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Volunteers have a lasting impact on Dodge County Fair

Two former Randolph residents, who now live in Montello, have been living at the fairgrounds off and on for the last three weeks as they spruce up the open class exhibit building. Bob and Anne Oelke have their motor home parked next to the building, which allows them long days to work on it.

JUNEAU — The Dodge County Fair begins on Wednesday, and you will not be able to go far on the fairgrounds before seeing the impact the volunteers have made on the fair throughout the years.

The family of Gerald “Butch” Ptaschinski, who died in May, made a donation to pave the High Point Road entrance to the fairgrounds, Dodge County Fair Association Treasurer Sharon Keil said.

“They donated the gift to us,” Keil said. “He volunteered here and the entrance was gravel and would always fill with rain and mud holes. We want to name it after him.”

Over the years, volunteers have stepped up to make the fairgrounds a show-stopper for the thousands of people who attend the fair each year.

In fact, two former Randolph residents, who now live in Montello, have been living at the fairgrounds off and on for the last three weeks as they spruce up the open class exhibit building.

Bob and Anne Oelke have their motor home parked next to the building, which allows them long days to work on it.

“Dodge County Fair gets into your blood,” Anne Oelke said.

Anne Oelke said that the couple started last year by painting three walls inside of the building. This year, they painted the fourth wall and ceiling.

“We went through 27 gallons of paint,” she said.

In addition, they rebuilt the photographer displays, added peg board, slat walls, quilt hanging racks and additional track lighting. Oelke added Alan Roll and Jon Rafel have also volunteered their time to help.

It’s a labor of love for the Oelkes, who judge at 10 fairs around the state and have attended the Dodge County Fair for the last 35 years.

Everyone loves their own fair, Anne Oelke said.

“This one is bigger than some others and it has a real family vibe, but a lot of people will say the same about their fair,” she said. “They are really well organized and run here, though.

“I think the first year we came to the Dodge County Fair was 1978 or ’79. They were still exhibiting the open class exhibits in the Quonset building then.”

Over the years, two other buildings were built to hold the exhibits, Anne Oelke said.

“It’s fun to see the expansion,” she added.

Oelke said although she and her husband moved away from the area nine years ago, they still love returning for the fair to see old friends.

“I love seeing all the exhibits and marveling at what people have done,” she said.

In addition to the daily exhibits, the nightly entertainment will draw many people through the gate as well, Dodge County Fair co-secretary Sally Schoenike said.

Country band Sawyer Brown will perform on Thursday, followed by newcomer country band LANCO on Friday. On Saturday, rock bands Great White and Slaughter will both perform.

Keil said online analytics are showing the Saturday night show should be the most popular night.

The Badger State Tractor Pull will be on Wednesday. The kiddie pedal pull will be on Friday. The horse pull will be on Saturday. The truck pull and demolition derbies will be on Sunday.

The Kandu magic show will not be at the fair this year after 40 years due to the performers’ retirement. Instead, this year there will be the Nick’s Kids Show musical performance.

“The fair is always exciting,” Schoenike said. “It’s the best time of the year in Dodge County.”

Admission prices will be $7 before noon and $10 after noon. Season tickets, allowing admission for each day, will be $27 before Aug. 14 and $35 at the gate. Season tickets can be purchased at Dodge County banks, Rechek’s Food Pride, Beaver Dam Piggly Wiggly and the fairgrounds office. Children 9 and under are free.

Grandstand shows are included in the price of admission to the fair.

Follow Terri Pederson on Twitter @tlp53916 or contact her at 920-356-6760.

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