FTD is the largest agricultural show in the state and one of the largest shows in the country, according to its website. The event has been held annually since 1954, each time in a different Wisconsin county with an area farm family hosting the event.
Steve Snudden’s dairy farm, located on County Highway B and Zenda Road, will be the site of the 2016 FTD. This year marks the first time the event will be held in Walworth County.
It’s also the farthest south FTD has ever been held, said Peg Reedy, Walworth County University of Wisconsin-Extension agricultural agent and executive secretary of the county’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days.
Reedy is no stranger to the event. She worked on the FTD in Rock County in 2001 and has attended most of them since then. She also sat in on monthly meetings last year in Dane County, where the 2015 FTD was held, learning what to expect when the event opens here.
“We got a lot of good input from those meetings and are taking advantage of some good ideas,” she said. “We’ve got a commitment to work with local vendors, from area locker plants and restaurants to local corn and meats.”
Reedy said event planning has been in the works since Walworth County was chosen as the site back in the spring of 2013, but as the event date gets closer, the pace is picking up.
“Starting in early June, things will really be cooking out there,” Reedy said.
That’s when the grounds will be developed, tent city will be staked out and equipment will come in. By July 1, electricity will be put in, and the headquarters will be open so that food vendors and exhibitors can begin moving in and setting up.
Reedy said 90 percent of the outdoor lots already have been sold to exhibitors and vendors.
“I’m very impressed with how much has gotten done. A lot of people stepped up,” she said. “The quality of exhibits is pretty outstanding.”
She’s especially proud of a youth village where kids can discover more about the state’s natural resources, drive a simulated tractor or learn to fish.
“We’re encouraging youth participation, and we’ve got tons of activities,” she said.
Rachael Crane, on the committee for family living activities at this year’s FTD, said the Rural Mutual Insurance Family Living Tent will have stages for musical acts, other entertainment and demonstrations. Opening ceremonies also will take place there.
“We’re focusing on youth and families, with activities from reading and learning centers to blood pressure screenings and even a family sanctuary where mothers can go to nurse,” Crane said.
A county mercantile tent will feature vendors selling homemade or handcrafted goods, ranging from woodworking to produce and flowers.
Family living is one of 15 subcommittees on everything from admissions to youth that are in the process of planning for the event.
Bill Thompson, fundraising chairman, said his committee has been at work since it was formed in November 2013. He said a number of agricultural companies from Walworth County are sponsors of the event.
Thompson said the event’s cash budget is $250,000, of which $210,000 has been raised so far.
A study by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls estimated that FTD has an overall economic impact on the host county of more than $1.8 million, supporting 33 jobs and generating $191,000 in additional taxes.
Local nonprofit organizations will have their own chance to raise funds. Members of such groups as the Knights of Columbus, the Future Farmers of America and the Walworth/Jefferson County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance will be manning the six food tents -- cooking, serving and working the cash registers -- with volunteers getting an hourly wage that goes directly to the nonprofit group.
Colleen Lesniak, coordinator of Walworth County Volunteer Services, heads the committee that’s responsible for recruiting volunteers needed for the event. Volunteer duties include taking care of trash and recyclables, mulching, delivering water, moving people from parking lots to the event and even helping with field demonstrations and barn tours.
Lesniak said area banks and financial institutions have stepped up, sending employees as volunteers, but she’s looking for more. She currently has more than 200 volunteers signed up, with a goal of 1,000.
“We’re concentrating on volunteers to fill positions on the grounds, in parking, as field demonstrators and tram drivers,” she said.
Interested volunteers can check out wifarmtechnologydays.com/walworth/ which has an application form on it, Walworth County Farm Technology Days 2016 Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/walcoftd2016/, or contact Lesniak at