The Aqua-Expo Dairy Show in Rice Lake began in the mid-1980s as tryouts for Barron County dairy exhibitors hoping to qualify animals for show at the Wisconsin State Fair.
More than 30 years later, with changes in state fair registration deadlines, the show no longer serves as the venue for state fair selection, but it continues to be a good place for local dairy exhibitors and their animals to shake the rust off ahead of the summer’s county and state fairs.
This year’s Aqua-Expo Dairy Show was over the weekend at the Barron County Fairground. The open show included showmanship classes for different age groups, followed by a showing and fitting clinic.
“It’s probably as big now as it’s ever been,” said Steve Fronk, chairman of the Barron County 4-H Dairy Committee who has headed up the Aqua-Expo Dairy Show for almost 20 years.
The Aqua-Expo Dairy Show was started by Steve Anderson, who worked for the Rice Lake Farmers Union Co-op.
“At that time, Barron County had several local dairy shows prior to the county fair,” Fronk said. “They were at Chetek, Prairie Farm, Turtle Lake and Ridgeland.”
Many of the local events have fallen by the wayside as dairy farm numbers have declined and state-fair tryouts aren’t as necessary due to quota eliminations in many counties, but the dairy shows in Turtle Lake, Prairie Farm and Rice Lake continue.
The Aqua-Expo Dairy Show “still goes strong,” Fronk said, with more than 100 cattle shown annually. Shows in Turtle Lake and Prairie Farm, held the second weekend in July, typically draw 30 to 40 cattle.
“It’s good to get the kids going in it before the county fair,” said Fronk, who chalks up the continued strong participation in the Aqua-Expo Dairy Show to tradition, good competition and the time of year — shortly after first-crop hay harvest is done.
Fronk said it’s a great opportunity for youth who haven’t shown cattle before to get their feet wet, and it’s another event for 4-H families to include in their annual record books.
Clausen is editor of The Country Today, a rural weekly newspaper owned by Adams Publishing Group, which owns the Leader-Telegram.