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Wisconsin State Fair up in 2010
Rick Frenette takes the helm
By Lisa and Robert Limerick
Food, music, and one very tall traveling roller coaster were just a few of the things that made the 159th Original Wisconsin State Fair an impressive 11 days. Hot and humid weather and an evening of rain didn,t stop the 876,020 fairgoers from entering the fairgrounds. This year,s attendance was an increase of 5% over last year,s 833,285 guests. New manager Rick Frenette took the reins of the annual event after stints at the helm of the utah State Fair and Ohio State Fair.
The fair ran from August 5-15 and admission was $9 dollars. The Wisconsin State Fair held special pricing and group discount days throughout the fair.
The annual Hunger Task Force $2 Day had 34,475 fairgoers take advantage of the discount. The fair gave this discount to any customer bringing a can food item and a total of 158,000 pounds of food were raised for local charities and food banks. Another special marketing day held during the day worked with food vendors to help offset some of the food prices. To do this they held Crazy Grazin, Day in which vendors served smaller portions to guests for a discounted price so all could have the opportunity to try different things. Fans of fair food took full opportunity of these foods and others as there were plenty of items sold during the event.
At different events throughout the country there are certain food items that you know will be available and will be the most delicious food there. That is the case at this event; the Wisconsin Baker,s Association Cream Puffs have been sold at the event since 1924 and are still popular today, as is the Hot Wisconsin Cheese Deep Fried Cream Cheese on a Stick. This year 338,337 Puffs were sold and 3,240 Deep Fried Cream Cheese on a Stick were sold. The hot weather made people thirsty and they drank 44,800 lemonades made from 160 cases of lemons from the Catalano Fresh Lemonade Company. Twenty-five thousand Usinger Sausage Sandwiches were sold during the 11-day run while the Wisconsin Cattleman,s and Pork Producers Association sold more than 55,268 pork and beef sandwiches combined. Joeys Seafood and Grill sold more than 2,982 orders of their popular Coconut Shrimp on a Stick.
Traveling the world since the 1970,s and playing six state fairs including the Wisconsin State Fair the midway was held by Murphy Brother,s Exposition. The company provided over 50 rides including almost 30 Majors for this year,s fair. Murphy,s brought their popular Comet II portable steel roller coaster to the event, one of only two events that it will set up at this year. The Comet is the largest portable coaster in the United States and is 60 feet high and has over 1800 feet of rail tracks with four large drops. Murphy Brother,s had a clean and friendly show that fairgoers responded to very well.
The Wisconsin State Fair has several stationary rides that are kept on the grounds year round and have become an annual tradition of the fair. The Ejection Seat catapulted riders over 200 feet in the air and had a live audio system built into the ride so fairgoers at the bottom could hear the laughs, screams, and other words being used during the ride. The Giant Slide at over 200 feet tall with its green and yellow colors was a popular ride of choice with over 115,000 slides being taken. The SkyGlider sky ride took fairgoers from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. A scary moment occurred when the ride broke a pin and ring in the motor leaving 130 passengers stopped for a couple of hours. Riders were retrieved from the ride by use of Cherry Pickers and assistance from local rescue workers and trained fair staff. No injuries were reported and some riders even enjoyed all of the attention they garnered during the event by having a perfect view of the fair and people throwing them drinks and other items. Stuck riders received refunds for the ride and free return tickets to the fair and the motor was replaced and back in operation the next day.
Musical acts at the Wisconsin State Fair provided guest with a wide variety of music from all genres and for all ages and decent ticket sales were reported for all of the shows. Lyle Lovett brought his authentic sound to the stage along with old favorite Asleep at The Wheel. Montgomery Gentry bought fair fans back to modern day country music and performed all of their popular hits including My Town, Back When I Knew It All and many other favorites with a few new songs mixed in. Appearing with Montgomery Gentry was newcomer Josh Thompson who has had recent success on country radio. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks provided tween fans with an excellent show and packed the house for her concert.
Fairgoers were amazed at the Michael Jackson laser spectacular show called the Spirit of Michael. The show featured a Jackson impersonator singing and dancing to all of Jackson,s hits. The ghost-like tribute artist, mixed with the laser and 3-D show, interviews, and tour clips from throughout his career made for a moving and emotional show for some show goers.
Old school rock and roll took precedent during the 11-day run at the grandstands. The Steve Miller Band didn,t just Take the Money and Run from this show, they played all of their most popular hits and took fans for a rewind to the 70,s. Three Dog Night put on a show for the ages with great songs from a different era. Guests could be seen in the stands singing along to Joy to the World and some were even dancing along in the stands. Celebrity Apprentice winner and former Poison front man Bret Michaels made a stop on his Roses And Thorns World Tour along with support acts Firehouse and Warrant. Some fans took a turn back to the past and dressed in retro outfits and relived their hair band days.
Competitive people should make a pilgrimage to the Wisconsin State Fair because there are contests for people of every age during the 11-day event. Fairgoers could enter contests ranging from Judo and Pom Pom challenges to wrist wrestling and smiling contests, hog calling, cup stacking challenges, and the oldest fairgoer attending contest. The Annual Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Contest with local radio personalities and other esteemed guest drew a crowd of followers as they ate as many of the sweet treats as possible in a set time limit. Other food eating challenges included root beer float drinking, bratwurst, pizza, and cookie eating contests.
A few other interesting activities at this year,s fair included the Great Clips Hair Cuts stand, where fairgoers could get a fresh cut or a shave and the proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald House charity. Dogs had the opportunity to be groomed along with their owners at several dog grooming contests that were held throughout the event with multiple skilled and novice levels. The Rock,in Remodel contest was held and one lucky guest went home with a home remodeling prize valued at $20,000 from local stores and contractors. The Grand Champion Floral Challenge was held and brought floral designers from throughout Wisconsin to compete for prizes and bragging rights.
Late night infomercials had nothing on the Wisconsin State Fair with over 200,000 square feet of commercial exhibits for guest to scour over. Fairgoers could do everything from finding Jesus to buying snow tires and everything in between. Also in the exhibit area was the Energy Zone that provided kids and adults alike with a break from the heat outside. The Zone had paintball, rock climbing walls, NASCAR simulators and other high energy activities. Parents could head to the Potawatomi Bingo Road Show for free bingo in the air conditioned Wisconsin Exposition Center while the kids were involved in activities or rode on the midway.
The Wisconsin Products Pavilion and the Natural Reserve Park showed off Wisconsin,s natural resources and products made from them. The products pavilion featured state made maple syrup, honey, goat products, and many others. Some vendors showed guests how the products of Wisconsin were made or collected. The Wisconsin Potato Growers Auxiliary held their annual Potato Eating Contest and there was no word if the winner of the event left a spuddle after eating all those potatoes.
The Natural Reserve Park was a beautiful relaxing area for a guest to enjoy a quiet moment while also learning about Wisconsin,s efforts to protect nature. An exciting feature in the Reserve Park was the Woodland Preserve area that was full of lush vegetation. This area is a hot spot for weddings during the fair and at other times during the year due to its beauty and accessibility.
The first Wisconsin State Fair was held in 1851 on a six acre plot and was the largest reported gathering in Wisconsin at the time. The fair was held throughout the state until it found its permanent home in 1892 that is still being used today. Prominent guest to attend the fair have included the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, the first in flight Wright Brothers, and Car God Henry Ford.
Animals continue to be a popular draw at the fair and there are usually between seven and ten thousand animals on display throughout the event.