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Editorial: 125 years for the fair

This year's Pierce County Fair goers will be treated to a century-and-a-quarter's worth of progress.

All of what has been accomplished on the fairgrounds over 125 years wouldn't have been possible without the hard work of dedicated people. There are the contributions of the staff and committee members, of course, but credit also belongs to the participants in the various events, the exhibitors, the local talent, the audiences--everyone on the scene. It's always been the community's fair.

The origin of the present fair is traced to 1884, when the agriculture society sponsored the first one in Ellsworth, boasting over 300 entries and more than 300 attendees on its second day. Yet, fairs have been held in the county as far back as 1859 in Prescott, then the county seat.

Those early fairs were real family gatherings, with wagon loads of people arriving at the gates to spend the day, setting up under the shade of the many trees on the grounds for their lunch and dinner. Stunts like parachute drops and action-packed entertainment such as horse racing highlighted the exposition in the early 1890s. A crowd of 200 alone journeyed en masse from Rock Elm to the fair in 1891.

Considering the widespread interest, the fair was bound to get bigger and better. What had been a three-day gathering became a four-day one in 1902. A year later, the 10,000 attendance mark was broken for the first time and, after one more year, 11,000 attendees had been realized.

Milestones were established in the 1920s. A livestock pavilion, said to be the best in the state, was introduced. A new dance pavilion was installed, too; the nearby former Proch's Popular Ballroom, as it was called when later destroyed by fire, opened as a marvel because its huge dance floor was under a roof without supporting posts. No doubt, the most significant development for the fair this "roaring" decade came in '21 as Harlan Seyforth founded the 4-H program here.

More Guernsey cattle were displayed at Pierce's fair in 1931 than at the Wisconsin State Fair that year. After being through the auspices of private corporations, the fair switched to control by the county in 1942. In '49, the entire ground floor of the round barn was cemented and converted into an exhibit building. Many additional notable achievements have been recorded in the recent past.

Most of the information presented above has been taken from the "Fun Fair Facts" published in the Herald by the fair office this year. Those who complete a coupon in the July 16 newspaper and bring it with original copies of all 25 clippings of the facts will be entered in a drawing for a $50 cash prize. That's just one way the fair will celebrate its 125th mark; 125 pieces of cake will be served each day of this year's fair run as well.

Congratulations and happy 125th anniversary!

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