Attendance slide ends for Rock County 4-H Fair
JANESVILLE A popular country music artist, some "retro" entertainment and a recently developed immunity to hot weather could be three factors that ended what had been a four-year downward slide for attendance at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
This week's total of 77,466 attendees is far below the 25-year average of 91,457, but it beat last year's total of 73,985. That ends a steady attendance decline since 2008 and an overall downward trend since attendance peaked at 131,788 for the week in 1998.
Hot, muggy weather early in the week didn't seem to deter fairgoers, said fair board member Karen O'Leary.
"I think we were all just so used to it from the rest of the summer that nobody minded," she said about the heat.
Country music artist Josh Turner was a big draw Saturday, despite the fact that Turner was the first musical act for which the fair has charged a ticket fee in addition to the gate entrance fee, O'Leary said.
"They didn't mind paying to see a better act," O'Leary said. "I think that was the difference."
The fair office has been fielding phone calls about the good quality of this year's grandstand acts, O'Leary said.
"At great length, they went on to tell us how much they liked Mickey Gilley," she said.
Quieter than Tesla but also popular at the grandstand this year was the mid-day Sunday horse pull. Ten teams from around Wisconsin and Illinois competed in the event.
Another "throwback" was the Old Timers showmanship contest Sunday morning in the stock pavilion. It followed the Little Britches contest in which children who are too young for 4-H are allowed to show calves.
"Showing" was a loose definition of the adorable event. The kids who were at least 6 years old could more or less lead calves around in something loosely resembling a circle.
The event featured 39 Rock County 4-H Fair dairy project alumni, who were divided into two classes in order to fit into the small pavilion.
The competition included showmanship experts such as retired farmers Dick Zanzinger and Barb Kayser. It also included those with no experience, such as Milton FFA teacher Nicole Reese, who had never before showed a calf.
The winners of the two classes were Janesville Police Department officer Denise Stutika and Consolidated 4-H dairy leader and Rock County dairy judging coach Joe Martin.
All in all, the fair week was a good one that likely will be remembered for a tragedy, O'Leary said.
Clinton FFA member Noah Morris, 16, of the town of La Prairie died Saturday morning in a one-vehicle crash on County J north of Beloit. A visitation is planned tonight at Clinton High School. Morris' funeral is scheduled Tuesday.