" "A lot of people put in a lot of time to make the fair what it is today."
Dave Gross
president of Fair Board
Special to the EagleHerald
The Marinette County Fair always offers four days of fun for people of all ages.
Special to the EagleHerald
The Marinette County Fair always offers four days of fun for people of all ages.
WAUSAUKEE — One of the most popular and longest-running traditions in the area continues today when the Marinette County Fair begins another four-day run at the fairgrounds here.
The event, which began in 1928 and annually draws around 30,000 people,  culminates nearly a year of hard work by hundreds of volunteers, according to Dave Gross, president of the Fair Board.
“The reason the Marinette County Fair is the way it is because of all the people that volunteer, all the people who have a passion for it and all our sponsors,” he said. “There are so many people that are willing to dig down, whether they’re willing to get dirty and help out or they’re willing to help out with money.
“They’re always willing to lend a hand. It’s not a one-person show, it’s hundreds of people and thousands of hours that make the fair for the community, the county and for all the people who come and enjoy it.”
Gross said many county fairs are run by counties, but the Marinette County Fair is “based on volunteers and a lot of hardworking people.”
“We have a very good Fair Board right now,” he said. “A lot of people put in a lot of time to make the fair what it is today.”
The fair features something for people of all ages to enjoy from exhibitions and shows of arts and crafts and animals, carnival rides, musical entertainment, tasty food and good old-fashioned grandstand entertainment.
“Our focus is still basically on youth exhibits and not necessarily just agriculture,” said Lisa Witak, secretary of the Fair Board. “There are people that exhibit arts and crafts.”
Gross reported to the county board in December that at the 2013 fair there were a total of 2,894 exhibits, including 2,011 by youths, 618 in an open class and 265 by senior citizens.
He told the county board when making the annual fair report that because of drops in attendance and revenue last year, changes were going to be made in the grandstand events.
“The lawn mower pulls used to be on Friday, now we’ve got them on Thursday (tonight) and then we put the farm tractor pulls on Friday night,” Gross explained earlier this week. “During the farm tractor pull this year, we’re going to have bus pulls as an exhibition.
“We have a group that wants to come in and pull buses. I’ve never seen it before, it sounds interesting.”
Witak and Gross said because of attendance declines in recent years, only one demolition derby is going to be held this year, instead of two.
“We went down to a one-day demo this year to make some room for some other events in the grandstand,” Gross said. “The demo is going to be on Saturday afternoon and the supermodified truck and tractor pull will be on Saturday night.”
Witak said the supermodified truck and tractor pull is the most popular grandstand event. A year ago the grandstand, which holds 2,500 people, was sold out for it.
The grandstand events continue on Sunday morning with the horse pull and then at 1 p.m. with the fair’s newest event, celebrity donkey races.
Witak said the competition could feature as many as 10 five-person teams with one person from each team competing in one of five heats with a sixth heat determining the winner.
“It should be fun to watch,” she said. “The donkeys don’t necessarily cooperate and go where you want them to go.”
The main musical entertainment will feature Daze 2 Nights on Friday night and Nashville Pipeline on Saturday night Both groups that have performed before in the area.
Other entertainment during the four-day event will include the Chicago Honey Bear Dancers, James Wedgwood, a comic ventriloquist, and Kenny Ahern, a “physical comedian,” who will perform on the Kid’s Stage several times during the fair.
And as in past years there will be time periods when unlimited carnival rides can be taken by people who purchase wrist bands.
Witak and Gross said the marketing of the fair has been increased in recent years, mainly using the Internet with a website and Facebook pages and continuing billboards, radio and newspaper advertising.
“Our Facebook page gets a lot of feedback on things we are doing,” Gross said. “We try to keep it updated on what we are doing and what we are thinking of doing.
“We put on Facebook that we were interested in having donkey races and we got a lot feedback within a day. We get a lot of feedback on switches we made on grandstand events too.”
Witak said the fair’s website, marinettecountyfair.com, also is very popular with people interested in the fair.
“We try to get a lot of things on there as far as our schedule and prices,” she said. “It seems like a lot of people are looking for information they want online now. That’s definitely a big thing.”
Gross noted the website contains several photos of past fairs and a link to the most extensive fairgrounds building project in progress, the renovation of the cattle barn.
He said maintenance of the fairgrounds is a priority of the Fair Board and only succeeds because of volunteers and donations.
“It’s a very constant thing, it’s been our priority for the last five or six years,” he said. “The fairgrounds were getting run down.
“It’s a beautiful fairgrounds now. The buildings are very well kept up now. It just seems like when something can’t happen, a bunch of volunteers step up and get it done.”
Witak and Gross noted there hasn’t been a recurrence of the serious vandalism done to the fairgrounds a couple of years ago.
“We’re trying to be very proactive to prevent that,” Gross said. “Security cameras were installed.
“There’s a lot of people who keep an  eye on the fairgrounds. If they see anything suspicious they call me.”
Gross said  attendance declined slightly last year because of   temperatures in the 90’s on Sunday.  
There is a chance of rain mixed with sunshine predicted for all four days of the 2014 event. He said the fairgrounds can handle a lot of rain and drain and dry up “pretty fast” because the drainage is “very good.”
Gross said planning and work for the 2015 fair will likely begin the day after this year’s event concludes.
“It takes 361 days a year to get the fair ready,” he said. “Planning for next year’s fair will probably start next Monday.”