Ridin’ Rides — & BULLS ’n BRONCOS — at the 2019 WI Valley Fair

Written by Kaitlyn Bernarde

The prize-winning animals have all returned to their barns, and the thrill rides have moved on to the next State Fair, but not before the Wisconsin Valley Fair concluded its 6-day run July 30–August 4, 2019.

The most talked-about feature of the 151st annual event was the addition of a traditional rodeo.

In place of the usual country music act, the Wisconsin Valley Fair brought in the Dakota Rodeo Company to entertain fair-goers Saturday night in the grandstand. Jodi Langenhahn, Administrator of the Wisconsin Valley Fair, noted that the aim of the rodeo was to bring in something new that the community could enjoy.

The free general admission seating was an added bonus for all. With no additional fee, folks were able to get right up close to all the exciting rodeo action.

Ring assistants round up a bull after successfully bucking off his rider.
Ring assistants round up a bull who successfully bucked off his rider. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Marx.)

The inclusion of bull riding, barrel racing, and calf roping created new challenges for fair employees and volunteers. According to Langenhahn:

“There was a lot of preparation that went into it, such as considering the ground surface for the arena, the timing of rodeo set-up, and coordinating all the pieces and people involved.”

Rodeo Crowd
Several riders participate in the opening ceremony of the Dakota Rodeo Company at the 2019 Wisconsin Valley Fair. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Marx.)

The 4,000 grandstand seats and the grass berms filled up early and remained full throughout the 2-hour show.

The new addition to the fair was clearly a success. So, if you were unable to make it to the rodeo this year, don’t fret . . .

Plans are already underway to bring this crowd-pleasing rodeo back next year!

Rodeo - WI Valley Fair 2019
A rider attempts to stay on a bucking bronco during the Dakota Rodeo at the Wisconsin Valley Fair. Several professional riders from Marathon County competed in the event. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Marx.)

It’s important to note that several Marathon County government agencies were involved in providing services and support for the County fair, including:

  • Marathon County Sheriff’s Office (event security)
  • Marathon County Solid Waste Department (booth and bottle recycling)
  • Extension Marathon County (event planning and oversight of booths/Junior Fair spaces)
  • Wausau/Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department (event planning and management of Marathon Park facilities and grounds)
  • Marathon County Highway Department (educational display)

As the fair’s administrator, Langenhahn recognized the County’s assistance as well, noting:

“We are very grateful for the support that the county gives us. In return, we are able to put on a fair that really gives back to the county and the community. . . . We could not do it without them!”

Although fairs across the country are wrapping up — and Pumpkin Spice lattes are returning to store shelves — the sights, sounds, and smells of this 151-year-old Marathon County summer tradition still linger in the air…

Make sure you save the date for the next Wisconsin Valley Fair:
August 4–9, 2020, in Marathon Park, Wausau.

 I hope to see you there!

Kaitlyn_BernardeKaitlyn Bernarde

4-H Program Coordinator  |  University of Wisconsin Extension–Cooperative Extension

Kaitlyn Bernarde is the Marathon County 4-H Program Coordinator for UW-Extension, where she has worked since April 2018. She is a graduate of Marathon High School, has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, divides her time between volunteer management and expanding access to 4-H programs. Her passion is strengthening Marathon County youth and adults via education, opportunities, and experiences. In her free time, you can find her exploring Wisconsin with her husband, consuming the news of the day, and trying a new cup of coffee with her family.  Email Kaitlyn Bernarde.

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