For almost 90 years, Baraboo American Legion Post No. 26 has helped Sauk County Fair attendees find an ice cold beer.
After this week’s fair is over, the group says it no longer will be able to run the beer stand due to difficulties finding volunteers to operate it.
“The American Legion has done a tremendous job all these years,” said Sauk County Fair Board President Scott Zirzow. “There’s no hard feelings. They just needed to make a change.”
While the Legion won’t operate the beer stand any longer, the fair board will step in to ensure cold brews still are available.
Feelings about the Legion’s service coming to end are mixed for many of the Legion’s volunteers, many of whom have volunteered at the stand for more than 20 years.
“We all feel such a part of this program. We hate to see it go away,” said Beer Tent Chairman and Legionnaire Bill Crowley. “But on the other hand, it’s a great feeling of relief because it’s so intense getting ready for this, and running this operation. And our guys are getting older.”
Dan Topham, who has been a Legionnaire for about 35 years, said he and other members can look back at the great times they had while volunteering.
“It’s been well spent. It’s been a great thing for the American Legion,” Topham said. “Baraboo also appreciates what we’ve done here.”
For other members, their experiences with the Legion and community they had while working the stand will be what they miss most.
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“I’ve been doing it forever,” Legionnaire Cliff Rabuck said. “I’ve enjoyed it. I’ll miss meeting the people.”
Revenue from the beer stand sales are used to fund nearly all of the group’s aid programs for veterans and other initiatives such as support for the Boys & Girls Club, scholarships and the Boy Scouts. Support for those programs is expected to continue through savings held by the Legion. No additional fundraisers are planned to replace the beer stand proceeds.
“It’ll be different, that’s for sure,” Crowley said. “But we hope to maintain our level support for most of the programs.”
The beer stand will remain a part of the fair, and will be run by members of the fair board after the Legion finishes its last year. The fair board plans to use revenue from the beer stand to upgrade buildings on the fairgrounds.
“It’s going to be more work, that’s for sure. But it’s something we have to do. We want to retain that revenue,” Zirzow said. “We’re trying to build a new building and a new barn.”
While the fair board will take over operations, its members extended thanks for the many years of service from the American Legion.
“A big thank you from the fair board to all the many years of work,” Zirzow said. “It’s been a good run.”