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Exhibitors numbers down after year without the Sauk County Fair
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Exhibitors numbers down after year without the Sauk County Fair

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Junior exhibitors didn’t turn out in 2021 at the Sauk County Fair like they did in 2019 and Dawn Draves of Baraboo Valley 4-H noticed.

“It’s great to be back, but just different,” Draves said. “It doesn’t seem to have as many animals as we normally do, either because they’re afraid to come or because they’re not doing it anymore.”

Sauk County Fair Marketing Manager Lindy Larsen, who also serves on the board of directors, said Friday there were 304 junior exhibitors, or those 18 and younger, who entered into the fair this year.

In 2019, there were 425 junior exhibitors. The young people come from organizations like 4-H clubs, FFA, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.

“I believe it’s up in some areas and down in others,” Larsen said. “I think it’s just everybody trying to come back from the last year we had.”

Thursday at the 2021 Sauk County Fair (copy)

Junior exhibitors ready their rabbits at the beginning of their judging event Thursday in the Sauk County Fair Small Animal Arena.

Draves’ son Dakota, 16, entered as he usually does. He received a grand champion dairy market steer designation for a beef steer he raised, a blue ribbon for a cow and calf pair and some blue and red ribbons for his goats.

Draves said Dakota was happy to return to the fairgrounds.

“He’s glad to be back,” she said. “He missed it last year, big time. It’s gone really well.”

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CARNIVAL FOOD FAIR (copy)

Taylor Dobush, 16, of Baraboo, throws a ball in August beside Taiya Shafer, 13, and Amaya Shafer, 10, at the Skee-Ball game set up at the Sauk County Fairgrounds as part of the drive-in Sauk County Carnival Food Fair open daily for a week in late August as an answer to the fair being cancelled in the wake of COVID-19. Cynthia King of North American Midway Entertainment, the company that provides the carnival at the Sauk County Fair annually, said at the time it has been a difficult season for everyone.

Due to COVID-19, the fair was cancelled in 2020 out of precaution for safety during the height of the pandemic. The year before, barns were full with entrants across the spectrum of animals, from beef and dairy to rabbits, pigs, horses and exotic types.

“They are so excited,” Larsen said. “I think it’s not just them showing or doing their projects, it’s just them all catching up with their friends they haven’t seen; catching up with their fair families.”

Draves said it even felt as though fewer crowds of spectators had meandered through the barns throughout the week, but remained optimistic that all exhibitors and people wanting to see the displays and animals return.

“I’m hoping they feel comfortable enough to come back and look at all the projects,” Draves “Not just animals, but all of the projects.”

Though there was a drop in more than 100 exhibitors from the last year the fair was held, Larsen said the attendance at the fair overall has seemed to be packed, notwithstanding the heavy rain and high winds that forced people to take cover Wednesday.

“Actually, we seem to have more people out on the grounds, more people coming to the shows and being more supportive,” Larsen said. “It’s been great seeing all the kids out. After not being here last year, I think everybody is just thankful and grateful to be here.”

As the week draws to a close and animal exhibitors aren’t the stars of the event Saturday, when entertainer Charlie Berens of “Manitowoc Minute” takes to the stage in the grandstand that evening, events will be dispersed throughout the day.

A horse show starts out the day at 9 a.m. Exhibitors who didn’t raise animals for the fair will also see the doors to their buildings open at that time. The meat sale luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. and the live market animal sale will start at 1 p.m. The carnival opens at 1 p.m. as well and live music will be played throughout the day.

Sunday is the final day of the 2021 Sauk County Fair. The day begins with a fun class horse show at 10 a.m. and exhibitor buildings are scheduled to open at noon. The carnival, which will cost a single ticket regardless of the ride, will open at 1 p.m., which is the same time the demolition derby is set to begin in the grandstand. By 5 p.m., the fairgrounds will again shut down until next year.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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