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Walworth County Fair honors the biggest, best and most creative

By Catherine W. Idzerda
September 3, 2015

ELKHORN—The Walworth County Fair is full of big moments.

The naming of the grand champion steer. The first few notes of the grandstand musical act. The sight of draft horses in the arena.

Those moments number in the dozens.

But the little moments, those that keep people coming back year after year, number in the hundreds. They are the ordinary sights that sometimes get overlooked.

Here are a few of those moments as they were experienced Thursday at the fair.


Jack Corbett of Elkhorn knows that bacon comes from a pig, not from a store.

Jack and his sister Emma were touring the Discovery Barn and getting their cards punched so they could win a prize.

They stopped at a map of the United States and were asked to  match foods with their states of origin.

Spotting a picture of bacon, Jack blurted out, “Pigs!”

The boy knew his bacon but was less sure about cranberries. He put their picture on the state of Nebraska.

He then announced that he was 5 and began to share his knowledge about, well, everything.

Levi Speckman, 17, of Badger FFA, who was running the map station, explained that the goal of the Discovery Barn is to teach kids about farming.

“Kids need to learn about where food comes from,” Speckman said. “Food comes from the farm, not from the store.”

Other stations allowed kids to see cows and goats—another kind of kid—being milked, pet baby animals, watch chickens hatch and ducks swim.

Perhaps one of the most popular stops in the barn was the pen of Chelsea the Chester White and her seven piglets.

The sow reclined on a bed of straw, while the piglets competed for a spot on her belly. One piglet ventured over to the other side of his mother and tried feeding over there, but the bar was closed.


The Featherstones of Walworth clearly know something other gardeners do not.

In the open class, Emery Featherstone won the prize for the largest cabbage. It was shaped like a giant yoga cushion and was at least twice the size of a regular cabbage.

“That would make a lot of cole slaw,” a visitor remarked in passing.

Featherstone also won for his massive Hubbard squash. The thing was deep green with just the right amount of “warting.” Yes, that is the correct name for those variably sized bumps that show up on many cucurbita maxima.

Anna Featherstone, Emery's daughter, also won a prize for her vegetable display.

A woman who answered the phone at the Featherstones' farm would say only that they had been “working in the garden all summer.”

Yes, so has everybody else, but all we get are blight and sickly, undersized squash.

The Featherstones won in a variety of classes, but it was Jason Yates who had the largest cucurbita there. Weighing in at 882 pounds, Yates' pumpkin, Bubbles, took first prize for heaviest pumpkin.

Other winning giants in Horticultural Hall included a 13-foot sunflower, a sunflower seed head that was 18 inches across and a 3-pound onion bulb.

Breath mint, anyone?


Once again, the Walworth County Historical Society held its book sale on the lawn near the schoolhouse. The sale offers a good mix of antique books, paperbacks and hardcovers, all neatly separated into genres.

The antique section included hardcover editions of classics from Zane Grey, Fennimore Cooper, Hugh Walpole, Victor Hugo and Robert Benchley.

Several copies of "Hopalong Cassidy" by Clarence Mulford were on the table. Just a warning: Mulford's original Hopalong was a lot tougher and meaner than either the comic book or movie character.

As the heat and humidity climbed, I was happy to find a copy of Hattie Walker's 1929 book, “The Snow Children.” It's about the native peoples of Alaska, but it might as well be about Wisconsin: "In the winter the sun does not shine. ... The mountains are covered with snow. There are fields of snow. There are rivers of ice. ... It is the home of the polar bear.”


A trip to the Junior Exhibits building is a must for any fairgoer.

There on display is the intellectual and creative genius of the next generation. It's a hopeful sight. Model rockets, woodworking projects, crops, written work, photography and quilts are a few of the categories on display.

The entries in the “Arts and Crafts, Structures” category includes a collection of Lego masterpieces.

Wesley Salverson of La Grange 4-H took the grand prize for his Lego Ferris wheel and fair display. The wheel itself was well constructed, and Salverson added details to his fairgrounds, such as blooming trees and fairgoers buying ice cream.

Josiah Harder of Walworth 4-H turned in a Lego structure called “The Farmer in the Dells.” It featured Devil's Lake, Tommy Barlett's water ski show and a Wisconsin Duck boat entering the water.

Farmer in the Dells … get it?

Clever kid.

Wesley Laue of Harvesters 4-H went in a different direction. His Lego display was called “Welcome to Nuke Town.” It featured a post-apocalyptic landscape of blown-out windows, shell-shocked people and other signs of destruction.

Laue paid attention to details. Tiny triangular pieces of clear Legos were embedded into the window frames to represent broken glass. The victims of the blast staggered forward.

The topic was so marvelously different from the other Lego displays, it almost deserved a category of its own: “Arts and Crafts, Less-cheerful Structures.”