The Wisconsin State Fair is still many months away, but it’s not quite too early to start the anticipation.
It was in that spirit that the fair held its 100 Days to the Fair Preview at the State Fair Exposition Center Monday night. Many of the fair’s vendors and foundation members were in attendance, as well as cream puffs (or at least cream puff boxes, with one six-pack adorning every table at the event).
The celebration mainly served as a pep rally, with attendants asked to sign in on a large white sign with not their name, but why they love the State Fair. The results ranged from the expected (cream puffs) to the somewhat less expected (people watching) to the amusingly vague (fun!). Most importantly, however, the event was an elaborate thank you to the various vendors scattered around the event, meeting, greeting, sharing tales from the past year and enjoying the free grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, fried pickles and cookie pops making the rounds on the floor.
After about an hour of munching, casual conversation and live cover songs being played in the background, State Fair Park CEO Rick Frenette took the blue-lit stage to address the crowd, say some thanks and give a shout out to the 2014 Main Stage lineup, including Aretha Franklin, Phil Vassar, 311, Alabama and the main headliner Lady Antebellum.
That was the general vibe of the evening, less a news event than a pleasantly festive calendar reminder, albeit one that served grilled cheese and cookie pops. However, there were a few notable parts to the evening.
For one, the winner of the inaugural Fairtastic Poster Art Competition, Larry Schultz of Milton, was in attendance with his winning design on display, shaking hands and talking about the inspirations for the poster.
"I’m a horse man, so the draft horse show just sticks out to me as something big about the State Fair," Schultz said. "Then, of course, the dairy and the pigs and the animals period. And then there’s all of the food that’s here and all of the elements with the shows and the rides. I just wanted it to say fun."
Keith Kalberer, the executive director of the State Fair Park Foundation, gave Schultz and the poster contest some spotlight during his brief mid-evening speech. He also noted some of the fair’s new packages and programs, including personalized, adoptable benches to provide more casual seating – and allow fair fans to put their name on the event (for a price, of course).
Kalberer also plugged two special packages available for the Lady Antebellum show on Aug. 9: a Dinner and Show package featuring a ticket, parking and catered dinner at Saz’s Hospitality Village, as well as a VIP Backstage Meet and Greet package which is just what it sounds like (spoiler: you get to meet and greet the band). More details and information about these packages is available on the State Fair's website.
Hidden in the corner of the event were some signs for the acts at the free Bank Mutual Amphitheater stage, including Vanilla Ice, Kelsey K, Home Free, Red Hot Chili Pipers, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Here Come The Mummies and the usual Kids From Wisconsin and Mr. and Mrs. State Fair Physique Championships.
In all, it was an effective teaser for an event still 100 days away. Well, 99 days now …
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