andrew kruse-ross | outagamie co fair | july 2017
Running strong for 132 years, the Outagamie County Fair merges agricultural tradition with modern entertainment to provide six days of enjoyment to Wisconsin families that are both fun and educational.
Over that span, the fair's impact has touched the lives of both locals and out-of-towners alike. In the case of the latter, it was at that first “Seymour Fair" in 1885 that Charles Nagreen, better known to history as “Hamburger Charlie," served his meatballs between two slices of bread, introducing the hamburger to the masses. In the case of the former, the fair has long been a place for the community to gather and showcase the results of their laborious work raising animals, creating crafts or producing crops. And this is still the case today.
“Education is very important piece of what we do," says Fair Manager Brian Stille. “Part of our mission is to educate the public and to promote agriculture and youth development."
The Outagamie Co. Fair does this by offering youth organizations such as FFA and 4-H clubs a place to showcase and exhibit their hard work before the community and their peers.
“Exhibiting at the fair is the culmination of a year's work," says Stille, who points out that the fair goes beyond furthering the educational opportunities of exhibitors. “We also educate the population," he says, adding that the fair seeks to educate a populace that's quite removed from life on the farm — one that may give little thought to where the food they eat comes from.
“When you get down to it, almost all of our food can be traced back to a farm," says Stille. “The fair highlights the producers of the food and reminds the community of our agricultural heritage and these are our sources."
The Outagamie Fair isn't just about education, however. It offers plenty of entertainment opportunities, including acts of national renown and that too is nothing new. Since the 1960s the Outagamie Co Fair has had its share of big-name musical talent appear upon its main stage. Past performers to appear at the fair include Roger Miller, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, George Jones and The Osmonds.
This year, the fair again brings national talent to the stage with the five-man a cappella winners of NBC's “The Sing-Off," Home Free, serving as the grandstand entertainment on Friday night. On Saturday night, Grammy-award winning rockers Halestorm take the stage with Red Light Saints performing as the opening act.
Other Grandstand entertainment events for this year include a farm tractor pull (Tues.), NEW Motorsports truck and tractor pull (Wed.), WI-FMX Freestyle Motocross (Thurs.) and the wildly popular Motor Madness (Sun.).
A complete list of this year's schedule is available by visiting OutagamieCountyFair.com, but highlights to the schedule are as follows:
Tuesday, July 25 – Visitors can enjoy free admission to the grounds with things kicking off at 5 p.m. with the opening of the carnival and midway. According to Stille, the fair has upgraded its carnival ride selection this year, which will be presented by Spectrum Entertainment. That evening's Grandstand event is the Farm Tractor Pull, which puts vintage farm tractors to work. That event is at 7 p.m. and admission to the Grandstand event is $5 for adults, while children 5 and under get in free.
Wednesday, July 26 – Things begin at 10 a.m. with the entry of exhibits. Exhibit buildings will open to the public at 6 p.m.. Visitors can enjoy free admission to the grounds until 4 p.m., which is when the carnival and midway open. At 7 p.m. the NEW Motorsports truck and tractor pull serves as the evening's Grandstand entertainment and features hot-rodded truck and tractors. Grandstand admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12, ages 5 and under get in free.
Thursday, July 27 – Exhibits open to the public at 10 a.m. From then until 5 p.m. the SPUDMOBILE, the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association's interactive and educational mobile center, will be on hand to educate visitors. The carnival and midway open at noon, as does the Nicolet Bank Family Entertainment Tent, which provides family-friendly entertainment the duration of the fair from noon to 6 p.m. (5 p.m. on Sunday). This tent boasts three different revolving acts through the remaining days for the fair. These acts include the ever-popular Miller and Mike and family music from both Randy Peterson and Cookee. Kids will also enjoy Ta-Da Robots — remote-controlled puppets that ride miniature tractors and even speak to children — look for them strolling the fairground areas during the fair.
Grandstand entertainment is provided on Thursday by WI-FMX Freestyle Motocross. WI-FMX is new to the fair this year.
“The fair board was seeking additional Grandstand entertainment this year and one of our members brought motocross to our attention," says Stille.
This team of daredevils will be on hand performing jaw-dropping stunts and tricks on both motorcycles and BMX bikes. Grandstand admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12, ages 5 and under get in free.
Friday, July 28 – Exhibits open to the public at 10 a.m. with the carnival opening again at noon, as does the Nicolet Bank Family Entertainment Tent. Grandstand entertainment is provided by the a cappella group Home Free at 7:30 p.m.
“While they are not a traditional country group, their country spin will provide great grandstand entertainment this year," says Stille.
Home Free is known for their witty live shows that blend Nashville country standards with country-dipped pop hits. Over the last three years, the group has sold more than 250,000 albums. The group's 2016 release “Full of (Even More) Cheer" debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Charts.
Tickets for that evening's event are $25. Those purchasing Home Free tickets in advance will receive free admission to the fairgrounds all day on Friday. Additional $3 parking fee not included.
Saturday, July 29 – Exhibits, carnival and family entertainment tent all open at the same time as on Friday. New to the fair this year is a car show presented by the Odd and Forgotten and the REZurrected Ridez Car Clubs. Spectators can check out both stock and modified vehicles that include cars, trucks and motorcycles. The car show is free to spectators with a paid fair admission. At 11:30 a.m. a scavenger hunt sponsored by the 4-H youth leaders takes place. Participants receive clues and set out across the fairgrounds to collect items with their cameras. At 4 p.m. the Way To the Stage Talent Show takes place in the family entertainment tent. Participants in two age groups compete for cash prizes. Two talented winners may qualify to advance for a chance to compete for $3,000 at the Wisconsin State Fair and one lucky teen winner may win a cameo role in an upcoming Let Me Be Frank Production at the Meyer Theatre.
Grandstand entertainment on Saturday is provided by Grammy Award-winning rockers Halestorm. Often considered one of rock's most explosive bands on stage, the group takes the stage at the fair on the heels of releasing their third studio album “Into the Fire" to wide fan and critical acclaim. They'll be joined on stage by opening act Red Light Saints.
Tickets for that evening's event are $30. VIP tickets are $40. Those purchasing Halestorm tickets in advance will receive free admission to the fairgrounds all day on Friday. Additional $3 parking fee not included.
Sunday, July 30 – Exhibits again open at 10 a.m. and the carnival opens at noon and runs until 6 p.m. Starting at noon, the Grandstand entertainment belongs to Motor Madness. Things kick off with fan-favorite Rohan's Redneck Runners.
“This was a big hit with our crowd last year," says Stille. “How many people go to a race to see cars go around in circles? How many go to see a crash? Well, this is just crashes."
The Hollywood Motorsports Demolition Derby follows at 2 p.m. Grandstand admission for the pair of Motor Madness events is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12, ages 5 and under get in free.
“We've spent a lot of time making sure that we've got something to offer everyone at this year's fair," says Stille. “Seymour isn't as far away as you think it is and it's absolutely worth the trip."
General Admission to the fair is $3 until 1 p.m., $5 after 1 p.m., children 12 and under are free.
Advance concert tickets are available online at OutagamieCountyFair.com or at
Nicolet Bank in Seymour, Nicolet Bank on Nicolet Rd in Appleton and Family Insurance Center locations in Greenville and Freedom.
Carnival wristbands are available in advance through noon on July 25 at SpectrumEntertainment.org. An all-week, all-ride wristband is $40 when purchased in advance or $45 if purchased during the fair. Half-day wristband is $15, full-day wristband is $20.
--Banner photo "Whac-A-Mole" by Kirt Edblom via Flickr.com, Aug. 2014, CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic