DARLINGTON (WKOW) — The Lafayette County Fair has been a yearly tradition for decades. But another yearly tradition, the threat of flooding, is not a welcome one to those who attend the fair every year.
“It takes a toll on just the whole fair,” said Victorria Meylor, who has been showing livestock and attending the fair since third grade.
This past spring, the fairgrounds in Darlington saw some of the worst flooding it has had since 1993.
“It just affected everything,” said Steve Carpenter, the president of the Lafayette County Livestock Committee. “We had to come in and clean everything out.”
Carpenter is also the president of the newly formed Southwest Wisconsin Ag Innovation Center Committee. The group has begun raising funds to purchase land just south of Darlington and make that the fair’s new home.
“In just the past year this facility has flooded three times,” he said.
Carpenter and other local leaders have been investigating this issue for the past three years and looking into ways to move the fairgrounds to a place that’s out of the flood zone. The physical flooding isn’t the only issue for the location.
“Due to the fairgrounds being in a floodplain, we can’t expand or upgrade the facilities,” said Lafayette County Emergency Management director Theresa Burgess. “We are only able to make repairs to what’s there. It really isn’t cost-effective anymore.”
The $3 million initial plan includes buying 80 acres of land south of Darlington, creating the infrastructure and completing the buildings necessary to host the fair.
“I understand that sounds like a lot of money but I think it’s something that will benefit the whole area,” said Carpenter.
Jack Wiegel, the Lafayette Fair Committee chairperson, told 27 News that the county doesn’t have the funds to build a new fairgrounds.
“There are so many things the county is involved in and unfortunately a new fairgrounds is not on the list,” he said.
They also plan to create a space that could be used year-round.
Carpenter said the young people that come to show livestock and other animals deserve a location where they’re set up to do their best and be able to attend a fair that brings them new friendships and lifelong memories. He showed at the fair all through his childhood and all four of his children have, too.
“It’s an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said.
Meylor is a 4H Ambassador, which is a leadership role where she helps younger children with activities at the fair. She said having a new location, especially one that they could use beyond just the summer, would be an honor.
“More is better with the fair,” she said. “It is everyone’s fair so everyone should contribute to it because it’s impossible to have something better if not everyone contributes.”
The group has already raised more than $50,000. If you would like to contribute, you can find information here.