It is State Fair season! Millions of Americans will gather to tromp through manure, gobble up deep-fried calories and stir it all together on stomach-churning rides. The state fair phenomenon dates back to the 19th century when agricultural societies hosted the events to promote their respective state’s agriculture products. Originally they revolved around competitive exhibitions of livestock and farm products and traveled to different locations each year. In the 20th century the state fairs reflected the U.S. movement away from an agrarian to an industrial society by finding their permanent homes in more urban settings and offering displays of industrial products. Even further evolution in the 21st century, toward service economies, has shifted focus to entertainment and carnival experiences. Let’s take a peek at the Wisconsin State Fair 2017.
I have to admit I miss the agricultural and youthful competitive atmosphere I remember as a child. I did not grow up on a farm but spent most summers in rural Iowa with my grandparents. The county fairs and their friendly competitions that led to a trip to the State Fair for the triumphant was thrilling, the organizations of 4-H and FFA completely novel to me. Small town politics and Grandma’s best comfort food ruled supreme. I actually learned to bake pies alongside a church basement full of “Grandmas”, that later in the day would sell them for fundraising at the Sale Barns.
The Wisconsin State Fair was first held in 1851 in Janesville with an attendance of about 15,000 people. Today it is held at Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee and expects over 1 million attendees . This has been its home base since 1892. The carnival-type event provides musical concerts, ever expanding amusement rides and a plethora of unhealthy food and drink. There are still some vestiges of the agricultural world the fair once represented. Crowds of city dwellers shuffle through the dairy barn, swine and goat building and horse corral. Rural youth still present their prize livestock to judges while rides whirl and music blares around them.
I set out this week to take in all that the Wisconsin State Fair 2017 has to offer. Over the years I have distilled down my specific favorites. Most of these favorites connect back to my childhood memories. This year I thought I would be sure to evaluate several of the new offerings for my readers.
Biggest New Item at the Wisconsin State Fair 2017
This new ferris wheel, WonderFair Wheel, is a traveling ride that stands 15 stories high and from the top gives 10 mile views of the city. Wisconsin State Fair is one of only three fairs at which the ride will be featured in 2017. It has 36 gondolas that will carry 6 people for a total of over 200 riders enjoying this thrill. Tickets are $5 and it is a 10 minute ride.
Tasty New Items
The Wisconsin State Fair 2017 website provides a list of all the new foods and where to find them. I timed my visit to watch The Sporkies, a panel of local food and popular personalities judging the new food nominees.
The judges sample the 8 Finalists and share very “insightful” opinions. Here is the group of Finalists.Leroy Butler, retired Green Bay Packer and Tonette Walker, First Lady of Wisconsin anchor the table of foodie journalists.
And the winner goes to: Albaneses for their Spaghetti and Meatballs Mozzarella Sticks
I do not really love “carnival food”. I am like a kid and me tummy gets unhappy after too many indulgences. Here are my new samplings, unfortunately I did not choose the winner, but I did get a tummy-ache.
Usually I nosh at the Wisconsin Products Building on a loaded WI potato and fresh cherry sundae. Next year I will return.
I never skip The Micro, the craft beer tent.
New to Me at the Wisconsin State Fair 2017
K-9 Sports Arena joined the Fair in 2014 but I had not ventured over to the far west side of the grounds the last couple of years. I and every 8 year old were thrilled by the performances. The group, Canine in the Clouds, presented Disc Dogs and Dock Diving. The Dock Diving performed at 12:30 was a welcome shower of cool pool water for those standing close to the edge. The dogs were truly athletic and the trainers loved their performers.
My Favorite State Fair Traditions
I always make a run through the animal barns. The Wisconsin State Fair 2017 still shows off the state’s agriculture and livestock.
I love strolling through the Champion Hall and checking out the handicrafts and home goods. Of course this building brings back memories of my childhood at Iowa county fairs.
All the lovingly made items draw me every year but I must confess this is the worst display venue. Beautiful creations are crammed willy-nilly into small cases or hung so high in the rafters no one can really see the details. The hall is usually quiet with just a few septuagenarians and myself admiring the works.
Sadly, the value of handmade traditional crafts wanes in our modern society.
The long-standing tradition of cream puffs is always fun to observe. Fair-goers of all ages gleefully consume the treats. I had great fun shooting a little montage of cream puff happiness.
These two thoroughly enjoyed every bite. They giggled and laughed as cream dotted their noses and cheeks. Years of sweet traditions and memories shared at the State Fair.