Expo shows why Wis. holds title of dairy land

New facilities provide more than extra room to show cattle
Expo shows why Wis. holds title of dairy land

This year’s World Dairy Expo theme is designer dairy, but high-class dairy is not the only new upgrade to this year’s event. The facilities themselves are showing the world why Wisconsin continues to hold the title of dairy land and why Madison continues to host the world’s largest dairy expo.

“We used to call it the biggest county fair in the country because when we first got here, it was the county fair grounds and a big show, but now it’s grown to the monstrosity that it is,” said Steve Blessing, owner of Blessing Farm.

Blessing has traveled from Fort Wayne, Indiana, for the last 47 years to visit the World Dairy Expo, only missing the globally renowned event once in 48 years.

“The number of years we’ve been here, you add that up and eight, nine days a year — I’ve spent almost a year of my life here in Madison, Wisconsin, in World Dairy Expo,” he said.

Blessing has watched the Expo grow over the years. Now with two new agriculture facilities at the Alliant Energy Center, Dane County is reaching new heights.

“What you’re seeing today is our vision for the future. This is about taking our county and our state forward and recognizing the importance of agriculture and the importance of the dairy industry,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.

The New Holland Pavilions will house new technology, more exhibitors and livestock during the annual convention. The first pavilion has 90,000 square feet, and the second one has 200,000 square feet with additional livestock stalls, a milking parlor and wash bays.

“The buildings and so forth that they’ve had this year is probably the best in the world for a show like this,” Blessing said.

However, for farmers like Blessing, who rely on the five-day event for years of income, the new facilities provide much more than room to show cattle.

“It’s a time to purchase and sell animals and to make connections to sell animals in the future. We come here with a mind of spending a lot of money, but hopefully we recover that money in the next year or two in the people that we meet. For our investment that we put in here, we are hoping that we double and triple, quadruple our investment depending on the year,” he said.

Last year the Expo generated $25.5 million for the city of Madison. World Dairy Expo goes from September 30 until October 4 at Alliant Energy Center.