182 Years of the Waukesha County Fair!

Join us July 17-21 for Homegrown Fun at the Waukesha County Fair
With our roots dating back to 1842, The Waukesha County Fair has been offering “homegrown fun” for all ages going on 182 years! With a variety of stationary and hands-on exhibits, traditional Fair food and new delicacies to explore, midway rides, entertainment both nationally and locally, there is so much to see and do for families and friends galore. Whether you’re taking a seat at a livestock show, placing your bid at the Junior Livestock Auction, checking out the educational components spread throughout the Ag-Venture area, or just connecting with exhibitors and their animals through the livestock barns, our agricultural roots run deep! We know no matter who you are or where you come from, there is Homegrown Fun for all at the 2024 Waukesha County Fair running July 17th – 21st!

The Waukesha County Fair is proud to be the oldest fair in the state of Wisconsin. This year, we’re celebrating our 182nd Anniversary with special events and promotions throughout the 5-day Fair run.

Being the oldest Fair in the state, we love our history and roots and want to share them for all to know. The first Waukesha County Fair was held in 1842 in a poplar grove on Carroll Street in Prairieville.

It was a gala 4th of July Celebration, complete with fireworks and a festive dinner. One of the day’s highlights included a plowing match between the farmers, with about $40 in premiums awarded to the winners. The highest single premium was $3 for the best yield of corn from one acre.

By 1853, Waukesha County had become a reality. The agricultural societies of Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties consolidated to organize the event, with tickets priced at ten cents. The Fair drew crowds of up to 4,000 people daily with floral displays, a band, and a Ladies Equestrian Display.

The next 50 years brought several relocations and name changes. In 1858, the Fair had acquired its own site on the grounds of what was the old state industrial school, which is now the Saratoga Softball Complex on Prairie Avenue. Sometime after the 1880s, the grounds were moved to the Fountain House Property, which is now the Fountain Springs Apartment Complex on Grand Avenue. The Fair was held there for a dozen years and then abandoned when the Agricultural Society disbanded.

In the early 1900s, the Fair was back as the Farmer’s Institute Dairy Show held in Downtown Waukesha. In 1916, it moved to the Sales Pavilion on Baxter Street which was owned by the Waukesha County Livestock Breeders Association, now the home of Waukesha Discount Liquor. On the Friday of Fair week, school was let out early so everyone could attend.

In 1960, the Sales Pavilion was sold and the Waukesha County Livestock Breeders Association went out of business. The Fair was moved to Wales Village Park and named the Waukesha County Fair. In 1966, the Fair moved to its present location at the Waukesha Exposition Center. In 1969, 4-H built the Youth Building. The Waukesha Horse Association constructed an outdoor horse show ring. In 1971, the dairy barn was added and in 1974 the beef barn was constructed. Agribusiness firms financed both of these buildings as well as the swine barn.

In 1972, a $1 parking fee was charged, and in 1981, a 50 cent admission fee was added. The Fair Association paid for the construction of a regulation truck/tractor pull track. With the construction in ’82 of the East Exhibition Hall, the Youth Building was renamed the 4-H Forum financed by making and selling pizzas.

1984 mainstage lineupEntertainment was added in 1984. The 1st Main Stage line-up featured Loretta Lynn, Mickey Gilley and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The following year, the Waukesha County Fair Association took over managing the Fair since 4-H no longer had the finances or employees to do it. In 1988 and 1989, beer and wine coolers were sold, and an Executive Director was hired as the Fair’s first paid employee.

The Waukesha County Fair Association has shown its strong commitment to the Exposition Center by working with 4-H in the development of the grounds. Buildings, electrical services, walkways, hill removal and many other improvements have been funded by the Waukesha County Fair Association.

The Waukesha County Fair leases the Exposition Center grounds for the week of Fair. Most residents are unaware that, by contract, the Fair is required to pay the following base rent, which carves out a large proportion of our operating budget:
2006 — $75,000
2007 — $77,500
2008 — $81,500
2009 — $84,000
2010 — $86,500
2011 — $35,000
2012 — $40,000
2013 — $45,000
2014 — $43,000
2015 — $44,000
2016 — $45,000
2017 — $45,000
2018 — $46,000
2019 — $47,000
2020 — $0 (Individual Day Shows)
2021 — $51,457
2022 – $50,492
2023 – $62,479
2024 – $70,000

Today, we still have just one full-time, paid employee — the Executive Director — who has many years of experience volunteer and working the Fair. Their knowledge of all its components qualifies them to represent this organization which serves the community so well.

Travel Green WisconsinWe are very pleased to announce our recent Travel Green Wisconsin certification from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. We have already implemented a number of practices to reduce our environmental footprint and ensure that the Fair contributes to sustainable travel.

We’re particularly proud of the sound environmental practice of building a rain garden, to conserve water and prevent damaging run-off. We also clean and recycle our livestock woodchips for composting. Another green initiative we’re looking into is printing our marketing materials on recycled paper with eco-friendly soy ink. Watch for more Travel Green commitments moving forward—we’ll be sure to keep you informed.

We’d like to take a moment to express our heartfelt appreciation to our many volunteers and friends of the Fair. We couldn’t have made it this far without all your help and support! We hope you’ll join us for our 182nd Fair!

The Waukesha County Fair is proud to have been a member of the Waukesha County Business Alliance since February 1st 1994.

The Waukesha County Fair is proud to be a member of the IAFE since 1986 and the Wisconsin Association of Fairs.

The Waukesha County Fair is a proud City of Waukesha Chamber Member.

Waukesha County Fair is a proud member of the Waukesha County Business Alliance

Waukesha County Fair is a proud member of the City of Waukesha Chamber of Commerce