CHIPPEWA FALLS — The biggest factor in the success of a fair is good weather, says Northern Wisconsin State Fair director Rusty Volk.
“God blessed us with some awesome weather this year, for everyone to be able to enjoy the 122nd edition of the Northern Wisconsin State Fair,” Volk said.
Last year, the fair drew about 92,000 visitors, down slightly from its high of 95,000 in 2017, Volk said. While final numbers are still being tallied, Volk expects the 2019 attendance to be above last year’s figures.
The carnival and food vendors have all reported positive sales numbers, he added.
“And our grandstand acts were up this year,” Volk said.
Jerry Clark, Chippewa County UW-Extension agriculture agent, said it was a strong year for the animal auction. While the number of animals entered were on par with past years, bidding was up this year, leading to higher-than-usual sales.
“We had good numbers, in terms of exhibitors,” Clark said. “Everything went pretty smooth, but a lot of that can be attributed to the weather.”
The 2018 fair began with heavy rains, leaving the infield in front of the stage at the grandstand wet for the remainder of the fair. Since last year, the drainage system was improved, and the little bit of rain this year didn’t cause similar headaches, Volk said.
“We had some rain Wednesday morning, and some sprinkles on Tuesday (during fair set up),” Volk said.
While rain was sparse, hot days were also windy, providing some relief on the grounds.
“It was fabulous to see the animals not be tested by heat or humidity,” Volk said.
That extended to using a tent this year in place of the red coliseum building this year, which was torn down in April.
“People enjoyed the coolness of the tent,” Volk said. “For a temporary basis, it was a good solution.”
Plans for replacing the coliseum are still in the works. Volk said he spent much of the weekend talking with key players who will help with plans to replace it.
“I’m still in the feasibility stage on that,” he said.
Getting into the grounds has improved as the fair has expanded its park and ride bus service, he said.
“Our shuttle buses were full,” Volk said. “It’s great to have that service.”
Despite the large crowds, there were few incidents on the grounds, he added. There were a handful of children who were briefly separated from their parents but were quickly reunited, he said.
Volk now is turning to preparing the grounds for other big events still to come this summer, including the OneFest Christian music festival July 26-28, the Eau Claire Big Rig Truck Show Aug. 16-18, and the inaugural Wisconsin Game Fest Sept. 6-8.