Northern Wisconsin State Fair hits 80% of $6 million goal

March 29 – CHIPPEWA FALLS – A fundraising campaign to pay for five new buildings at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair has already reached 80% of its $6 million goal, said Rusty Volk, the fair’s executive director.

Between pledges and cash on hand, the Northern Wisconsin State Fair Association raised approximately $4.8 million. The original goal was to raise $5.2 million, but Volk said he increased that figure to $6,030,000 due to rising building material costs.

“The fundraiser went really well,” Volk said. “We had a lot of success.”

This week, the organization set a target date for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of August 8 – after the conclusion of this year’s Northern Wisconsin State Fair.

“If all goes according to plan, we will build the barns over the next winter, so they will be ready to go to the fair in 2023, for our 125th annual celebration,” Volk said.

The fundraising campaign was officially launched last fall.

“It will benefit the whole community,” Volk said. “These buildings are built not only for the fair, but for year-round use. However, we are not finished. We need more support.”

Volk said naming rights to some of the new buildings are still available.

A feasibility study carried out by the association of fairs over the past two years has shown that it makes more sense to build several smaller buildings, side by side, instead of one new large building.

Plans include two cattle barns ($1.11 million), a performance arena/colosseum ($1.2 million), a small animal barn ($993,207), a toilet and shower building/ emergency shelter ($1.35 million) and improvements to utilities/infrastructure ($684,195) .

Savings of $98,650 are expected in utilities, for a total of $5,248,220. Again, with the higher construction costs, the council increased its target to $6 million, with any remaining money used to pay for repairs to other existing structures on the fairgrounds.

In April 2019, the large century-old red barn collapsed due to heavy snowfall and was razed, and most of the other barns on the grounds have outlived their useful lives.

Each of the buildings is designed for multipurpose purposes. For example, the coliseum would be used for weddings, banquets, meetings and auctions. Volk said one of the smaller barns could be used for renting out everything from circuses to professional wrestling shows. The shower/bathroom building will help with shows where guests camp on site, such as the OneFest Christian Music Festival or other shows throughout the summer.

The shower/bathroom building would also be a “safe room”/emergency shelter, not only for people in the field, but also for nearby residents in a trailer park. Volk hopes that if they are considered an emergency shelter, they can get a grant from FEMA.

The original plan was for a large building of approximately 65,000 square feet.

Two buildings along the eastern border of the fairgrounds would remain.

“We’re keeping the stable and the show building for the youngsters,” Volk said. “These are structurally sound.”

Volk said he wants to emphasize agricultural education programs at the fairgrounds, and these new buildings will provide that space. He said that without this type of program, the region risks losing a generation of young farmers.

In 2019, the fairgrounds engaged Minneapolis-based Markin Consulting to complete the feasibility study. Markin Consulting is a national consulting company for fairs and funfairs.

Volk became executive director of the 56-acre fairgrounds in 2008. Before he took on this role, the fairgrounds were typically used for the July Fair, Oktoberfest, and a few other events. Now, it’s not uncommon to have multiple events booked each week from spring through fall, and the field has added events like SpringFest, OneFest, the Big Rig Truck Show, and a fall sportsman show.

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