August 10, 2011
County fair time is upon us: carnivals, rodeos, monster trucks, flower shows, quilts galore, animals and children of every shape and size. I love spending time at the fair!
“Look at those horses,” the woman said. The shiny, high stepping steeds definitely turned heads.
“This is MY cow!” a young man proudly told me. “I raised her, I fed her and I gave her a bath!”
“Can I pet your bunny?” the three year old asked the sixth grader as they waited for the rabbit judging.
“Did you see the peonies?” a woman asked her sister. “Oh, yes,” came the reply. “But it was the pansies in the old shoe that really stopped me.”
Our farm roots in Wisconsin run deep. There is no better celebration of agriculture then our 75 county and three district fairs. And the Wisconsin state fair is a real showcase of our agriculture industry.
As you enjoy all the fair has to offer, you might not realize state tax dollars are at work. Wisconsin invests almost $400,000 a year on county fairs and a half time fair coordinator who assists the largely volunteer fair board members. As a former local fair board member, I know how hard these folks work to make sure everything runs right and everyone has an enjoyable time at the fair. My hat’s off to all the fair board members who sacrifice days and days of volunteer time!
Fairs provide us an opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbor we haven’t seen for a while. I particularly enjoy the opportunity for conversation in a more casual setting. Many people stop and ask, “Can I talk with you for a moment?” It’s a great time to get questions answered, to discuss a concern or problem or simply to share a story. Helping people work through the red tape of the state bureaucracy is a large part of my job.
It is also my job to represent the opinions of people in the 31st Senate District and the fair is a great place to hear the latest views on many topics. As I visit with fair-goers I take the opportunity to ask for their opinions. The wide-ranging opinions I hear remind me that we are a very diverse people in Western Wisconsin. But we share similar values when it comes to investing the state’s resources.
“Where do you think we should spend our tax dollars?” A woman asked a man enjoying the fair with his young daughter. He was given five marbles. “You can use one marble to vote for or against public employee collective bargaining.” She told him. “Put your other four marble the container labeled with the things you would spend money on if you were in charge.”
The 8 containers were labeled with the following items: 1. Elderly, disabled & child services, 2. Roads & infrastructure, 3. Business & jobs, 4. Police & corrections, 5. Public schools, 6. Affordable health care, 7. Environment protection, 8. Consumer safety.
Of the nearly 500 people who participated in the informal vote, 90 percent supported public employee collective bargaining. Ninety percent would invest state dollars in public education and 80 percent in affordable health care. Services for our elderly and most vulnerable citizens came in third.
If all the talk of issues makes you hungry, fairs are a gastronomic delight. Whether you fancy cotton candy, corn dogs, kettle corn, brats, homemade barbeque or roasted chicken, you’re sure to find your favorite.
If you think you missed the fair there’s still a few left on the calendar:
Clark County in Neillsville August 10th to 14th; Pierce County in Ellsworth August 11th to 14th and the Minnesota State Fair August 25th to September 5th in St. Paul.
And it’s State Fair Time in Wisconsin: August 4-14th in West Allis.
If you make it to State Fair Park be sure and check out the chocolate cranberries on a stick. Wisconsin Cranberry Growers will debut the chocolate covered cranberries this year. Cranberry growers remind us that cranberries are the largest fruit industry in Wisconsin and our official state fruit.