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Madison’s Top Mid-Summer Family Celebration

Madison’s charm and cosmopolitan activities have made it one of the biggest tourism draws in Wisconsin with visitor spending reaching nearly $250 million in 2015. Wisconsin’s capital city offers something for everyone from Division I sports at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to breathtaking art exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Every visitor should make sure to tour the iconic Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, which was based on a 1938 design by Wisconsin’s own Frank Lloyd Wright.  


The Dane County Fair has been a staple in the community since it began 167 years ago, and it will take place July 19-23 at the Alliant Energy Center. The Fair is a large family friendly event in Dane County, with more than 45,000 attendees annually. Each day of the event presents attendees with a different theme such as Hometown Hero Day (honoring and benefiting local veterans and public servants) and Kid’s Day (filled with games and activities for all ages). Attendees can see free live shows such as Team FMX Motorcycle Stunt Show, Wild About Monkeys, and nightly concerts. The fair also includes a carnival that features a variety of rides and games for all ages and a food court where patrons can fill up on all the festival fare they can handle. The event supports a variety of community causes and groups such as The American Red Cross and local veterans. We got the opportunity to interview Katie Schmitt, a representative for the event, to learn more about this long-running community celebration.


RAL: How long has the event been running?

KS: The Dane County Fair is celebrating its 167th anniversary.


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

KS: The Fair welcomes more than 45,000 people each year, and it has become Dane County’s “Ticket to Fun” each summer.


RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?

KS: One of the best features about the Dane County Fair is that there is something for everyone. The Kiddie Farm is a great daily learning opportunity for children, in addition to Kids Day on Friday (July 21) where everything is geared toward the youngest members of our community.


RAL: What makes this event unique?

KS: The Dane County Fair brings the charm of a rural county fair to the heart of Wisconsin’s capital. It combines youth activities with Madison’s nightlife and features concerts, food, a carnival and more.


RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.

KS: Each day of the Dane County Fair has different free activities for the unique featured theme. Wednesday is Dog Day of Summer featuring demonstrations by some of Dane County’s finest canines and handlers. On Thursday, Conney Safety presents Hometown Hero Day with free admission to all military personnel, police officers, firefighters, and EMTs. Friday is Kids Day with dozens of activities for children of all ages inside the Exhibition Hall and outside in the sunshine. On Saturday, Heartland Credit Union presents Ag Day with the Fabulous Farm Babe Tractor Parade and other farm fun. Sunday is Family Fiesta Day featuring traditional Latino performances on the main stage and fun food eating contests.


RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?

KS: On Wednesday night, YouTube sensation Ayo & Teo, Disney Channel star Skylar Stecker, and Xuitcasecity will perform. Local hometown favorites, Mad Rollin’ Dolls, will be at the Fair on Thursday for a free roller derby bout, and Wayland, Citizen Zero, and Vets on Frets will take the main stage at 7:00 pm. Alice In Dairyland, Wisconsin’s agricultural ambassador, will be at the Fair on Friday for Kids Day, before contemporary Christian artist, Josh Wilson, hits the stage for his free concert that evening. On Saturday, Cherry Pie will be rocking the main stage.


RAL: What will attendees find for dining options?

KS: The Dane County Fair features all your favorite fair foods, from mini donuts to corn dogs, and snow cones to funnel cakes.


RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?

KS: The Clarion Hotel is onsite for attendees who want to be in walking distance of the Fair.


RAL: What does this event mean to the community?

KS: The Dane County Fair is a 167-year-old tradition in Dane County that features strong agricultural roots. It is a place where our community comes together to support our youth as they showcase skills they have developed throughout the year.


RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?

KS: We strive to highlight a different aspect of our community on each day of the event. On Thursday, we support the men and women who serve our community and country with Hometown Hero Day, presented by Conney Safety. This celebration includes a resource fair, American Red Cross Blood Drive, and free admission to all our heroes. Friday and Saturday, we focus on supporting the youth and farmers in our community with their respective theme days. On Sunday, we highlight Dane County’s strong ties to the Latino community with Family Fiesta Day.


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

KS: The Dane County Fair has been a tradition in our community for generations. It features affordable fun with $3 admission before 3:00 pm Wednesday – Friday, free daily activities including concerts, stunt shows and celebrity monkeys and great ride specials in the carnival. There are a variety of events bound to please everyone in your family or group, and with both indoor and outdoor space, the fair is a great place to be, regardless of the weather.

For more information about the Dane County Fair, please visit the event website.