers preservation classes in the winter.

A popular one on fermentation lets attendees create foods like sauerkraut and a traditional Korean side dish gone viral: kimchee -- a concoction of fermented cabbage, carrots, onions, ginger and other vegetables and spices.

Besides a tangy taste, fermented foods offer health benefits because of the probiotics, or good bacteria, found in them, which contribute to good health and healthy digestion, Gennett said.

The fact that more consumers want to avoid commercially processed foods has contributed to a growing interest in food preservation, Amanda Olsen, the founder of Preservation School in Woodstock, Illinois, said in an email.

“With food allergies and nutrition-related diseases on the rise, consumers are becoming more aware of what’s in their food and how it can impact their health. Being able to be in control of the food they feed their families is a big draw for most people,” said Olsen, who has been offering in-home and on-site classes since June 2016.

 While fermentation is big, more traditional preservation methods like canning are seeing a resurgence, as well.

“One big sign is that when I first started teaching my classes nearly 15 years ago, a lot of the basic equipment and supplies needed for canning was not as readily available in the stores outside of Farm & Fleet or specialty stores,” Ann Wegner LeFort, owner of The Mindful Palate, said in an email. The Mindful Palate is a Milwaukee-based culinary school that offers cooking and canning classes around southeastern Wisconsin.

“Now you can find canning equipment and beginner kits at just about any big box store as well as the supermarket. Varieties of jars are no longer limited to the standard pint and quart Mason jars. As the interest has grown, the market has responded.”

For LeFort, it was her Gramma Lucille who was her muse in the kitchen.

Most of those who attend her classes now might have a fond memory of a grandmother who canned, but they primarily want to use the excess harvest from their gardens, community-supported agricultural shares or even farmers market purchases, she said.

Her most popular offerings are an introductory class on food preservation and a tomato preservation class.

Canning and preserving aren’t part of the current programming offered through the family living departments at the University of Wisconsin-Extension at Rock and Walworth counties, but the offices provide a wealth of information and help, including a free service to test the gauge on pressure cookers for accuracy.

“We get about a dozen folks who come in for pressure canner testing each year,” said Angela Flickinger, an educator and the family living department head at UW-Extension Rock County. 

People often have questions about the canning process, especially when it comes to safety, LeFort said.

“I still get a lot of students who are scared to death of pressure canners exploding or killing people via botulism,” she said. “After a basic intro class, I have found I can temper a lot of those concerns, but then I invite people to take a hands-on class to try it themselves. For me, actually trying is a better way to learn.”

Additionally, she gets lots of questions about older canning methods, such as using paraffin to seal jams and jellies and canning tomatoes in a hot water bath without adding acid.

“There are a lot of techniques that were used 30 or 40 years ago that are no longer recommended by food scientists and canning experts,” she said. “If you’re putting a lot of time, effort and resources into canning, it’s best to work towards the safest outcome.”

Olsen, who has been practicing home food preservation for more than a decade, says many students are intimidated by the canning process because of misconceptions not only about dangers, but equipment needed and time commitment involved.

“The first thing I tell new students is, if you can cook, you can can! You don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen canning bushels of produce into dozens of jars. Start small -- you can get started with supplies you have in your home kitchen already, and use recipes that are scaled down to create just a little bit of each thing.”

By far, Olsen teaches more basic than advanced classes.

“The students that seem most drawn to hands-on instruction have had no practical experience with home canning,” she said. “It’s a skill that essentially skipped a generation or two -- most of us can remember our grandmothers or great-grandmothers canning, but our moms often didn’t. So there is awareness of what it is, but not the practicalities of how to actually do it.”

Preserved foods make sense economically, but there are other reasons for embracing the techniques.

“I always make dilly beans, if nothing else,” LeFort said. “I don’t have my grandmother’s actual recipe, but I have found one that tastes just like hers. It’s like a memory in a jar. I like to say that when she passed, it wasn’t the fine china that the family (was) fighting over, but who would get the last jar of dilly beans from her pantry.”



Books and pamphlets

• University of Wisconsin-Extension: or

• The National Center for Home Food Preservation:  

Food preservation classes:

• Bushel & Peck’s, 328 State St., Beloit, 608-363-3911. Schedule isn’t up, but check Bushel & Peck’s on Facebook at for updates.

• The Mindful Palate,

• Preservation School won’t offer classes until spring; visit for details.

Dial-gauge pressure cooker testing:

• UW-Extension office at the Rock County Courthouse, 51 S. Main St., Janesville, 608-757-5696. Office is open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• UW-Extension office at the Walworth County Government Center, 100 W. Walworth St., Elkhorn, 262-741-4951. Make an appointment to have the gauge tested on-the-spot, or drop it off at the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and get a call back when it’s ready.

Friday, 08 September 2017 12:21

Hollywood was a second home

STATELINE NEWS--Attending the premiere of “Wag the Dog” with one of the movie’s stars, Dustin Hoffman.

Talking about music and life with the legendary Paul McCartney.

Pushing through a horde of paparazzi with actress Lindsay Lohan.

Not many people can say, “Been there, done that.”

Jeff Stenzel can. And the 35-year-old Roscoe resident has chronicled many of those adventures in his recently published book, “Beyond the Red Carpet.”

So, how did a quiet kid from South Beloit get to schmooze with dozens of big-time celebrities and attend star-studded events?

“Most of it was just following my interests, mixed with luck,” Stenzel said. “I was lucky to find someone who opened my eyes to going out to Los Angeles, and I was lucky that I met the right people who could help make things happen. Granted, I did do a lot of research to put myself in situations like that, and I was very persistent … It was all networking and being in the right places at the right times. Encountering celebrities and powerful people and simply treating them as human beings, and even friends, can get you a long way.”

It certainly did for Stenzel, who has attended the Oscars, Grammys and Golden Globes, not to mention all of the pre- and post-event activities. However, it all started at age 16 with one of those chance meetings.

“Growing up, I was fascinated by Hollywood,” he said. “I am a history buff and always enjoyed researching things related to history, film and music. I would watch the Oscars and Grammys and wonder what it was like to attend those shows. When I was a teenager, I would go to Chicago for collector conventions to check out the memorabilia, and I met a dealer at one of the shows who regularly went to L.A. He had photos with all kinds of stars and claimed to have all-access abilities to get into any event. He offered to let me tag along with him. At the time, I was working for a hotel chain and I could get discounted rooms, so that was what I brought to the table.

“There ended up being about a dozen of us … we soon realized that he was nothing more than a glorified party crasher with no legitimate access to anything, but he did show us around town and how to find events,” Stenzel added. “On Oscar night, he basically dropped us all off in a parking lot next door to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and we had to find our own way in through creativity.”

That proved to be an understatement. He met Matt Damon, Nancy Reagan, Kathy Bates, Jeff Bridges, Ed Harris, Smokey Robinson and many others during that first trip.

“I was a young kid, and this was my first time in Hollywood,” Stenzel said. “I was impressed by the bright lights and the red carpets. I got up close and personal with a lot of people I had only seen on TV. It was an instant addiction. I was fascinated by what I learned but also knew that I wanted to develop legitimate connections instead of sneaking around.”

And so his nomadic life between the Stateline and Tinseltown began for the Hononegah High School graduate, one that he summarizes well in his closing thoughts chapter of his book.

“All that glitters is not gold in Hollywood, although that scene does certainly exist,” Stenzel writes. “Hollywood has given me some of the best times of my life and has shown me a lot of tragedy while I figured out my place in the world. There have been many more highs than lows.”

Among the highs involved some of the industry’s biggest names.

“I met Sean Penn at a few events in L.A. and ended up watching a Bruce Springsteen tribute concert with him,” Stenzel said. “The media portrays him (Penn) as a bad guy, but like most stars, if you treat them like regular people instead of stars, they are very cool to you.

“At a Paul McCartney tribute dinner another year, I ran into Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson,” he added. “I had a couple of programs from the night as souvenirs, and Rita couldn’t find one. I offered her one of mine and she was appreciative. She introduced me to her husband and invited me backstage … it was me, one of my friends, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Paul McCartney, Paul’s wife, Little Steven from Bruce Springsteen’s band and Paul McCartney’s band. We got to meet Paul and talk to him about music and life. In a situation like this, all barriers are broken and it is not civilian talking to celebrity, it is just a room of people having a conversation.”

And he has enjoyed plenty of those, including while attending the three most star-studded celebrations:

  • “The Oscars always have been fun, but events surrounding them have been my favorite. There is an Oscar nominee luncheon that I always enjoyed, as well as the Independent Spirit Awards. I attended The Spirits for several years. Most of these events are ones I have networked my way into over the years. Once you make friends with a few celebrities, agents and publicists, you end up finding yourself on lists or getting regular invites to events and award shows.”
  • “The Grammys were the first award show I was extended a personal invitation. I attended eight Grammys and walked the red carpet many years. I often attended pre-Grammy parties, tribute concerts, even rehearsals many times. I attended rehearsals with Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and many others over the years.”
  • “I first attended the Golden Globes in 2009. I don’t attend every year and I have taken the last several years off to focus on other areas of life, but I do intend to go back. The Globes were always my favorite event because I ran into so many of my entertainment heroes, such as Steven Spielberg.”

And those connections paid off in other ways -- he has worked on several films in various capacities.

“The first film I ever did anything on was basically an extra on ‘Contagion’ with Matt Damon in 2010,” Stenzel said. “I was invited to the set by a friend, and I ended up doing background work and assisted another friend in special effects. This sparked my interest in getting into film work, and I have since produced a handful of independent films, written scripts and assisted in many ways on other projects.

“One of the more recent films was as a producer on a film called ‘Vanished,’ which is currently being pitched to Lifetime,” Stenzel added. “These are not studio films and mostly shot on a small budget. I also have done a handful of small acting roles, writing and production assistant. I do have several projects in the pipeline at any given time. I really don’t have a desire to get well known. I have been around enough of that to know it’s not the lifestyle I would want.”

Still, he wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, including the ones that many people never hear about.

“I was out to dinner and ran into Lindsay Lohan,” he said. “This was when she was the ‘it girl’ in Hollywood. We were leaving the restaurant at the same time and talking. As soon as the doors opened, dozens of flash bulbs went off in our faces. I knew Lindsay a little bit, but we weren’t on a date or technically even there together.

“I always knew about paparazzi, but I never experienced it until this point. Neither one of us could see at all. And you had to pretty much walk forward, running into cameras and people until you either got to the street or a car. I escorted her to a car before stepping back. One paparazzi climbed on her hood while over a dozen others ran after her car as she drove down the street. The disregard for safety they showed really opened my eyes to what these people have to deal with on a regular basis.”

So, Stenzel often has seen the glitter and heartache wrapped into one.

“I have experienced things that most people often don’t, things that people know exist but may not have seen firsthand,” Stenzel said, including seeing stars in private moments. “The neatest thing to me is that when you are in these situations, you can have private, one-on-one moments with these people. I once encountered a pop star sitting on a curb crying outside of a party one night. I went up to her and asked if she was OK. Most stars are used to people telling them what they want to hear and they can’t be themselves. She seemed to really appreciate the fact that someone cared enough to ask and didn’t want anything from her. She had just broken up with her boyfriend and needed a pep talk.

“Just because someone is famous or well known doesn’t mean they don’t have the same problems everyone else or need to vent. A lot of people don’t always understand that or get star-struck. I tend to not mention names with some stories simply because I don’t want to breach anyone’s trust, especially if it is something I have witnessed.”

Stenzel, recently married, works at FatWallet in Beloit as a content specialist. He enjoys playing guitar and scuba diving, not to mention writing and traveling, the latter two that made “Beyond the Red Carpet” possible -- it’s available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

It’s definitely not a tell-all, but Stenzel provides plenty of interesting stories from hobnobbing throughout the entertainment world.

“Hollywood became a second home to me over almost 20 years,” he said. “I attended almost every major award show, movie premieres, parties, backstage access at concerts and was even invited to several stars’ houses. I probably will never tell everything I have seen, but I have demonstrated the path I took and many stories and experiences in my new book.”

However, Stenzel remains a Midwest guy at heart.

“Hollywood is a great place and it is fun, but I always enjoyed coming home,” Stenzel said. “The Midwest and Stateline area is my home and feels like home. I went out to L.A. as many as 15 times a year, but I always looked forward to coming home. It kept me grounded and sane. Throughout all that time, I maintained a career in the area and many people knew very little about what I was up to when I took time off. I was pretty secretive about it simply because people tend to use you for contacts, access, etc.

“I always did this for the love of it, not for the attention,” he added. “The people closest to me started telling me that I can’t go through life without telling my story, and as the years passed I realized how rare some of the things I have done actually are, even though to me much of it seems tradition now. I love film and music and always will. But home always will be where my loved ones are.”



Friday, 25 August 2017 09:13

Cranking up their engines

EDGERTON — The Rock River Thresheree reunion will feature a variety of stories about antique equipment, but perhaps none more interesting than two engines that the Fairbanks-Morse Company manufactured in 1935.

The thresheree will be held Friday through Monday, Sept. 1 through Sept. 4, at Thresherman’s Park south of Edgerton.

It will feature two CV-6 gasoline engines that were aboard the Navy’s USS Enterprise during World War II. Both engines were transported from New York in time for the 61st annual celebration.

“Even the Navy will tell you that (the USS Enterprise) was the most highly decorated ship that has been in the U.S. Navy,” said Ron DeGraff, Fairbanks-Morse historian. “We have now brought (the engines) back to the Beloit area about 82 years later. They were World War II veterans 82 years ago. So for a few of us, that’s a pretty big issue. They were in pre-production. They weren’t even manufacturing them.”

DeGraff said the CV-6s are “pretty darn rare.”

“They are the only two that exist in the world,” DeGraff said. “We like to advertise it as such, because maybe there will be some Navy veterans stopping by. We would like to make one of these run. Fairbanks-Morse made them in 1935, but they weren’t put in production so we don’t have any spare parts for them.”

DeGraff said the thresheree board has been trying to get its hands on the two engines for several years and paid about $1,300 to have them transported, with some help from Fairbanks-Morse, the featured engine for the thresheree.

“Fairbanks-Morse donated some money, and that was used to help pay for this project,” DeGraff said.

A gas engine that was used at a power plant in Alaska also will be displayed. It was brought to Thresherman’s Park about six years ago to be repaired and repainted.

The thresheree will include large gas engines that were used to power area municipalities.

“It was a step up from the days when you had these hit-or-miss gasoline engines,” DeGraff said. “The cities and towns started generating power, then the next phase was the power grids. (Gasoline engines) were just an interim step, and there are still a lot of these (engines) out there. It’s amazing how many of them are still on stand-by service. If (municipalities) get off the grid or the grid goes down or something, these still get used.”

DeGraff said several exhibitors will be displaying smaller gasoline engines, and engine collectors from throughout the country attend the event.

“Most of the smaller gas engines are owned by individuals, and they bring them up and display them at the show,” DeGraff said. “The other day, a guy called me and said he and his dad are coming from Virginia. If they want to come from Virginia, we will welcome them.”

DeGraff has been manager of the gas engines since 2004. He said he enjoys working with them and being a part of the event.

“The biggest thing I have to do is lay out the display area and put in the stakes and ropes, so when everybody brings their engines in they got a place to show them,” said DeGraff, who owns several gasoline engines that he often displays at the thresheree.

“My mother said I was born with a wrench,” DeGraff said. “From lawnmowers to go-karts, I’ve always had gas engines. I think I got pretty much everything I need (in my collection). After awhile, you start running out of space.”

DeGraff mostly worked with gas engines during his 34-year career at Fairbanks-Morse, which allowed him to travel overseas.

“I’ve been to Peru and Venezuela,” he said. “I’ve been to offshore locations in the Gulf (of Mexico),” DeGraff said. “I’ve traveled around and done a lot. I still do history programs for Fairbanks-Morse. I would have to say that I have had a remarkable career in the fact that I have a hobby that became a part of my work.”

Meanwhile, Allis-Chalmers will be the featured equipment company during Labor Day weekend.

“Most of it will be tractors, but there will be other types of equipment,” said Todd Ligman, president and director of the thresheree board. “Allis-Chalmers was a major manufacturer back in the day. They manufactured several types of equipment, especially tractors.”

Board member Guy Fay co-wrote a book about Allis-Chalmers tractors called “Original Allis-Chalmers: 1933-1957” in the late 1980s.

“The book is not so much about the company itself but more about the tractors they built when the tractors were popular,” Fay said. “I mostly wrote about the tractors that the company produced from the 1930s to the 1950s.”

Fay said he wanted to do the book because of his interest in antique tractors.

“I was a farm kid, and I’ve always been interested in antique tractors,” Fay said. “I thought it was an opportunity to do research about tractors.”

Fay said most of the Allis-Chalmers equipment at the thresheree belongs to nearby collectors.

“A lot of it will be local stuff, but I’m sure we will have some stuff from out of state,” he said. “I don’t know what everyone will bring. It’s up to them.”

Fay said people are allowed to submit items throughout the event.

“People are starting to bring stuff now,” Fay said. “People can bring stuff at 8 a.m. the day of the show. Some people even come in late and drive their tractors in. We get stuff all four days of the show.”

Fay has been a board member since 1992 and usually runs the Sorghum Mill, but this year he mostly will be involved with the antique car and truck show. Fay said the thresheree helps him stay in touch with his agricultural roots.

“I’m from the area and grew up on a farm,” Fay said. “(The thresheree) helps me keep up with the history of the area. I’m not farming anymore, but it’s a way for me to keep up with the farming industry. That’s what I like about the thresheree.”

The thresheree board selects different companies each year to be featured.

“It’s on a rotating list of ‘well, we haven’t done this company in awhile,’ or we do what we call ‘orphans and oddballs,’” DeGraff said. “Orphans and oddballs are usually a mix of tractor or engine manufacturers that made equipment for a few years, but they’re no longer a company, and that’s how they become orphans. You may have an engine, but you don’t have a company. There’s a whole list of categories that we bounce around and say, ‘what have we got and what haven’t we got?’”

The thresheree will include activities such as the Parade of Power at 2 p.m. daily, flea market, craft show, antique car and truck show, live music, food vendors and train rides on the Rock River Cannonball. The event also will offer blacksmithing, carving, broom making, corn shelling, grain threshing and steam engine plowing demonstrations.

Ligman said about 2,000 people attend the thresheree each year.

“The biggest part is people come with their families,” Ligman said. “There’s a lot for families to do. We have the flea market and the train rides, live music and food. It’s nice for families to come out for the day.”



At a glance:

What: 61st annual Rock River Thresheree

When: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 1 through Sept. 4; gates open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Thresherman’s Park, 51 E. Cox Road, Edgerton; just off U.S. Highway 51 and County Highway M between Edgerton and Janesville

Admission: $8 for those age 13 and older, free for those 12 and younger; Senior Citizens Day on Sept. 1, $6

Attractions: Sawmills, shingle and sorghum mills, threshing, pile driver, blacksmith shop, steam train rides, kids’ pedal pull, Museum of Ag & Industry, steam engines, car and truck show, military displays, craftsman demonstrations, tractors and gas engines

Other highlights: daily Parade of Power at 2 p.m.; Allis-Chalmers featured equipment and Fairbanks-Morse featured engine; flea market and craft show (exhibitors welcome); free parking and shuttle service

FYI: Call 608-868-2814 for general information and 608-728-3407 about the flea market. Visit for more details.

Thursday, 27 July 2017 00:00

Ready for the 4-H spotlight

It’s good to be the queen. It's good to be the king, too, as Jack Elliott and Brooke Trustem discovered in May when they were crowned king and queen of the 2017 Rock County 4-H Fair. 

“Being fair royalty and king is a special award because it recognizes all of the efforts I have put into 4-H over these past 12 years,” Elliott, a member of River Valley 4-H, said in an email.

Elliott, 18, won his first fair ribbons at age 8 during his first year in the Rock County 4-H Fair horse and pony show. He got a little help from Mo, an Arabian, and Sassy, a Welsh pony.

“I had watched my cousin show in previous years and was very excited to be finally showing at the fair myself,” he said.

Besides the horse and pony project, Elliott’s project areas have included rabbits, shooting sports, poultry, visual arts and food and nutrition.

“My projects have involved hard work, planning, learning, trying new things, consistently working with my animals, a lot of practice, some disappointments and some really memorable successes,” he said. “But it also has involved doing many things with other 4-H members and having a lot of fun in the process, a lot of laughs.”

Elliott will be showing in six projects at this year’s fair.

He won five trophies at the horse and pony project earlier this month and is qualified for the State Horse Expo in September, which will be held at State Fair Park in West Allis.

He plans on showing next year, too -- his last year of 4-H eligibility.

Like Elliott, Trustem, 19, a 13-year member of Magnolia 4-H, started projects young.

“My first project at the fair was exhibiting a calf in the Little Britches contest on the last day of the Rock County 4-H Fair,” Trustem said in an email. “I began exhibiting in the dairy project as soon as I could; I remember being excited but nervous as a shy 5-year-old would be.”

Since then, she’s been exhibiting dairy at the county fair, area district shows, the Wisconsin State Fair and national Holstein shows.

“A part of exhibiting dairy that is personal to me is showing heifers and cows that I have bred from my own cow families,” she said. “Last year, my bred and owned heifer, Landi, was the junior champion registered Holstein at the Rock County 4-H Fair, an honor I was not expecting.”

While she concedes her passion is with the dairy project, she also has been involved in foods and nutrition, clothing, poultry, youth leadership, home environment, child development, visual arts, crops and veterinary science over the years. 

“Being a part of the foods project has been a part of my family since my great-grandma was a foods superintendent,” she said.

Trustem remains active in dairy, poultry, clothing and food projects. Currently, she’s a junior superintendent in the clothing project and has coordinated a Cloverbud farm tour and a dairy fitting and show clinic that benefits members of the county, she said. 

“To me being queen is a huge honor. For my entire 4-H and FFA careers, I have been working toward becoming a leader that other fair exhibitors can look up to. By believing in the 4-H motto, ‘To make the best better,’ I have strived to accomplish what I watched so many queens do before me: work to build the 4-H fair program to its greatest potential.”

Trustem said her main duty as queen at this year’s fair will be welcoming all fairgoers and exhibitors. But there’s much more.

“I also want to be very involved with all of the judging that will be taking place during fair week,” she said. “Coming from an agriculture background, I want to be present during all of the species judging, not just dairy, as well as being present in the Clover Corner, where fairgoers can observe demonstrations, listen to the Rock County 4-H show choir Heatwave and look at projects from visual arts to veterinary science.”

“As king, I will be handing out awards, working the meat animal and fur and feather sales, introducing the nightly acts/shows, assisting the superintendents in some of my favorite projects and generally being an ambassador for 4-H and the Rock County Fair throughout the entire week,” Elliott said.

He also plans to enjoy the fair, an event that holds plenty of happy memories.

“Oh boy, from going on the rides with my family on the midway when I was a little kid, winning goldfish, hanging out with friends in the rabbit and pony barns, to getting mini doughnuts for my pony and the crazy crowds for FGL (Florida Georgia Line),” he said.

The 2017 Craig High School graduate plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Engineering, majoring in biomedical engineering.

Trustem will be a sophomore at UW-Madison, where she’s majoring in dairy science with a certificate in agricultural business management.

At the university, she’s involved in the Badger Dairy Club, the Association of Women in Agriculture and the Collegiate Farm Bureau.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 00:00

Learning the lingo

JANESVILLE MESSENGER--Part of the fun at the fair is watching all of the animals being judged; each rabbit and chicken held by a hopeful youngster, each bovine, equine, ovine, caprine and porcine maneuvered by their handler in the show ring. You know what a rabbit and chicken are, but do you know a bovine refers to cattle, equine to horses and ponies, ovine to sheep, caprine to goats and porcine to pigs?

Emily Harris, a fourth generation  4-H member, recalls her days in the show ring with her sheep at the Boone County, Illinois, and Rock County, Wisconsin, fairs.

“You can always tell who the city people are,” Harris said. “I remember one lady asking me if my wether was pregnant and how many are in a litter. That’s the first time I realized that I knew stuff adults didn’t know.”

Just for the record, a wether could never be pregnant because that term refers to a castrated male sheep. The term for a newborn sheep is a lamb; typically, a sheep will have one or two young -- more than that is unusual.

Angela Nelson, who has shown cavies (guinea pigs) and rabbits at the Rock County 4-H Fair as a youth and at the Walworth County Fair as an open class competitor, said 4-Hers are prepped to answer questions about their projects.

“Now, I think that is the cool thing about these fairs,” Nelson said. “It’s that opportunity to educate people on your projects and the handling of livestock.”

When Nelson was 8 or 9 years old, however, she just thought the questions were stupid.

Well, we all know there is no such thing as a stupid question, but a little information can go a long way in preparing the uninitiated when they want to understand what’s going on in the show ring. Asking pertinent questions while visiting the animal barns will garner additional information and most kids are glad to share their knowledge of animals.

Chad Howlett, who grew up around beef cattle and has judged cattle and coached teams of younger judges, said observers to the judging process will often hear some common terms.

“I’ll refer to the ‘quality’ of the animal. The term is all-encompassing and includes the balance and overall structural correctness,” Howlett said. “You know it when an animal comes in the ring and it just has that ‘it factor’ -- that’s a quality animal.”

Know your fair animals


Hen -- mature female bird

Rooster­ -- male bird

Chick -- baby bird

Comb -- Typically red, the comb is the fleshy crest on top of the head

Spur -- The horny projection on the lower back part of the leg, used for defense


Rabbits have litters of young and live in a warren. Baby rabbits, commonly called bunnies, are kits. A flock of rabbits, in some parts of the world, are called “fluffies.”

Buck -- Male rabbit

Doe -- Female rabbit


Sheep is both singular and plural – for example, you can say “I have one  sheep” or you could say “I have five sheep.” A sheep designates an animal over 1 year of age. Younger animals are called lambs. Mutton refers to the processed meat of a sheep; lamb refers both to the meat and the animal, 1  year old or less.

Ewe -- adult female sheep

Ram -- male sheep

Wether -- castrated male sheep

Flock -- a group of sheep


Goats chew their cud, which means they regurgitate a partially digested wad of food to chew it again in order to digest it. All ruminants do this and have multiple compartments, usually four, in their stomach to use in ingestion. The Boer goat is a popular meat animal, while the dairy breeds include Alpines, Saanens and Nubians. Angora goats are raised for their fiber, which is processed into mohair yarn.

Buck -- adult male

Doe -- adult female

Kid -- baby goat of either sex

Chevron -- the meat of a goat

Wattle -- an appendage of flesh that hangs from the throat/neck area


This category is divided into beef and dairy cattle. Beef cattle breeds include Angus, a black-skinned breed developed in the Angus region of Scotland. Another popular breed developed in Herefordshire, England. The Hereford is prized for its high yield of beef and its efficiency of production. The breed names of animals, as in these two cases, often are derivative of the animal’s origins.

Dairy breeds include the Holstein, known as the world’s highest production dairy animal. Their black and white markings are a familiar sight on Wisconsin farms, where they make up 90 percent of the herds. Jersey and Brown Swiss also are dairy cattle.

 Bull -- an intact (not castrated) male of any age

Steer -- castrated male

Heifer -- a young female, under 3 years old, that has not had a calf

Cow -- a female that has had a calf

Calf -- refers to the young between birth and weaning of either sex

Beef -- the processed meat of an adult animal

Veal -- the meat from a calf

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Walworth County Fair

Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2017

Mobile guide and schedule

STATELINE NEWS -- The music always comes first. Then it depends on mastering the necessary skills and subtleties of the role.

Add the fact that Elijah Miller and Bryan Trasvina are self-starters, and it’s easy to see why they were chosen as guest student conductors for the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra’s annual Independence Day pops concerts.

The Fruzen Intermediate School eighth-graders-to-be were selected from Glenn Wilfong’s band class, which participated in BJSO music director Rob Tomaro’s five-week Conducting Kids program.

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Russ Hays has been busy. As co-chair of the Cars Time Forgot car show, he’s lined up vendors, recruited volunteers, answered innumerable questions from potential visitors and exhibitors and given interviews — heck, he even  built the show trophy.

He’ll see all his work come to fruition on Sunday, July 9, 2017 when more than 1,000 show cars, trucks, motorcycles and special interest vehicles are expected to cover the grounds of Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan. This is the sixth year the show has been at the resort after outgrowing its original location in downtown Delavan.

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