The 100th anniversary of the Belmont School and Community Fair is just around the corner. Set for Tuesday, Sept. 9 through Sunday, Sept. 14, this milestone year for the fair will mark a century that the Belmont community and school have been working together to bring a fun filled event to the area.
The Belmont fair is the oldest community fair in the state of Wisconsin and one of the few remaining fairs that still charges no entry fees.
According to this year’s fair book, the Belmont fair offers over $5,000 in prizes and premiums, the money for which comes from the generous donations and support of the various activities put on by the Belmont Fair Association.
The very first Belmont fair was held in 1915 and was just a one day event that included horse pulls, livestock shows, exhibit entries, a dance, baseball games and more—all in just a day, according to Peggy Bockhop, who along with Leona Huggins and Lois Heiring, formed a committee to produce a 100th Fair Anniversary Book that presents a history of the entire 100 years of the Belmont Fair.
“We have photos and info from all the way back to the first fair in 1915,” said Bockhop. “Someone started keeping track and collecting information and then someone else would pick it up in later years and so on, so we had a history already started.”
Although it isn’t clear why the first fair was started, Bockhop said she imagines that the community simply wanted to create an event where everyone could get together.\
Some of the biggest changes for the fair through the years include the extension of the number of days the event is held, as well as the horse pulls changing over to tractor pulls as times progressed. The direction the parade traveled also changed. Originally the parade traveled up Main Street to the village park, but starting in 1959 the parade began at the village park and traveled down Main Street to the new high school building.
“One thing I found interesting was that when the fair first started men would dress in suits and ties and women would wear their fancy dresses and now people just come in shorts and casual wear,” noted Bockhop. “Also whatever animals were judged during the fair would have to march in the parade back in the early days.”
The fair has also expanded and grown through the years. To begin with it was mostly just Belmont area people who would attend and be involved, but now it has grown to include people from the tri-county area of Lafayette, Grant and Iowa counties as well as beyond.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the fair though. According to Bockhop there were a few years when the fair did not take place. From 1917 to 1921 was one such stretch of time.
“At that time there weren’t a lot of exhibits, so they decided to drop it, but it eventually got going again,” explained Bockhop.
There was another time span when the fair was not held from 1926 to 1930, closer to the depression era and in 1925 records indicate that the fair was postponed because of a snowstorm.
But no matter the hurdles that were faced, the Belmont Fair always managed to come back, due in large part to the involvement and interest of the residents that put it on each year.
“The community just really works together on this,” said Bockhop. “The cooperation and interest from the residents is what keeps it going and families pass their involvement down through generations. Everyone just wants it to be an awesome thing, because it’s been around for so long,” she concluded.
This years fair will kick off on Tuesday, Sept. 9 with a volleyball game against Highland with the JV game at 6 p.m. and varsity at 7:15 p.m.
Then on Thursday, Sept. 11 the stunt program will be held at 7:30 p.m. with the crowning of the king and queen, the king and queen raffle drawing and the winners of the mustache and beard contest being announced.
On Friday, Sept. 12 exhibit entries will be accepted in the grade school gym from 1-4 p.m., carnival rides will be available from 6-9 p.m. and the varsity football game against Highland will take place at 7 p.m. with a fireworks show to follow.
Saturday, Sept. 13 will begin with livestock weigh-in at 7:30 a.m., the parade down Main Street at 9:30 a.m., carnival rides beginning at 10:30 a.m., a pasty dinner in the school cafeteria at 11 a.m., exhibits will open in the grade school gym at 11 a.m. as well. Bucky and the UW-Band will begin their 5th quarter performance at the football field at 11:45 a.m.
There will be a car show at noon with animal judging beginning at that time as well. The livestock auction will begin at 2:15 p.m. and the Wisconsin Horse Pullers Association is set for 4 p.m. A street dance featuring Madison County will take place on Commerce Street beginning at 8 p.m.
Finally on Sunday, Sept. 14 the Ecumenical Worship service will be held at the Ken Leahy Memorial Park at 10:30 a.m. Beginning at noon will be the horse show, a cowboy mounted shooting demonstration, tractor and garden tractor pull and carnival rides. Novelties, the chicken catching, kiddie tractor pedal pull and a clown performance on the midway are all set to start at 1 p.m. with a name the animal drawing to be held at 2 p.m. during the tractor and garden tractor pull.
The livestock carcass contest will then be held at Avon Locker in Darlington on Wednesday evening, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.