From their earliest incarnations as livestock exhibitions to today’s cornucopia of exhibits, demonstrations, grandstand entertainment, games, rides, competitions and cream puffs, the history of Wisconsin’s county and state fairs is the subject of a new work by rural historian Jerry Apps: Meet Me on the Midway: A History of Wisconsin Fairs (Wisconsin Historical Society Press).
Apps draws on extensive research and his personal experiences to take readers back through 178 years of Wisconsin fair history, exploring horse-pulling and calf-showing contests, flower-arrangement judging, the roar of gasoline engines powering the midway rides and so much more. While evoking the fairs’ sights and sounds, he also discusses the political and social forces that have shaped the fair into a rural-heritage icon.
Meet Me on the Midway is illustrated with vintage and modern photos and shares the voices of exhibitors, judges, volunteers and visitors as it captures the thrills and memories of these beloved annual gatherings.
Apps is a former county Extension agent, 4-H exhibitor and leader, and county fair judge; a professor emeritus in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; and a lifelong fairgoer. Today he’s a full-time writer and creative-writing instructor.