Vernon County Fair

210 Fairgrounds Road
Viroqua, WI 54665

608-637-3165

History of The Fair 

Fair (according to the Webster's New World Dictionary), derived from the Latin feria, festival, and akin to festia, feast, 1. a gathering of people held at regular intervals for barter and sale of goods 2. a festival or carnival where there is entertainment and things sold, often for charity bazaar 3. an exhibition of often competitive, of farm, household, and manufactured products, or of international displays, usually with various amusement facilities and educational displays; exposition. 

Fair (according to Vernon County citizens), 1. the best in the state 2. great food 3. family picnics and prize-winning exhibits 4. numerous people sacrificing time and talents to make it possible 5. lots of fun and fond memories 6. harness racing and exciting time. 

All of these are accurate of the Vernon County Fair, one of the oldest county fairs in the state. However, you cannot get the full scope of the event until you delve into the long and varied history of the 152-year old extravaganza. 

One September day in 1856 a group of pioneers held the first fair in Viroqua's main street. Their goals was to exhibit the agricultural opportunities here, thereby drawing new business and commerce into the area. Little did they know their idea would blossom into a five-day spectacular that would eventually draw over 6,000 exhibitors and upwards of 25,000 spectators! 

The "grounds" were on a vacant lot, now the site of Felix's clothing store, adjacent to the court house. Here were shown 2 stallions, 3 bulls and 2 cows, while inside the courthouse were displays featuring 3 woven rugs, some patchwork quilts, and a few jars of home-churned butter and sorghum and maple syrup. Visitors to the one-day fair enjoyed two events: a morning plowing match on the field of Moses Decker, Viroqua's founding citizen, and an afternoon speech by school teacher Hartwell Allen. Between events people could enjoy lemonade and stick candy, the only concessions sold.

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