Janesville72°

Rock County 4-H Fair and AirFest coincide this year

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Catherine W. Idzerda
April 15, 2011
— A haiku for the weekend of July 29-31:
Jet fuel and cream puffs,
The last weekend in July,
You can enjoy both.

It’s not terribly poetic, but it’s true.


Southern Wisconsin AirFest will be that weekend at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport between Janesville and Beloit. Organizers hope to book an international act.


That weekend also is the final three days of the Rock County 4-H Fair that runs from July 26-31. The weekend will include professional rodeo and music from teen heartthrob Greyson Chance, Disney Channel favorite Allstar Weekend and the popular regional band Madison County.


“We weren’t actually aware that the fair was that weekend when we made our plans,” said Tom Morgan, AirFest executive director.


Now he knows.


The dates of the fair wouldn’t have made a difference to AirFest organizers, even if they had known them in advance.


Organizers moved the show’s dates to accommodate the international act they expect to book. They also want to draw on some of the audience, acts and air traffic for the Oshkosh Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual, weeklong AirVenture.


That’s right. The EAA’s annual fly-in and air show runs Monday to Sunday, July 25-31.


“We’ve got some marketing things we want to do with them,” Morgan said. “We always have transient aircraft, and we expect to draw some more of those in.”


Last year’s AirFest was May 28-30. Moving the date of such an event isn’t unprecedented.


“Rockford moved their air show so they could get an act we had,” Morgan said.


Bob Arndt, fair board president, was taking the change in stride.


“It is what it is,” he said.


“It’s kind of disappointing, but that’s up to them,” Arndt said. “There were some people that were mad about it, but I said, ‘Jeez, you guys, it’s a free country. They can have their AirFest any time they want.”


Arndt was moderately concerned about the Rock County Sheriff’s Office being spread thin that weekend.


Capt. Jude Maurer of the sheriff’s office said he didn’t anticipate any serious problems.


“We’ve really been able to scale back in the past couple of years,” Maurer said. “Janesville now covers Highway 51 out to the airport.”


The sheriff’s office has two deputies on AirFest grounds because of the event’s size and nature.


Morgan said AirFest pays the county for such services.


Christine Rebout, executive director for the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau, thinks the two events “might be able to partner very well.”


“It’s going to give people something else to do while they’re here,” Rebout said.


After a day at AirFest, people could go to fair for the evening entertainment, and that might translate into an overnight stay.


“The other nice thing is that these are both relatively family-orientated things,” Rebout said. “There’s something for mom, dad, grandpa and the kids.”


If the kids can’t stand another air show, their parents can pack them off to the fair.


However, Rebout suspects that “there may be challenges to work through logistically.”


“Vendors are going to have to make choices,” Rebout said.


Local businesses, churches and nonprofit organizations that run booths at the fair might be hard pressed to find the equipment and the volunteers to work both locations.


Both the fair and AirFest have served as important fundraising venues for nonprofits.


Like Arndt, Rebout is stressing the positive.


“I think we will look at opportunities to partner with the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau,” Rebout said.


Arndt isn’t worried.


“It doesn’t matter,” Arndt said. “We’re going to be here, and we’re going to have a good time.”



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