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Walworth County Fair plans to trade tunes for tractors

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Kathleen Foody
August 29, 2009
— This year, Walworth County Fair attendees will have three nights of musical entertainment instead of four for the first time since at least 1980.

Instead of an act taking the grandstand stage on Thursday evening, Badger State will present a tractor pull. Sue Pruessing, marketing manager for the fair, said the fair board felt there is just as much interest in the pull as a musical act.


But the cost of putting on a concert also was a concern for board members as they planned for 2009, Pruessing said.


"Of course the fair did traditionally have music on Thursday, but with a tough economy and not knowing how business is going to go this year, the board made the decision to step outside the box," she said.


Music acts require more than just a booking fee. From lighting to set crews, the entertainment makes up a "significant" portion of the fair's budget, Pruessing said.


The search for music artists usually begins in October and involves an agent out of Nashville who represents the fair board and negotiates a contract. This year's fair features Craig Morgan on Friday, Gary Allan on Saturday and Styx on Sunday.


Pruessing said most of the fair office believes Morgan will be the "sleeper" hit.


"People know Craig's songs like 'International Harvester' or 'That's What I Love About Sundays,' without really knowing it's him," she said.


Booking an artist is always tricky for the Walworth County Fair because it's held so late in the year. Country Thunder, the large music festival held annually in Twin Lakes in July, also creates challenges for the fair, Pruessing said.


"Artists who perform there have already been in this area and it's unusual for them to route back," she said.


Thursday also is traditionally the lowest attendance day for the fair, and the board figured it would be the best evening to try out a second tractor pull, Pruessing said.


But with added discounts— seniors get in for $3 and adults get in for $5 instead of the usual $9 admission fee—the numbers during the second day of this year's fair could be up.


Overall attendance numbers have declined since the 1990s, but the board is hoping the 160th anniversary will help boost this year's numbers.


"We're hoping to reach a high of 190,000, but would be happy to average around 175,000," Pruessing said. "Hopefully the anniversary will be a good luck charm for us."


Even though many fairgoers are dealing with their own financial problems, Pruessing said the board hopes the value for the grandstand events will draw crowds in.


"Where else can you see three very well-known acts for $9?" she said.



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