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There's nothing like a fair to signal the true arrival of summer. Some say it's really here only after the wild strawberries ripen; for others it's when the lightning bugs shine bright. But for your TRAVELER, summer doesn't begin until the cream puffs blossom, the prize bull takes his blue ribbon, and the guy hawking the multipurpose vegetable grater/torque wrench makes his first sale.
Although Wisconsin's traditional State Fair garners most of the publicity, there are three district fairs and more than 75 county fairs that deserve your attention.
Smaller fairs offer exhibit halls filled with art, crafts, photography, and displays of vegetables and other homemade goods; barns where you can see the best farm animals from area herds; entertainment from music to demolition derbies and tractor pulls; food and fun – all without the massive crowds.
At a county fair you'll have a better chance to meet and chat with competition participants; you can, for instance, pick up tips on saddle cinching or hoof picking straight from the horse owner's mouth, or talk to the home gardener whose beets bested all. A county fair is a place for farmers, stock breeders, vendors, and other producers of agricultural goods to showcase their products and skills, and an opportunity for consumers to learn more about how their food is produced.
Hardcore thrill-seekers may chafe at a county fair's lack of a triple-infinity 20-storey corkscrew roller coaster on the midway. TRAVELER's advice: Save the high-pitched squeals for Six Flags. County fair midways are more likely to have Tilt-A-Whirls and bumper cars, but that's OK. Where else can you meet Zahara the Monkey Girl in the Fun House?
When the corn is knee-high (you know – around the first week in July) the annual fair season begins and continues through the end of September. To plan your fair-going adventures, visit Wisconsin Fair Info & Schedules. You'll find a list of 2005 county fairs and a schedule of fair activities.
Interested in serving as a fair judge? If you are acquainted with the finer points of swine, are able to can a mean green bean or put up a wicked bread–'n–butter pickle, have knowledge of antiques, photography, woodworking or any of 39 areas of expertise, pick up an Application for Registration. Applications must be submitted by July 1.
No need to wait until dark: You can help light up the sky with color all through the day during the Fireworks Kite Festival from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 3 at Veterans Park on Milwaukee's lakefront. A large area of the park will be set aside for kite flyers, so untangle your string and soar with kite-minded companions from around the state. Folks from the Kite Society of Wisconsin and Gift of Wings will be on hand to help you get airborne. Yves LaForest from Montreal, Quebec will be there, flying his Giant Kites – a sight you won't want to miss. Visit Git of Wings or call (414) 305-3145 for more details. By the way, the real fireworks begin at 9:25 p.m.