There are some experiences in Wisconsin that can’t quite be captured anywhere else. Live music drifts along warm breezes, mingled with the scent of hot-from-the-oven funnel cakes. Happy squeals from the Ferris wheel ring out. Cows quietly moo in the distance. A sip of fresh-squeezed lemonade adds a delicious touch to an already perfect summer evening.
We Wisconsinites know that our county fairs are special. Everything we love about our state’s summers is represented in these true-to-their-roots events. They have been a fixture of our culture since 1842, and when you get down to it, they haven’t changed all that much since then.
A county fair shares the very best of what our state has to offer. It’s where you’ll discover real-deal, just-harvested eats, local bands and clubs spotlighting their talents and animals that hail from nearby farms.
It’s also a place where every member of your family will find something that calls to them. While little ones won’t be able to resist the petting zoos or merry-go-rounds, the glittering lights of the midway and rides will dazzle your big kids.
County fairs are a fixture of Wisconsin summers. In fact, we’d venture to say that a Wisconsin summer without attending a county fair is like going to a supper club and not ordering an Old Fashioned.
The County Fair Experience
There are over 70 county fairs in Wisconsin. The fairs all follow a similar format, but each one has its own distinct, local flavor. Here are some activities you can look forward to.
• Food: At a county fair, your eyes won’t believe the aisles filled with food trucks—and the delectable aromas to boot. Arrive hungry and delight your taste buds with fried snacks, foods on a stick, freshly-harvested veggies and sugary creations. Every palette is satisfied, from little ones to vegetarians/vegans to those who prefer to stick to local eats.
• Rides: These rides are as classic as they get, and probably look a lot like the rides you enjoyed in your childhood days. There are often roller-coasters for adventure-seekers, but there are also mini-sized thrills for young ones.
• Games: Bring some cash and head to the sparkling lights of the midway for a night of competition and cheers all around. You’ll feel nostalgic as you master the milk bottle ring toss and skee-ball with your kiddos.
• Farm Animals: Many farms present their livestock at county fairs and dedicated 4-H members will showcase their animals, too. You’ll see pigs, chickens, cows, goats and every other farm animal you can imagine. Your kids will squeal for joy when they see the fuzzy baby chicks.
• Live Shows: Oftentimes, a county fair will have “mainstage” performances that feature well-known bands and acts. Other stages highlight local entertainers that provide a peek at the area’s culture, like pro cloggers or bluegrass ensembles.
• Activities for Kids: County fairs brim with activities for the littlest members of your family. Head to a petting zoo, craft tent, butterfly house or children’s sing-a-long for kid-approved entertainment.
All our county fairs are amazing, so be sure to check out as many as you can while you’re here! Here are a few to get you started.
The Waupaca County Fair is the ideal place to celebrate Wisconsin’s dairy heritage. Visit the cows in the beef and dairy barn and then head to the Farm Bureau food stand for some oh-so-tasty chocolate shakes.
This western Wisconsin state fair has plenty of cheese curds (Ellsworth is the state’s “Cheese Curd Capital,” after all). But it’s also known for its unique opportunities to show off talents and accomplishments – find a talent show where youngsters and adults alike showcase their skills, and a motocross race.
Visit the oldest county fair in Wisconsin, the one that started it all. At the Waukesha County Fair, enjoy long-running traditions like cream puffs, a pancake breakfast and a classic car show alongside modern features. The fair has received the Travel Green Wisconsin Certification, which means they’re committed to environmental practices.
Dedicated volunteers organize and run Merrill’s Lincoln County Fair. This fair excels at providing a wide variety of family-friendly activities. Your littles will love the dog show, carnival, children’s exhibits and baby animals.
Find more county fair fun with these Hidden Gems at Wisconsin County Fairs!