Most of you know that this time of year is when I have the most fun. It is our local State Fair and I enjoy every minute of it. The length of the fair is 11 days and I go every day, or at least I have since 1996. I enjoy many different events including trying different foods and reviewing them for the website Chow Down in Milwaukee, which I highly suggest you visit. I also get to enjoy local bands, see some animals I don’t see often, enjoy gardens, works of art, do some shopping for things I never knew I needed as well as spending some quality time with friends.
At the end of these 11 days there is always a bit of sadness. My yearly vacation is over, summer is drawing to a close and of course this wonderful festival I enjoy so much is over for another year. Margie does her best to remind me things such as, “It is less than a year now until the next state fair” and “Think about all the fun memories we made this year!” It is the latter of those two statements that I would like to write about today. With the State Fair being canceled in 2020, I was interested to see how things would rebound in 2021. Would people return to the fair or would they still be a bit too cautious? I guess the answer turned out to be a little bit of both. There were several things I noticed that were different this year than the last few. I am going to note a few of the more optimistic changes here and hope they continue for years to come!
The food. Let us take a second to talk about the changes in food over the last two years. There were our regular favorites such as large pickles and choices from Krautland. There were some new options that dazzled our taste buds. There was several new quesadillas that we enjoyed. Specialty tater tots and, of course, all of the ‘Sporkie’ or award winning foods. These included a pork sandwich that was sandwiched between two glazed doughnuts, a deep-fried pineapple that was crusted with coconut and even bacon and cinnamon cheese curds. I felt stands really got creative, but their efforts were a little hampered by available staff. This caused wait times to be a little longer and food to not always be served at the proper temperature. Still, they did their best and I look forward to trying several of these dishes next year when we hope staffing will be less of an issue. Speaking of things to look forward to, there was one food that we got to sample that will be premiering next year and I can’t wait. Firehouse Chicken has created a dish that combines sweet potato fries with a sauce that will have you thinking you are enjoying an entire sweet potato casserole! The best thing is that you can do this as you walk along taking in many of the fun activities the fair has to offer.
Let us take a look at some of those fun activities you were able to do at the fair for the first time in two years. Although shortened hours and staff along with extreme weather tended to shorten or even cancel many events, there were still a great many things to enjoy if you knew where to look. Margie and I missed seeing one of our favorite bands, Here Come the Mummies, due to a weather event. However, my mom was able to take in a concert of the band Firehouse with me. They performed quite well. There was also the return of the always amazing bird show from the Schlitz Audubon Nature center. Great information, new birds and staff were also brought in the mix. The animal shows and judging gave the opportunity for children from the rural communities show and teach the city kids a few things. It was good to see their hard work rewarded. In the ‘Exploratory Park’ portion of the fair, there were new tranquil areas that provided an escape from the crowds and bustle of the main portion of the fair. There was also a complete transformation of the central area of the grounds that included additional seating and greenery. Also a few comfortable swings.
Some of the things I noticed that I thought were really positive at the state fair this year were a spirit of kindness and connectedness. Part of that was the relief at being able to gather and the precious ability to do so. I personally witnessed a young lady standing in line for the restroom with a toddler that obviously could not wait much longer. Even though every lady in line had the same pressing need, three women let this lady go ahead of them. There were more people holding doors and exchanging pleasantries. Considering all of the division we have been hearing about and even witnessing to some degree, it was great to see people happy just to be able to gather together again. There was almost a whisper of “We haven’t been able to do this in a while, and we don’t know how long we will be able to continue to do it so we better not screw it up.” Another awesome thing to see was people of all races coming together and having fun. Whether that was a couple, or just a group of friends, it seemed a more diverse community than ever before. Sometimes I feel it is good to block out the deluge of news and media reports on a subject and get out in the world and experience it for yourself. In this case it was people not caring where their ancestors came from or what their politics were and more about getting a cream puff, how to get the best seats at the pig races and what band they were there to see.
All that being said, my favorite memory of the 2021 Wisconsin State Fair was the memories I created. I was able to see friends I have not seen in a very long time and spend some quality time with them. There were people I see when Margie and I are working as DJs, that we often don’t get to see more than a minute at a time. Being able to sit down with them and watch a band, eat some food or just have a conversation was fun. For the second fair in a row, I was able to join up with Amanda, Margie and my mom to review some of the award-winning and new foods for the afore mentioned Chow Down in Milwaukee. My mother and I did both the ‘Garden Walk’ and ‘Art Walk’ which explore both the gardens and art in the park. These are fun because they take you to areas you do not normally see. Most of all, I loved the memories created with the love of my life. I know Margie does not have to be there and on many occasions I am not sure she wants to be there, but I love that we get to share memories at my favorite place. We got together later in life and this is one of the areas I feel myself trying to ‘make up for lost time’ as they say. I want to experience and create as many memories with her as I can. Even just the thought that she puts up with the hours of walking, the heat and the excitement of her crazy man is something that makes me love her more.
As you can see from the pictures and what I have written, it was another successful run for my favorite time of the year. Sure, there are things I would like to do that I missed. That happens every year. As a whole, it was great to have the State Fair back again. I look forward to reviewing pictures and memories in the months to come. I would love to hear some of your favorite summer memories.