Retiree pitches in for fair
As chair of the grounds committee, Zanzinger “almost lives out at the fairgrounds,” making sure every little detail is taken care of before the annual fair, said Randy Thompson, UW Extension agriculture agent.
Each year, Zanzinger volunteers hundreds of hours doing many behind-the-scenes tasks to make the fair come off without a hitch.
“(Zanzinger’s) an individual that gets things done,” Thompson said. “The final production—in this case the county fair—is so successful because of all the time and effort he puts in behind the scenes.”
This month Zanzinger was inducted into the Wisconsin Association of Fairs Hall of Fame for his volunteering at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
Then one can add in many hours for his volunteer work with the Rock County Dairy Promotion Council.
Zanzinger’s been in the dairy business all his life, milking cows from age 12 to 60.
He still cash crops 260 acres and also delivers dumpsters for Sherman Sanitation.
He’s been on the fair board for “probably” 18 years, maybe 20, he said, looking to his wife, Dorothy, for help. Fair life is Zanzinger’s way of life. He started in 4-H as a child and continued when his children showed cattle.
One of the first major projects Zanzinger took on was building a stage in front of the grandstand to accommodate larger acts.
“I pretty much got the whole thing donated,” he said.
The stage went from a $100,000 project to about $6,000 or $7,000 of materials and donated time.
“That wouldn’t have happened without Dick’s efforts,” Thompson said.
Other projects over the years include dressing up the fairgrounds and responding to requests such as adding handicap parking. Zanzinger and committee members now, for example, are writing for grant money to build a new pavilion.
“Dick knows everyone here in the county, and Dick is great at getting folks to see his enthusiasm and interest for the kids and for the fair,” Thompson said. “His passion for it is infectious with others, so that has gone a long way in making things happen out there at the fairgrounds.”
The Zanzingers also helped form the Rock County Dairy Promotion Council and hosted the first county dairy breakfast in 1979.
“We went like heck to shape the place up,” he said of hosting the event at their rural Footville farm.
Since then both Zanzinger and his wife have volunteered countless hours for the council, often serving ice cream in the mobile dairy barn at fairs and other summer events.
“I pulled that (barn) around for quite a few years,” Zanzinger said, while his wife serves the ice cream.
Zanzinger’s dedication and passion to volunteering is something you don’t see much of anymore, Thompson said.
He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work—often the most important part of an event, he said.
“Success follows Dick wherever he goes,” Thompson said. “He really is that quiet, gentle guy that just brings a sense of balance to whatever group he’s involved in.”
Occupation: Retired dairy farmer; he still farms cash crops and drives a truck
Family: Wife, Dorothy; two daughters: Julie and Shannon; four grandchildren: Evan, Bret, Tara, Katie Jo
Favorite hobbies: Fishing, deer hunting, dancing
Favorite music: Country
Favorite things to watch: The Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks
Favorite book: Dick just shakes his head, saying, “I never read books.” He does read farming magazines, however.