Fairs can be as short as an afternoon or as long as several weeks (Laughlin and Beattie 09). Fairs come in a variety of forms. One example is a street fair, which is usually conducted on the main street of a community to highlight the essence of that particular neighborhood. The following is a fête, which is an elaborate party. A festival is another option. This is frequently an event organized by a community that focuses on a specific trait such as religion or tradition. Typically, it takes the shape of a local or national holiday. Another category is the county fair which is a public exhibition of a variety of products and activities such as animals, recreational activities, sports, and other agricultural related activities. It is sometimes known as an agricultural show (Jones 17). Next is the trade fair which focuses on companies exhibiting their products, services, technologies as well as rival companies learning the current market trends. A trade fair can be just for a specific industry or for a mixture of all in a certain locality. Another one is the Travelling carnival which is filled with amusement activities, games, food vendors and animal acts (Laughlin and Beattie 21)

In the United States, state fairs have been a common occurrence dating many years back. Some of the major state fairs include the state fair of Texas which records the highest number of visitors, Minnesota, the Big E also established as the Eastern States Exposition, Tulsa State Fair, Lowa, Arizona, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio and the great New York State Fair (Raynolds and Bennett 56).

Why State Fairs became an important culture

County fairs are usually held in late summer or early fall in most American states. They are held annually for competitions and recreation. In the earlier years, only those who had participated in local competitions exhibited their skills. In Wisconsin, the county fair has been celebrated for more than 165 years. It attracts millions of people on a rising trend in recent years. Entertainment from top artists is guaranteed some at a fee and some are free. One of the iconic products sold at the Wisconsin Fair are the cream puffs which are said to have been on sale since 1924 to date (Adams 95). The culture has continuously attracted large audiences consistently and hence their importance.

For many people in the USA, county fairs are ranked highly on their lifetime calendars and to some, it is a must-attend event. Fairs create vivid and unforgettable memories of magical acts, sights, wonders and a land out of the real in their minds. Wowing inventions and creativity on a different level was displayed by locals with passion and enthusiasm. Americans took this fairs at heart and it has become the bedrock of the American culture (Biniasz 101). Throughout America’s tumultuous and difficult historical times, county united all citizens irrespective of their background, political side or race. This was possible by illuminating the basic national characters,

the strengths, the weaknesses and the unique faddishness of the nation (Lord and Markert 73)

How county fairs have changed

County Fairs were first held in the 19th century primarily to promote and improve agricultural activities in states through Animal and farm products’ exhibitions. However, America evolved into a service economy with the growth of an industrial society. This has led to lesser agrarian shows. In modern events such as state carnivores, games display, car racing, industrial exhibition, Music concerts and other entertainment activities (Shava 53). The agricultural aspect is still there, however, it has been overtaken by the food, musical acts, and fun rides. Innovation has increased the change and widened the gap between agricultural shows and autos. For instance, the tractor pull replaced the ploughing contest, motorcycle races and automobile stunts replaced the horse races. The ancient horse and hog competitions have now been flooded with contests among all breeds of animals.

The attending population has also blossomed greatly giving the fairs national recognition. The fair also never had a permanent ground and moved from one city to another. Before the civil war, fairs were only county affairs which had a more serious setting and less entertaining. This changed after the civil war with the enlivenment that came with the introduction to thrill shows, pageants, and contests (Hope 77). However, the change which was partially instituted by the sponsors of the events has not eroded the culture and innovation and as years pass there is always something new to exhibit and celebrate of. In the 19th century, fairs did not go past dusk because there lacked lighting. This was before gas lights and electricity came to life. Today, the event is held for almost eleven continuous days (Fernandez-Armesto 106).

Fairs in the mid-western states

The Midwesterners are fun loving people and annually flock to the county fairs that are often held in August and September. Some of the best-rated state fairs in this region include; the Illinois state fair, Iowa state fair, Missouri state fair and the Wisconsin state fair (Fernandez-Armesto 200). At the Indiana state fair food lovers get to enjoy the home cooks competitions of the best pastries and canned foods while the ranchers offer the best of sandwich steaks, pulled pork and a variety of milk made snacks and drinks (Garel-Frantzen 97). At Wisconsin, there is a variety of over 400,000 cream puffs, cheese curds and cream nested pastries from the dairy farmers. At Ohio, vendors serve some of the German dishes such as the sausage sandwiches (Wilbur 116). The Midwestern region fairs present an ideal event to sample unique indulgences. State fairs in this region have become a great family outing and vacation for both the locals and people from other states

County Fairs in Wisconsin

The first County fair in Wisconsin dates back in the 19th century and was initially funded by the agricultural society in the state. The event featured; ploughing contests with oxen and horses. It registered an attendance of about 17,000 people and was the first ever largest gathering in the history of Wisconsin (Shava 74). President Lincoln gave a speech where he advised on the unity of farmers, use of new technologies and avoiding hired labor. Waukesha fair is the oldest fair in Wisconsin and is currently on its 175th anniversary. It has had several sponsorship and location transfers such as the Milwaukee and Waukesha counties before its recent location of Waukesha Exposition center where the 4-H also built the youth building (Hope 219).

Agricultural competitions were the main activities with winners getting a price of $40. County fairs in Wisconsin were only canceled five times due to the effects of the American civil war (Hurt 88). The Wisconsin state fair is held outside Milwaukee. It includes the Milwaukee Mile which is an oval shaped one mile paved racing circuit. It is the oldest circuit that is continuously operated (Frost and Laing 256). According to Shava (165), around 80 percent of the Fair goers reside in Wisconsin and the Metropolitan Milwaukee and spend an average of six hours at the Fair.

In 2010 the Wisconsin state fair management launched several fields and activity equipment such as the Comet 2 and a forty-foot roller coaster. In 2012 it took over a collection of independent rides like the Sizzler, the Freak out, a 200-foot swing ride and the atmosphere. It also took charge of the Midway and creating spin City (Parker 377). The Wisconsin Fair also hosts the conspicuous Wisconsin Wine Garden which was founded by the Wisconsin Winery Association. It currently features a variety of wineries from Wisconsin (Bauer and Matthews 303)

In the early days, Wisconsin was nicknamed the badger state. This name originated from the mining economic activities in the iron ore fields where miners build caves in rocks that resembled those made by badgers. The first fair by the name ‘The Big badger Fair’ was held on September 1912 in Platteville, Wisconsin. It was majorly advertised by the department of education. The event was considered an education fair and was graced by locals including students and kids (Magee 178). On May 1st 2017 the Mining & Rollo Jamison Museum opened the Platteville’s Big Badger fair. This was a highlight of the early 20th century Fairs. Among the lineup were horse races, wooden-wheeled sulkies, photography and fancy works that brought back the memories of the ancient Badger fairs (Poling 102). This family-friendly event was sponsored by the Platteville Regional Chamber.

The cultural significance of County and State fairs to Wisconsin

County and state fairs were iconic for their ability to bring together the community to celebrate People came out to showcase their agricultural harvest, pies, crafts and other creative arts. It was both an entertainment event as well as a learning spree (Bauer and Matthews 212). The first importance of the fairs was that the competitions encouraged hard work and the urge to do more. Youths who failed to clinch a rewarding position were encouraged to practice harder and try in the next upcoming fair. The states, Wisconsin on the lead, rewarded hard work. For instance, in 2016, Wisconsin Fairs rewarded the youth and adult exhibitors a total of $ 814,287 worth of premium awards to different categories’ winners (Stevens 14). Many personal life lessons such as how to present yourself in public or before a judge, pitching a business idea and marketing your products were learnt even by those who didn’t win. According to Hurt (199), one lady explained how county fairs in Wisconsin presented an opportunity for their extended family to meet, socialize, share the latest gossip, get educated, enjoy varieties of food and entertainment. She said that the events were unique unlike meeting the house or a hotel.

The second importance was exploring new projects and interests. County and State fairs have a way of presenting a learning experience suitable and enjoyable for all ages (Geary 351). There is a variety of interest categories for all people. Some of the top premium rewards categories for the exhibition are the dairy cattle, Photography, Horses, and Cultural Arts. People walk around exhibition halls and stalls trying to get an insight of their peer's projects and new innovations. This can vary from a project one wants to venture in in future, making salad or ingredients to make some type of food, art, or a new kid’s project. Some of this exhibitors even sell books detailing how to go about a project (Geary 357). One attendee recall that county fairs taught him to practice patience when he tried raising a pig for the competitions, he kept on failing but through the lessons gained after each failure, he improved on the rearing and eventually got the blue ribbon (Granzow and Kwong 167).

The third importance is that the events are a lucrative opportunity to local small and medium-sized businesses. Since the county and state fairs started, they have provided a boom season for the community’s local businesses (Frost and Laing 171). People who visit the fairs also enjoy the hospitality of the businesses. In most cases, these businesses even have a common section to sell their products and services to the visitors. This also indirectly boosts the community growth and the host state’s economy (Frost and Laing 179).

Another Importance of the county fairs and one that is the motivating factor to most people is the fun and memories that last a lifetime (Friedricks 87). With the constant change of the county and state fairs, people are now camping at the fairs. This has made it more fun to be at the fair since activities go on for the whole day and unending entertainment at night. Individuals who have attended either of the Wisconsin fairs describe the events as a step outside someone’s comfort zone and trying a new experience. The events are never disappointing. Socializing, leaning, meeting strangers, making funny memories and making new friends is more than just fun. In such an environment people have the courage to ask any question to any new person without the fear of prejudice or discrimination. There is also the confidence of trying a new project and exhibiting it oblivious to the outcomes (Friedricks 93). It is such memories that you look back at and smile. This is in addition to adding a new skill in your resume.


Any group of people, state, country or geographical location is identified by its culture and the preservation of its cultural ways, artifacts, and historical heroes and heroines. The continuity of a community’s culture through the generations is also what defines the unity and flexibility of change over the years. Wisconsin, among other American states, has managed to sustain the County and state fairs for almost 2 millenniums now. The time gap systematically shows the progress made, advancement of technology and the constant emergence of new creativity and ideas from the generations.

The county fairs in Wisconsin provide a variety of advantages to the state and its inhabitants. It is a source of entertainment for all the people and as well as a perfect place for a family vacation. Other than entertainment it is also an educational event where people dig out new ideas and projects, it boosts the economy the local people as well as that of the state. And above all, it is a historical icon that highlights the history of America with the astounding reality that it was not brought to an end by the Civil War.

Works Cited

Adams, Noah. Fairs and festivals : stories that take you away. Minneapolis: HighBridge , 2012. document.

Bauer, Hubert Anton and Adam Matthews. World's fairs : Map 1962. Marlborough : Wiltshire Adam Matthew Digital, 2016. document.

Biniasz, Martin. Erie county fair. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2016. print.

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. The americas : a hemispheric history. New York: Modern Library, 2013. document.

Friedricks, William B. A great state fair : the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the revival of the Iowa State Fair. Lowa: Business Publications Corporation, Inc, 2017. document.

Frost, Warwick and Jennifer Laing. Exhibitions, Trade Fairs and Industrial Events. London: Taylor and Francis, 2017. document.

Garel-Frantzen, Tony. Slow ball cartoonist : the extraordinary life of Indiana native and Pulitzer Prize winner John T. McCutcheon of the Chicago Tribune. Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2016. print.

Geary, George. Fair foods : the most popular and offbeat recipes from America's state and county fairs. Solana: Santa Monica Press, 2017. document.

Granzow, Krystal and Alvina Kwong. Maddy Lou & Mack at the State Fair of Texas. Dallas: Brown Books Kids, 2017. print.

Hope, Laura Lee. The Bobbsey Twins at the county fair. Lanham: Start Pub, 2012. document.

Hurt, R Douglas. Food and agriculture during the Civil War. California: Praeger, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2016. Document.

Jones, Caroline A. The global work of art : world's fairs, biennials, and the aesthetics of experience. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016. print.

Laughlin, Jim Mac and Seán Beattie. An historical, environmental and cultural atlas of County Donegal. Cork: Cork University Press, 2013. print.

Lord, Gail Dexter and Kate Markert. The Manual of strategic planning for cultural organizations : a guide for museums, performing arts, science centers, public gardens, heritage sites, libraries, archives, and zoos. LanHam: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. print.

Magee, Brenda. The Milwaukee Mile. Charleston: Arcadia, 2015. Print.

Parker, Janice. Wisconsin : the Badger State. New York: AV2 by Weigh, 2016. print.

Poling, Jerry. An idea comes of age . Wisconsin: University of wisconsin press, 2017. document .

Raynolds, Laura T and Elizabeth A Bennett. Handbook of research on fair trade. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015. print.

Shava, Ryder. The county fair. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2016. print.

Stevens, Michael E. "A fair chance for all" : McGovern's progressivism. Wisconsin : Wisconsin magazine of history, 2017. document.

Wilbur, Paul D. Indiana special updated addition. Charleston: Paul D. Wilbur, 2014. document.

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