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A 450-square-foot mural will greet Wisconsin State Fair visitors at Dairy Lane. Carol Spaeth-Bauer, Wisconsin State Farmer

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WEST ALLIS - What was once an empty wall in a cattle barn at Wisconsin State Fair Park, will soon be a colorful 450-square foot mural depicting the rich diversity of Wisconsin's dairy industry. 

The mural is the first element where a new interactive exhibit, Dairy Lane, will open in the lower cattle barn at State Fair Park in time for the 2019 Wisconsin State Fair, which runs Aug. 1-11. 

Against the backdrop of artists painting the mural, the Wisconsin State Fair Park Foundation presented a $100,000 gift to the the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board on June 18, to make Dairy Lane possible. 

Dairy Lane will navigate fairgoers through places where dairy intersects with their lives. With signage designed to mimic street signs and places of interest — including a grocery store, cheesemaking trailer, house and farm — the exhibit will feature interactive, touch-screen displays, as well as live animals.

"It's important during the course of the 11 days, for people to understand agriculture and dairy in particular, so when they're going to come into the Wisconsin State Fair and they're going to come into the new Dairy Lane exhibit, they're going to have hands on opportunities to see the milking experiences, to see how everything goes from the farm to the table," said Wisconsin State Fair CEO and State Fair Park Foundation Board member Kathleen O'Leary. "That's what a lot of people don't know. We call it ag-ducating at the Wisconsin State Fair."

The new exhibit, which replaces the House of Moo, Is the most extensive enhancement to the Lower Cattle Barn in more than a decade.

“With Dairy Lane, the Wisconsin State Fair Park Foundation saw a new opportunity to create an enhanced experience for the more than one million fairgoers who attend the Fair every year,” said Mike Wojciechowski, president of the Wisconsin State Fair Park Foundation board.  “Through art and education, this important project speaks directly to the mission of the Foundation and we can’t wait for children of all ages to experience it in just a few weeks.”

Work on the 45x10 foot mural, painted by Pete Cortese, Stephen Kane, and Rebecca Ball with Mixdesign from Indiana, started last week. The mural starts with farmland, moves past crops, cows, goats, to butter, cheese and finally delicious dairy products at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The artists met with committee members to determine what they wanted in the mural, researched, took photos, and sketched the whole mural out on paper before the painting began.

"There's a lot of hours involved in this," Cortese said. 

While the interactive exhibits in Dairy Lane will only be available during the State Fair, the mural will be visible for all visitors entering the cattle barn at State Fair Park. 

"It's [Dairy Lane] going to be something that's spectacular," added O'Leary. "It's going to be something brand new at the Wisconsin State Fair and people should be super excited about it."

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Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or carol.spaeth-bauer@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.spaethbauer.

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