Farm Tech, Day 1: 'It doesn't get much better'
The first day of Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in River Falls came and went seamlessly, save for some long traffic backups and early anxiety by hundreds of volunteers, trying to make good impressions.
State troopers, deputies and local police were out in force by 6 a.m., shepherding motorists and shuttle buses.
At 9:30 a.m. traffic on westbound Hwy. 29 was stop-and-go from the show grounds all the way into River Falls - about two miles - but the bottleneck cleared quickly. The show grounds remain open until 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 4 p.m. Thursday. Gates open at 8 a.m. daily.
River Falls police reported no major problems with traffic through mid-afternoon, Tuesday.
There was some congestion and delay on Cemetery Road and at the intersection with South Main Street between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., but adjustments to speed-up parking at the FTD site are planned for Wednesday, according to Police Chief Roger Leque.
Radio traffic indicated local EMS personnel treated or transported three people from the exhibition grounds through the day, but one official said none appear to be life-threatening.
Greg Andrews, the show's executive secretary, confirmed a traffic bottleneck on Cemetery Road across the south end of River Falls, early in the day but officials were going to try bringing in two lanes at a time to the lots off County Road E on Wednesday to accelerate the process.
Andrews encouraged visitors planning to attend Wednesday or Thursday to consider traveling Hwy. 10 to County Road E via Ellsworth or Prescott. Hwy. 35 seemed to be the route-of-choice for Tuesday's attendees.
No attendance figures were available as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, but Andrews said he was told "we exceeded Day 1 expectations for gate." Committee members were to gather for a debriefing at 6 p.m. during which admissions co-chair Ann Webb would likely provide a rough figure.
Grounds co-chair Terry Kusilek said things flowed smoothly from his crews' observation. They cruised the perimeter mid-afternoon in search of a reported downed fence, but it had already been repaired, he said.
While Pierce County Board Chairman Paul Barkla sent an invitation to the White House earlier this year, the only confirmed "dignitaries" to visit Tuesday were interim chancellor UW-Extension Marv Van Kekerix, who took office three weeks ago, UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen, and AgStar Financial Services CEO Paul DeBriyn, who presented youth activity organizers with a $10,000 check.
Food services were "superior", said Andrews, "with little or no waiting anywhere."
And the "Taste of Pierce County" appeared to be a big hit. The Taste is a collection of 10 area vendors offering various homemade candies to Asian noodles, cooked to order. Some vendors reportedly ran out of ingredients but were scrambling to restock for Wednesday.
Officials from Prom Catering Inc., the Oakdale, Minn., business contracted to provide food for thousands, told Foods Committee co-chair Heather Johnson that volunteers "were the best we've ever worked with. If we could package them up and take them along, we would."
As for the weather, Andrews gave this verdict: "I'm sitting here on bench and there's a little breeze coming up. It doesn't get much better than this."
The FTD exhibition continues through 4 p.m., Thursday.