• Wis Outdoor Explorer

Fairs: A Wisconsin Tradition

Attending a fair is a great way to get out and Explore Wisconsin.

It’s Fair season! Our house has been busy for the last few months finishing up projects that my daughters have decided to show at their first Fair. This is the first year that our family joined a local 4H club and showing at the fair is always the highlight or pinnacle of the 4H year. My wife and I were in 4H when we were young and wanted our children to have those same wonderful experiences.

For the past week, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on sewing projects, mounting pictures to tag-board and tagging all the things they are taking. My wife and I decided to take a few things this year as well to spark some nostalgia from our youth.

We show at the Wisconsin Valley Fair in Marathon County. It’s a great fair with lots of animals, rides and concerts. It’s everything you’d expect from a fair. It really got me thinking about Wisconsin’s long history with fairs. The Wisconsin Valley Fair has been around for over 150 years and that’s not the oldest fair in Wisconsin. Waukesha County Fair boost the longest running fair as it celebrates its 177th anniversary. The first state fair was in 1851. That’s a lot of show cattle and fair food!

I love being able to walk around a fair ground on a beautiful summer day look at all the projects and animals being show and I’m reminded of all the great things this state provides. From the upcoming youth working hard to wash and trim their livestock for best of show to the seven-foot-tall blue-ribbon corn grow by a 4-foot-tall 4H member. There are a lot of great things about a fair and I want to share a few of my favorite fair things.

The time and care that goes into a show animals is amazing!


I really enjoy walking through the barns and seeing all the animals. The time and patience that exhibitors put into their animals to get them ready for the fair always amazes me. Watching kid who weigh under 100 pounds walking around a 1500-pound cow with nothing more than a rope is always impressive. But the fair is more than just cows, it’s rabbits, pigs, sheep, horses and poultry. And all the work doesn’t just happen on the animals, it goes into the displays around the pens and cages. You can tell these kids love what they are doing and really care about their animals. It's a great representation of the hard work and pride all Wisconsinites put forth every day.

The kids work hard all year for that Best in Show Ribbon.


My kids are still new to 4H so they don’t show any animals yet. But they do other things like photography, sewing, crafts and vet science. They are even allowed to enter lego creations, something that I couldn’t do when I was young. It’s always fun for me to walk around and see what other kids are doing and how they were rewarded for their efforts with a blue, red, white or pink ribbon. Some of these kids might not live on a farm or show animals, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t work just as hard on their projects to impress the judges.

Grandstand Events

Most fairs that I’ve been to have some type of grand stand event. They can range from tractor pulls to rodeos. The fair we attend has a little bit of everything. They’ll have a country music band one night and a rock band the next. And they always finish up with a demo derby. In fact, I think it’s a state law that all fairs must have a demo derby and if it’s not, it should be. To me, there’s nothing better than sitting outside and enjoying a concert or draft horse hitch. It’s the height of summer and what better place to be than enjoying some entertainment? Depending on your fair, your gate fee might be all you need to enjoy a fun afternoon in the grandstands.

Carnival Ride

If my kids were writing this, it would be about the rides and games. I’m at that age where I don't’ do a lot of rides and games any more. I’ve learned my lessons there. But it’s always fun to take my kids on some rides and watch them enjoy the moment. It’s better than watching them with their heads down playing on a tablet or phone.

Who doesn't love fair food?

Fair Food

I can’t talk about Wisconsin Fairs without mentioning the food. Who doesn’t love an elephant ear, a corn dog or two and ice cream on a hot summer day? I always say fair food it our reward for surviving another long Wisconsin winter. So, indulge yourself on the tastiest treats that a fair has to offer. And if you’re attending the state fair, it’s a must that you indulge on at least one cream puff.

Wisconsin fairs are a great way for you to get out and explore some of the great things that Wisconsin has to offer. It’s an opportunity for you to get outside and enjoy our beautiful summer weather. You’ll appreciate all the hard work that goes into all the exhibits and you can even enjoy a concert or two. Go to different fairs, see what makes them special. Talk with the exhibitors about their animals and projects. You’ll see pretty quickly how proud they really are, as they should be.

Whether it’s a local county or the state fair. Visiting a fair is a great way for you to be one of Wisconsin’s Outdoor Explorers.

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