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Rock Co. 4-H Fair may expand, move to bigger site

Fair's current 18-acre site isn't big enough for fair activities

JANESVILLE, Wis. - After more than 80 years in Janesville, the Rock County 4-H Fair is considering moving to a larger location.

Thursday afternoon, preparations were underway at the Rock County Fairgrounds for the annual Rock County Beef Producers Steak Cook Out.

The Hanauska family is hosting this year's fundraiser. Their family farm in Milton is celebrating 100 years.

Harold and his wife Maureen brought pictures to show how their farm has grown over the years from 80 to 225 acres. Harold said it's important to keep future generations interested in farming.

"The scholarships we provide are for kids going into agricultural business. We're trying to keep them on the ag end of it," said Hanauska

Fair Board President Rob McConnell said preserving history is important but they also have to think about the future.

"Rock County is one of the oldest fairs in the United States and has one of the largest 4-H participation in Wisconsin," said McConnell.

The fair's current 18-acre site in Janesville isn't big enough to handle all of the 4-H activities at the fair.

"We have 21 pre-fair judged events that are before the fair and we don't give those kids an opportunity to come to the fair the week of the fair so we're always looking for better options to make it better," said McConnell.

Organizers are considering moving the fair to a site in Evansville.

McConnell said the number one complaint he hears is there's nowhere to park when people come to the fair. He said moving the event from Janesville to a proposed 217-acre site in Evansville would help fix that problem. They'd also be able to bring in bigger acts and allow patrons to camp on the grounds.

Rock Co. 4-H Fair may expand, move to bigger site

He said the move could also help the fair remain viable. There was near record attendance this year and the fair profited $75,000. That's compared to 2012 when they took a $50,000 loss.

"In the future you'll see more regional fairs than county fairs. It's got to move to a regional. This is the first year we've made money in the last five or six years at the county fair and every county fair is having the same struggles," McConnell said.

McConnell said the new facility would also give farmers and industry professionals an opportunity to showcase how technology is changing the agriculture business.

"It's GPS, auto-steered tractors, and my daughter drives a drone for a company to scout fields. Technology and agriculture is huge nowadays and that's what we need to promote," said McConnell.

After 40 years of farming the Hanauska's will retire at the top of the year. Their son will take over as the fourth generation in their family to work as a farmer.

Harold Hanauska said he supports a possible move to Evansville if it will help support the farming industry in the county.

"We're so short of space here it's very limited what we can do, so I think it will be a good thing in the long run," said Hanauska.

The meeting between the Agriculture Council and the Fair Board will be next month at the Rock County Fairgrounds.

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