Remember in the children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, how the farm animals convinced Templeton the rat to accompany Wilbur to the fair? They painted a picture of fair grounds littered with food, -pieces of cakes, pies, corn dogs, caramel corn, and candy strewn across the field, trash cans brimming with half-full cups of root beer and lemonade. The hungry rat was irresistibly drawn to the fair by the food! But ‘most everyone else was drawn by the fun.

And fun was everywhere at the Lodi Agricultural Fair this past weekend in Lodi, Wisconsin. Yes, the traditional Wisconsin-fair treats of funnel cakes, elephant ears, home-baked pies, ice cream, fresh cheese curds, and grilled meats were abundant. Diners relaxed at picnic tables under a tent and listened to live music. The variety of entertainment, from rock-n-roll bands to polkas played on an accordion, offered something for everyone.

The easy, relaxed atmosphere of the Lodi Fair was punctuated by happy children thrilled on carnival rides, and hearkened back to earlier days in our American past. As in Wilbur and Charlotte’s day, the fair was free to enter and spread out over the large grassy field, between the baseball diamond and the old town hall.  Free rides on the wooden, hay wagon pulled by draft horses, Dick, Doris, and Doc, corralled the festival fun. 

As in olden days, the Lodi Fair serves an economic as well as a social function. Farmers and livestock buyers gather to exchange money for cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry. While waiting for auction, the animals are housed in shaded stalls and their owners sit in canvas, fold-up chairs next to them. The people set up camp, with coolers and card games, in the open-air barns, next to their prize animals which they raised from infancy. Ribbons won for size and shape are proudly tacked to the rafters and hang above the deserving animals. Outside, new models of farm equipment such as tractors, combines, and mowers stand on display. 

Yes, the purpose of today’s Lodi Fair is the same as the first Lodi Fair 146 years ago. The agricultural fair is the original form of our modern, professional conference. The fair is a central meeting ground for people in the agricultural business to exchange ideas, learn about new business practices and technologies, and form cooperative ventures. As in commercial trade shows, related-product vendors attend the fair to sell their wares.

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