ELKHORN, Wisc. (July 23, 2020) – After much deliberation, the Walworth County Agricultural Society board
voted Wednesday to cancel this year’s Ribfest and the 171st Walworth County Fair.
“The board was concerned these events could pose a risk to Walworth County residents by attracting visitors
from areas with much higher COVID-19 infection rates,” said Larry Gaffey, Walworth County Fairgrounds
general manager. “Ribfest and the fair are the largest events we hold at the fairgrounds, attracting people
from as far away as Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and other counties in Wisconsin. The board feared the influx of
visitors could strain the county’s public health system.”
Organizers had worked with the Walworth County Department of Health & Human Services to develop health
and safety plans to make the two events as safe as possible. Both the fair and Ribfest had been reimagined to
reduce congestion and enable easy social distancing. Events had been moved outdoors and the carnival had
been spread out to reduce congestion.
However, the board became more concerned about the risk of infection as the number of COVID-19 cases
increased steadily in surrounding states and other parts of Wisconsin.
One set of activities scheduled for the fair will proceed. Junior exhibits featuring the work of young people,
including livestock, photography, gardening, woodworking and arts and crafts, will take place on the
fairgrounds but will not be open to the public. The annual Meat Animal Sale will take place however details
are being discussed and announcements relating the Junior activities will come soon.
“We are concerned about the public health, but also feel an obligation to the young people who have spent a
year or more raising livestock, doing photography, gardening crops, woodworking and working on arts and
crafts,” said Gaffey. “COVID-19 stole part of a school year from these kids. We will not allow it to ruin their
dream projects as well.”
He said smaller events hosted by independent event organizers remain scheduled for the fairgrounds. These
independent events attract mainly local visitors.
The 171-year-old fair is one of the longest-running events in Wisconsin and typically attracts hundreds of
thousands of visitors to Elkhorn. A University of Wisconsin economic impact study found the fair annually
creates more than 30 local jobs, contributes over $7 million to the local economy, and generates significant
revenue for retailers, restaurateurs, and hospitality companies in the area. In addition, the fair serves as the
year’s largest fundraising activity for many local non-profit organizations and church groups.
For more information about the Walworth County Fairgrounds, visit https://www.walworthcountyfair.com.