A quiet opening Monday eased Baraboo area residents into a week of rides, vendors, shows and animals on the Sauk County Fairgrounds.
The free Sauk County Fair will transition from its cat and dog shows Monday and Tuesday and tractor pull Tuesday night to a full slate of entertainment Wednesday through Sunday.
After a couple of years of an empty grandstand due to difficulty booking bands, Secretary Fairgrounds Manager Liz Cook said organizers are bringing music back to the stage with a Saturday night performance by the Marshall Tucker Band. Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama are scheduled to open for them.
“We tried it without (a grandstand performance) for a couple years, too, and our fairgoers said, ‘Hey, we really miss it,’ and so we worked really hard this year to get it back,” Cook said.
General admission to the grandstand show costs $25. Street parking is free, but parking on the grounds costs $5 per day or $20 for a season pass.
In addition to the usual food, carnival rides and farm animal shows, this year’s fair will feature a new interactive educational display called Farm to Fair: Bushels, Cheese & Honeybee, said Lindy Larsen, fair marketing manager. Located in the Commercial Building from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Farm to Fair will include agricultural information about dairies, row crops and honeybees.
Larsen said children will be able to milk a fake cow on one portion of the display dedicated to dairy and pick beats and other plants from a garden on another portion on row crops. A combine outside will demonstrate how much farming equipment costs.
“We farm, so it was near and dear to my heart that we just start educating people about where their food actually comes from,” Larsen said.
In the center of the Commercial Building, the FAME -- family, agriculture, music and education -- stage is returning for its second year to bring free daily entertainment starting Wednesday by local organizations, hobbyists and musicians.
Wisconsin Honeybee Queen Sydnie Paulsrud will provide a cooking demonstration, YouTube star Ryan Kuster of How Farms Work will visit for shows Friday and Saturday and others including Berning’s Busy Bees, musician Bethany Perea, the Sauk County Historical Society and Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Pamela J. Karg will bring their specialties.
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Another new offering, Story Time at the Fair, explores some of the same ag topics at 11 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday in the Commercial Building.
Farmer appreciation weaves throughout the fair with an invitation-only dinner Thursday and an ice cream social hosted by the Farmer Angel Network on Sunday.
No Wisconsin fair would be complete without animal shows. Cook said there will be “lots of animals” this week, with more open class entrants this year than usual and about the same number of Junior Fair entrants as last year.
“We’re bursting at the seams with animals, basically, which is great because it’s such a good experience for the kids,” Cook said, adding that fair organizers are seeking donations to build a barn to replace the existing swine and small animal barns.
According to the Sauk County Fair website, a portion of the grandstand proceeds will go toward the Raise the Roof building fundraiser. The new barn would house sheep, swine, goats and exotics projects during the fair, while the existing barn would be remodeled as a small animal exhibit area.
The “baby oasis” -- hosted by Trinity Episcopal Church of Baraboo -- and information tent is back this year near the entrance, stocked with diapers, first aid supplies, sunscreen, water and space for children to rest, Larsen said.
ATV racing on Thursday night, a tractor pull Friday night and a demolition derby Sunday will round out evening entertainment.
“There’s just so much to do this year and so many new things,” Larsen said.
A more detailed schedule can be found on the fair's website.