Documentary ensures fair’s sweet memories are well preserved
At a glance
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A postcard shows a crowded parking lot at the Walworth County Fair in the early 1900s. The caption reads, in part, “Four thousand automobiles at the Fair in 1915.” The fair has commissioned a documentary to chronicle the history of the fair.
ELKHORN — The 161-year-old Walworth County Fair has Facebook and Twitter pages. For the last few years it has even live-streamed the annual event on its own website, trying to capture the attention of a generation raised on digital technology.
But in forging its future, it can’t forget about its storied past.
Sue Pruessing, the fair’s marketing manager, said the fair board decided the time was right for a visual record that captures not only the sights and sounds of today’s Walworth County Fair, but its earlier days that are quickly passing from memory and into historical archives.
Dean Rowe, an Emmy award-winning director, producer and writer who founded Front Row Productions, was hired to produce a documentary film about the fair’s history.
Rowe is capturing the fair’s color and history by interviewing and filming residents like Howard and Lois Powell, owners of Powell’s Antiques in Elkhorn, who have long ties to the fair: Lois was an early supervisor of the antiques judging event, and Howard’s father, a poultry judge at the fair, also once drove — as in on foot — some of his cattle from Genoa City to the fairgrounds in Elkhorn.
Howard Powell’s memories of the fair stretch back over eight decades to homemade chicken-and-biscuit dinners served in metal buckets, the Holton Company’s uniformed band playing music, livestock parades, railroad trains whose tracks brought carloads of fairgoers from Milwaukee and Chicago right up to the grounds, and a penny arcade — where coin-operated devices gave viewers a peek at the earliest version of motion pictures.
“I remember snake-oil salesmen,” he said, describing how vendors hawked bottles of liquid medicine that were purported to heal almost anything. “And there were things that you still see sold today, like knives and mops and brooms.”
Read the full story in the Jan. 30, 2011 e-edition of Walworth County Sunday, PAGE 18.