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Opening day of the Waukesha County Fair brought crowds of visitors to the Waukesha Expo Grounds for the 177th year Wednesday, July 17. Each fairgoer had something different to say when asked about their favorite part of the fair.

Jennifer Bugenhagen, the poultry superintendent at the junior livestock tent, said she loves how much kids grow and learn from raising livestock and participating in the auction.

“They learn public speaking, they learn to talk to adults, they learn to get confidence,” Bugenhagen said. “Just watching a kid get their first blue ribbon – every year it just never gets old.”

She emphasized the amount of commitment and hard work kids put in.

“They’re learning how to decide what to do for a project, and then they have to do it," Bugenhagen said. "With the livestock, sometimes that’s a year-long process. That’s a kid picking a goal and sticking with it and doing all the work throughout the year."

The Libbey siblings, Hannah, Rebecca and Soloman, are participating in the 4-H junior livestock show. They're going to be at the fair every day this week looking after their animals.

Hannah, 13, said she liked the rides best.

“I like the eating challenges,” Soloman, 10, said. “Last year at the pancake eating challenge, I got second place.”

“I like the foods because they’re so sweet, like cream puffs and ice cream,” Rebecca said.

Karen Kees of Waukesha goes to the fair every year. She said the food is the best part for her.

“I have to say my favorite food is the fried vegetables. They’ve got cauliflower, broccoli and zucchini. It’s really good and flavorful,” Kees said.

Gregg Wandsneider, who works on the fair staff as the announcer, said he loves letting people know about the various events.

“I am the voice of the fair, so I like letting people know all of the things that are going on on the grounds,” Wandsneider said.

Wandsneider has been going to the fair since he was a kid participating in 4-H, and he's been the announcer for about 15 years now.

He added that he likes letting visitors know about the various events because there’s a lot more to the fair than meets the eye.

“I think that when people think about the fair, they think of animals and stuff, which is an important part, but there’s also competitive eating contests and musical entertainment and such. There’s just a lot to the fair,” Wandsneider said.

Tracy Schrantz and Julie Hartley, sisters-in-law from Waukesha, also attend the fair each year.

“I love watching my daughter on the rides. She loves the Sizzler and the Scrambler and the Tilt-a-Whirl, and I’m not as brave as her so I like to watch her go,” Schrantz said.

For Hartley, a mother of three, her favorite part is that the fair has become tradition for her family.

“We come every year, and my kids look forward to it. We always come the first day with family, and it’s always fun,” Hartley said.

Beth Anderson, 22, said it’s hard to pick a favorite part, but she chose based on what she did first.

“It’s a tough question because I always love the rides, but the first thing I did when I got here was I came to see the animals,” Anderson said.

Mary Lou Betancourth, born and raised in Waukesha, said she loves seeing the animals because they remind her of helping out at her aunt and uncle’s farm as a child.

Natalia Navarro, a student from Costa Rica, is staying with Betancourth as part of an English as a Second Language program. She arrived in America just two weeks ago, and she said the fair reminded her of her home country.

“I’m a student from Costa Rica, and we had a pretty similar fair,” Navarro said. “I really like the animals.”

Aubrie Pockey said the rides are the best part for her because they bring friends together.

“If I had to pick one thing, it would be the rides. It’s something fun you can do with friends. Even if you don’t really like them, your friends make it fun,” Pockey said.

Angela Duncan, Wanda Robey and Robey’s daughter came out from Milwaukee to visit the fair for the first time. The group said their favorite part was the food.

“We came all the way from Milwaukee,” Duncan said. “I like the corn, and I like the chicken on a stick.”

Contact Jenny Whidden at jwhidden@gannett.com and follow her on Twitter at @jennyruthh.

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