Fair weather helped draw county fairgoers

Another year, and another fair has gone by

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Posted September 6, 2006 at 8:15 a.m.)

On Monday, food vendors at the Walworth County Fair made last-minute deals, farm kids and their families loaded their herds onto trailers, and the grandstand entertainment went out with a bang - literally - with the demolition derby.

"It's been an awesome six days," Fairest of the Fair Sheri Nelson said. "One day after another, they just all meshed together."

Near-perfect weather Wednesday through Sunday evening brought in steady crowds that numbered just 1,315 lower than last year's attendance. However, Monday's attendance of 18,847 brought the total to 157,342 - keeping it more than 10,000 below last year's record 168,103.

While attendance didn't top the charts, the meat animal sale made up for it with a record-breaking performance as bidders rallied to bring in $412,962.

Melissa Sterken's grand champion steer earned the 20-year-old from Delavan $5,193.

"It was perfect. I couldn't have asked for anything better, especially since it was my last year (showing) and my boyfriend (Nick Johnson of Lake Geneva) got reserve champion," Sterken said of her experience.

Although the win and the earnings might make her a tad biased, Sterken said she loves coming to the fair.

"I always tell people we have the best fair," the 12-year fair veteran said. "It's bigger than most, the cleanest, and I'm glad it's dry. It makes it that much better."

Fair officials reported no problems with the crowd.

"I've been here four years, and this is the smoothest running we've had," said Sue Pruessing, fair marketing director. "There were no crowd problems and no major emergencies. The weather, other than Monday, has been just perfect."

Pruessing said the fair's new Pepsi Stage located between two exhibit buildings was a hit. The new fair history display and art and photo exhibits in the Armory Building just off the fairgrounds also were popular, Pruessing said.

A marriage proposal before the Kenny Rogers concert was a crowd-pleaser, and a 12-year-old Janesville girl and 6-year-old Lake Geneva girl won their divisions in the first Junior Country Idol contest.

Still, there's room for improvement.

"Everything is just food and rides," said Shirley Miner of Nashotah. "They don't seem to have the nice buildings with all the displays. It's not like it used to be.

"I'd like to see it back to a good, old-fashioned fair."

Elkhorn's Tammy Binstock hoped for a few more rides for small children in the Kiddieland area. The mother of a 5-year-old suggested allowing parents to go on the children's rides for free if their kids are too scared.

The fair board has a year to take the suggestions to heart, but most think the fair was right-on once again.

"I think we're just going to keep on improving and keep on getting more and more people here," Nelson said.

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