Situated on the banks of the Pecatonica River, the Lafayette County Fairgrounds experiences flood events at least annually. This year, with fast snow melt in March and heavy rains through the spring, the fairgrounds has seen historic flooding with damage to many of the buildings, roads and other facilities.
“The fairgrounds is impacted at least annually by flood events in the county and this year it damaged the entire grounds including livestock building and roads. The water was fast and higher than typical,” says Theresa Burgess, Lafayette County Emergency Management Director. “Due to the fairgrounds being in a floodplain, we can’t expand or upgrade the facilities. We are only able to make repairs to what’s there. It really isn’t cost-effective anymore.”
To ensure the future of the fair and other events in Southwest Wisconsin, the Lafayette County Livestock Committee began working three years ago to find a suitable location, complete economic studies and hold area listening sessions.
“Thanks to the generosity of a local farmer, we have an option to purchase 80 acres just south of Darlington and we’ve worked with several engineering companies to provide building layouts that would be both cost-effective and yet set us up for a strong future,” says Steve Carpenter, president of the newly formed Southwest Wisconsin Ag Innovation Center committee. “To purchase the land, create the infrastructure and complete the buildings necessary to host the fair, we will need approximately $3 million. I know that seems like a lot, but we are really out of options to be able to continue hosting a fair for our kids.”
The selected location is an 80-acre tract high above the river, just south of Darlington, the Lafayette County seat. Close to the intersections of Highway 81 and Highway 23, the site will offer access to local ATV trails, space for camping and enough acreage for long-term expansion, as funding allows.
“Long-term, the plan is to develop a facility that could host events year-round; from horse or livestock events to car shows or even educational programs. Agriculture is the backbone of this part of the state. We need to find reasons to keep our kids here and generate additional business opportunities in the region,” notes Carpenter. “We are very hopeful that we can get the fairgrounds moved and create this type of facility for our kids. So many people have already stepped up to voice their support and pledge their time and expertise.”
To learn more about the new Southwest Wisconsin Ag Innovation Center or to make a donation, visit www.SWAG-Center.com.