MONTPELIER — The National Anthem drowned out chirping crickets on the midway Saturday morning as local veterans kicked off the 2020 Williams County Fair with a flag raising ceremony in front of an empty grandstand.
They even had their own kind of 21-gun salute when booms from the firing range at the Williams County Conservation League, two miles south of the fairgrounds on County Road J, echoed through the empty seats.
There are no rides, no tents and no games this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but proud families can still watch their 4-H kids display their animals in the barns and show pavilion and that’s what the fair has always been about.
“It’s very quiet, but at least we’re doing something,” said Joyce Wyse. “That’s nice for the kids. They’ve put in a lot of work.”
Wyse is a special deputy with the sheriff’s office Four Wheel Drive Search and Rescue Team. Normally, they focus on program security while the sheriff’s mounted posse controls traffic and parking but neither will be a problem this year. There are no additional events and attendees can park just about anywhere with room to spare in all directions.
“Livestock is way down and we have maybe 100 people here, but we’re off to a good start,” Fair Board President Matt Kennedy said. “Kids showing off their livestock and projects is what the fair has always been about.
“The general public can still come in and walk the barns, but you’ll need to get a wrist band to get into the show arena,” Kennedy said. “That’s just so we can keep the crowd down.
“The food vendors are here and I hope people come out to support them,” Kennedy said. “This is their livelihood and they’ve really taken a hit this year.”
The Pence Concession fleet is out in force with everything from popcorn and caramel apples to pork tenderloins and fresh-squeezed lemonade and Fiske is back with their own French fries. There are also Taco-Nacho, Northcoast Deli, Wisconsin Cheese and Wood-fired pizza vendors.
“It’s really different this year because of the coronavirus,” Junior Fair Board member Mia Herman, of Edgerton, said. “It’s still a lot of fun though, and we’re really busy helping out with the livestock shows.”