Open only a few days, Langlade County Fair is a year-round economic driver
The County of Trails is known for its mix of industry and entertainment offerings. One event, being renewed for the 136th time on July 28-31, combines both.
“County fairs are a longstanding, proud tradition in Wisconsin and we are thrilled our businesses and industries have been a part of it here for 136 years,” Angie Close, executive director of the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation, said. “We look forward to many more.”
The Langlade County Fair, first celebrated in 1886, will welcome comedian Charlie Behrens, Emmy-award winning journalist, comedian, host and creator of the Manitowoc Minutes, along with its traditional high-flying mix of sprint cars, tractor pulls, demo derbies and the best in regional musical talent to the fairgrounds located in the heart of Antigo.
“Our theme this year is The County Reunion,” coordinator Rhonda Klement said. “We are creating a celebration for everyone to enjoy. There is something for all ages at our fair.”
The Langlade County Fair is truly a family event. There is no gate fee to enter the grounds and parking remains a bargain at $5 per day per carload.
Behrens will appear in front of the grandstand on opening night, July 28, with tickets priced at $30 in advance or $35 the day of the event. Promotional funding was provided, in part, through the Antigo Hotel/Motel Room Tax Commission, with a goal of bringing more visitors to the area.
“We’ve rarely done things in the grandstand beside the sprint cars, demo derby and tractor pull,” Klement said. “We’d like to make the grandstand more conducive to different types of events and are adding a stage that will be placed between the grandstand and racetrack. If it goes well, we’ll look at doing more in the future.”
There’s much more on the docket as well, with over 5,000 exhibits in four different buildings along with a mix of dairy, beef, swine, lamb, cat, rabbit, and horse shows. There will be a magician strolling the midway and family entertainment on the multi-purpose building stage. For the thrill seekers, the midway will be packed with over 20 carnival rides. The full schedule can be found online at langladecountyfair.net.
But it’s not all fun and games. The Fair provides county businesses and industries with opportunities to showcase their products and support their employees and their communities. They do that through booths in the commercial building and on Implement Row, purchasing and distributing “Fair Bucks” for employees to use at the nonprofit food stands and booths, and providing financial support to maintain and grow the exposition.
“And we have a policy to purchase all the products and services we need from local vendors,” Klement said. “This year, we even had Antigo High School’s Red Robin Machining Club make all of our award plaques. We try to keep all our spending local.”
One popular avenue for that support is the music tents located on the midway and under the grandstand. Popular regional bands including Vic Ferrari, Mistrial, Billy Shears, and the Drovers will perform free shows, traditionally packing the tents with fairgoers.
Sponsors of the fun include CoVantage Credit Union, Pepsi, and Volm Companies., the Gold Friends of the Fair, Other corporate assistance comes from Parsons of Antigo, Aspirus Langlade Hospital and WACD-WRLO Radio.
New this year is the Family Corner sponsored by Ameriprise Financial, it offers a special spot for free play, including giant coloring boards, LEGO building and a family rest area.
The Fair is also a boon to nonprofits. The Antigo High School FFA and Center Court Club, Antigo Optimist Club, 4-H clubs, Elks Lodge, various volunteer fire departments and Antigo Bow Club all benefit from their booths and concession stands at the fair.
Most importantly, the Fair offers the chance to showcase what the County of Trails has to offer, introducing its many attractions and economic opportunities, to a mix of visitors and residents.
“Our racetrack is one of the few true half-mile clay ovals in the state and racers love it. They bring their families and fans when they come to town,” Klement said. “The demo derby and tractor pull always fill the grandstand, not just with local residents, but with people from outside the area who come to town, spend time and money, and learn about the community.”
While they are here, they may take a side trip to one of the nearby parks or trails, or maybe jump on an all-terrain vehicle for an afternoon outing.
“This really is just like another industry and treat it like a business,” Klement said. “We try to book bigger acts so we can get more people to come to the county. And we try to get the community really behind us because it is their fair.”
It has been working for decades, through everything from the Great Depression to COVID pandemic, and it continues to show that the mix of business, industry and fun can pay big dividends.
“If we have good weather, we can expect to have upwards of 25,000 people come through the gates,” Klement said. “That’s a real economic driver.”