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October 22, 2018

8/3/2018 9:12:00 AM
Funding has many meanings to popular Iowa County Fair
The Iowa County Fair has been one of many highlights in the southwest Wisconsin area for the past 165 years.
According to the Iowa County Fair website, the first Iowa County Fair was held in Dodgeville in 1851, and then moved to Mineral Point in 1856. Since that time, the county fair has promoted agricultural and educational opportunities for citizens of all ages. A direct quote from the website states, "this is the only activity that brings together generations, grandparents helping grand kids with their 4-H projects, just as their grandparents did them."
While the Iowa County Fair has been a long tradition for many, it is uniquely one of the few county fairs in the state not fully funded by its county. There is a misconception that the county board owns the fairgrounds, which is not the case. The fair buildings were built, and improved thanks to donations throughout the years. A grant was recently given this year to the fair for commercial building light improvements, which will have to be matched directly by the fair.
Every year, the Iowa County Fair initially receives approximately $25,000 directly from the county. As there are many county board sub-committees, it is hard for the county to fully fund an event that has been around for many years. When Iowa County Fair presents their budgets to the board, it is only for certain situations.
"The county is very helpful when there are things that need to be fixed," says Gary Schmit, Iowa County Fair President. "I don't remember a time where they have turned us down. They know when we're there, it is something we need."
With not being fully funded by the county, Iowa County Fair must rely on other ways to make ends meet each year. Revenue highly depends on the guests that come through the gate.
The Iowa County fair takes place during Labor Day weekend each year, and weather always plays a factor on attendance levels.
"On a hot day, people don't come, and on a rainy day people don't come," Schmit said.
Admissions are considered one of the biggest fund sources for the county fair. Whether guests pay $10 daily at the gates, or have a season's pass, there is access to everything.
"There is no extra charge at the gate, we don't charge for parking, or to see extra shows" fair board member Tammy Rule said. "You can't even go watch a movie for $10 anymore."
In the past, Sunday night has drawn in a full grandstand for a highlighting musician. This year's Sunday night entertainment is country music star Jordan Davis, of Shreveport, LA. Local country radio stations have played Davis' songs including "Singles You Up," and "Take It From Me."
"If everything goes well, we'll probably see a full grandstand," Schmit said.
Rule adds, "If we fill the grandstand, more than likely, their kids are going to go on the rides, the people are going to eat the food, and it just brings more revenue for our vendors."
Sponsorships are another way the Iowa County Fair receives support. Sponsorship for the fair has supported and educated Iowa County youth. The Iowa County Fair provides a sponsorship program local businesses and groups can choose to sponsor the fair from bronze, silver, gold, and platinum levels. Each level depends each year on the dollar amount given. The fair is continuing their effort in receiving support from corporate level sponsorship.
"Every dollar helps," Schmit says.
The fairgrounds have also been an event location for occasions such as wedding receptions, graduation parties, and more. The only thing charged for any of the above events are rental rates where guests can have tables, chairs, dumpsters, clean and fully stocked bathrooms.
While the fair is highly geared towards agriculture, the fair board stresses that there is something for everyone. Thursday is the day where livestock projects are brought to the barns, and when many can enjoy the rides. The livestock barns are filled Thursday through Monday when youth, parents, and grandparents can see a summer's hard work put in for each 4-H project. However, livestock projects have slightly decreased over the years.
"It's tough to see less kids show, less people watching the kids show," Rule said.
"But there is something for everybody," Schmit said. "If you're not into the livestock, there are other things to see."
Fair guests will also have the opportunity to see harness racing on Monday, which has been a tradition for the fair's history. The Demolition Derby will also take place on Monday night. New this year is a watermelon-eating contest, where speed is tested for kids and adults alike. A magician will also provide entertainment for all ages, with a special adults show at the grandstand. And as always, guests can enjoy the fair food.
Rule said, "The county fair is such a tradition for so many people. A tradition that many people in Iowa County want to keep alive". To become a sponsor of the fair, contact a current fair board member who is willing to answer any questions regarding the sponsorship program. You can contact Tammy Rule at or call 608-341-8247.
The Iowa County Fair takes place this year starting August 30, and ends on September 3. Full detailed events will be shown in an upcoming Chronicle issue.

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