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Thursday, August 25, 2005

The year I couldn't find the fair

Three more days until the greatest show in Walworth County kicks off its 156th run.
This will be my 18th, and although I covered my first Walworth County Fair in 1987, I admit there's still plenty I haven't seen.

Truth be told, I almost didn't make it to my first Walworth County Fair. Back in '87 I was a part-time photographer for our sister paper, the Janesville Gazette. Among the various assignments I was sent on was a visit to several county fairs.

First up was the Jefferson County Fair. So I traveled to the city of Jefferson several times that week covering various activities, ribbon winners and auctions.

Then, at the end of August, I was sent to cover the Walworth County Fair. Feeling pretty seasoned by then, I figured that if the Jefferson County Fair was in Jefferson, the Walworth County Fair would be in Walworth.
Off to the village of Walworth I went, with camera gear in tow. I drove around the square a few times. Found the high school. Drove down Highway 14 toward the state line for a while, then turned around and headed back into town.

I finally flagged a guy down walking the square and asked him where the fair was. "You mean the one in Elkhorn?" he said.

At that point I knew I was in trouble ... and late.

I quickly made my way to Elkhorn, but that's not the end of the story.

You see, this is the first time I ever ran into parking inside the fairgrounds.

My home county fair, in Seymour in Outagamie County, was small by comparison. When I visited as a kid, I remembered that you'd find a place to park around the perimeter of the fair somewhere and quickly walk inside.

But once in Elkhorn, I found myself following the parking signs that directed me to enter the armory gate. Being unfamiliar with the layout, I began cautiously following the directions of the kids with the little red flags.
They directed me past the farm machinery display and the animal barns; then left at the old draft horse barn. As I reached the intersection between the activity center and the campgrounds, I took a right and before I knew what happened, I found myself back outside the fairgrounds driving aimlessly around the Elkhorn High School parking lot.

Figuring I was about as close as I was going to get, I paid the Elkhorn High student guarding the lot his fee, parked my car, and hiked back into the fairgrounds.

Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at finding my way around, so parking is no longer much of a concern.
But even in 17 straight years of fair-going, I haven't seen it all.

I haven't been to the demo derby yet, for example, although I plan to this year. I'm assuming my two sons, ages 12 and 9, would find the spectacle of full-size cars bashing into each other with impunity irresistible.
There are plenty of other things to take in as well, and we've put together two special sections to help you decide what to do and where to go.

The Sunday, Aug 28 paper includes an eight-page special fair section with a day-by-day schedule of what's going on at the fair.

Also, in the Aug. 25 edition of The Week, we have in-depth coverage of many of the people and events you'll find at the fair.

Pick one up and make your plans by Wednesday. As for finding the fairgrounds and getting a place to park, you're on your own. Even now, I'm not the one you want to ask for directions.

Post continued HERE

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