SOLDIERS GROVE - If ever there was a year to remember to put ‘dairy’ at the center of the Dairy Days celebration, held annually in Soldiers Grove, this is it. Dairy Days will take place Friday, June 15-Sunday, June 17.
With a record number of farm bankruptcies in Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota in 2017, especially among dairy farms, it becomes more important than ever to revive old traditions that celebrate the state’s dairy industry.
Despite a 79 percent decline in the county’s cattle herd in just 20 years between its heyday in 1982 and 2002, dairy remains the major agricultural industry in the county. As of 2014, on-farm milk sales account for $45.3 million, and processing generates another $8.8 million. On-farm milk production accounts for 443 jobs, and dairy processing 31 jobs.
The majority (88.3 percent) of Crawford County’s farms are owned by individuals and families. Those citizens pay taxes, send their children to local schools, patronize local merchants, and help to produce the dairy products that county residents feed their families. Of all the jobs in the county, agriculture provides 35 percent.
Dairy Days in Soldiers Grove is part of the larger statewide celebration of ‘June Dairy Month.’ June Dairy Month got its start as National Milk Month, which was established in 1937 by a group of chain stores to promote drinking milk and increase demand at a time when cows were turned out to pasture and milk production was at a peak. It ran from June 10 to July 10, with the original theme of “Keep Youthful—Drink Milk.”
The National Dairy Council stepped in to promote the cause in 1939, adjusted the timeframe to encompass the month of June, and renamed the event “June Dairy Month.” In 1955, the American Dairy Association took over the promotion of June Dairy Month, which has developed into an annual celebration of the contributions the dairy industry makes.
Local resident Laurel Hestetune thinks that the first Dairy Days happened in the early 1950’s. If that were so, it would mean that this venerable old local tradition has been going on for almost 70 years.
“Things have really changed in our community over the years,” observed longtime Soldiers Grove resident John Young. “It used to be there were dairy farms and creameries, all over the area, and every family had a bunch of kids.”
Young thinks that the Dairy Days celebration has a harder time making a connection that used to be effortless between the community and the dairy farmers because fewer and fewer kids these days grow up on a dairy farm. In a sense, most citizens have become progressively more distanced from the source of the food they feed their families.
So this year at Dairy Days have a ball, and remember to celebrate dairy! Of course, the focal point of the celebration, the milk and cheese, will be available throughout the event, in abundance and for free.
Dairy Days celebrations will kickoff the evening of Friday, June 15, with the tractor pull. There will be a one-hook show with the Midwest Pulling Sled. Registration at 5:30 p.m. and the pulls begin at 7 p.m. Pulling questions can be directed to David Butler at 608-476-2186.
The classes will be as follows: Antique 3 mph (4000,4500,5000,5500,6000,6500); Farm/local antique 4mph 18.4x38 tires (6500,7000); Improved Antique 4 mph (5000,5500,6000); Super Antique 6mph (5500,6000); Open 10mph 18.4 tires (6000,6200); Farm 414 ci limit 5mph 18.4 tires (9000,9500); Light Open farm 12mph 18.4 tires (9000,9500); Heavy Open Farm 12mph 20.8 tires (11500,12000,12500).
The evening continues with music under the tent provided by Mr. DJ (Dominick McCormick) from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. so make sure to dust off your dancing shoes! Mr. DJ will also provide the Saturday evening entertainment, 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.
The carnival provided by Spectrum Entertainment will also be open on Friday for the younger set to enjoy.
Saturday 5K Run/Walk
The Soldiers Grove Fire Department will host its second annual 5K Run/Walk. The event will take place on Saturday, June 16 in Soldiers Grove. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and the run starts at 9 a.m.
The Run/Walk is a timed competitive event. Medals will be awarded in each age group as well as overall finishers, and t-shirts will be given to participants registered by May 31. There is a $20 early entry fee, and a $30 entry fee during June.
The Run/Walk course begins and ends next to the horse arena, and goes out Tavern Road and back.
Plant and book sale
The Soldiers Grove Library will host a plant and book sale on Saturday, June 16, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., during Dairy Days. Because of the large volume of books, the booksale will be held at the library, and the plant sale, co-sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Crawford County, down in the park.
Saturday tractor pull
The pulling continues Saturday with a Two Hook Show; registration will be at 10 a.m. with pulling beginning around noon.
The classes for the two-hook pull will be as follows: Antique 3 mph (4000,4500,5000,5500,6000,6500); Farm/local antique 4mph 18.4x38 tires (6500,7000); Improved Antique 4mph (5000,5500,6000); Super Antique 6mph (5500,6000); Open 10mph 18.4 tires (6000,6200); Farm 414 ci limit 5mph 18.4 tires (9000,9500); Light Open farm 12mph 18.4 tires (9000,9500); and Heavy Open Farm 12mph 20.8 tires (11500,12000,12500).
In addition to the Run/Walk there will be a Volleyball Tournament with a $60 entry fee. Call Doug Heisz at 608-735-4179 or 608-391-0065 with questions.
On Saturday, there will be a horseshoe tournament put on by the Kickapoo Ringers. Registration will start at 10:30 a.m., and play will commence at 11 a.m. For more information, contact Jim Maybee, 735-4599.
On Saturday and Sunday, there will be a co-ed slow-pitch softball tournament with $100 entry fee per team; and a 100 percent payout. There will also be a men’s slow-pitch softball tournament with a $100 entry fee per team; and a 100 percent pay back. The tournament already has five teams signed up in each tournament, and is actively seeking additional teams. For more information contact Bill Faulkner at 608-485-3728.
Due to lack of interest and participation, there will be no Kickball or Bean Bag tournaments this year.
On Saturday, there will be an all you can eat breakfast buffet at TazZee’s Wonder Bar from 7 a.m. until noon.
And as always, the Soldiers Grove Lions Club will offer their fantastic chicken barbeque both days starting at noon. So take a break from cooking dinner, bring the whole family down, eat some good food and enjoy the fun.
Sunday is Dairy Day
As always, the big excitement on Sunday at Dairy Days will be the Dairy Days Parade. The parade is currently looking for entries. There will be cash prizes awarded for Best Dairy Theme Float, Best Youth Float, Best Adult Float and Best Commercial Float. The parade starts at 1 p.m. with registration at 11:30 a.m. by the Driftless Brewery (old grocery store). There is no entry fee. For more information contact Rosie McCullick at 608-629-5095 or Kris McCormick at 608-606-4335.
Following the parade, there will be the Kindschi Pedal Tractor Pull free for kids ages 4-12.
Raffle tickets are also available at local businesses and from Lions Club members. First prize is $2,000 provided by the Soldiers Grove Lions Club, second prize is $500 and third and fourth $250 with many other prizes up for grabs.