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Fond du Lac Co. woman is 2020 WI Fairest of the Fairs

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Cayley Vande Berg, representing the Fond du Lac County Fair, is the 2020 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs.

WISCONSIN DELLS – After a shaky start, Cayley Vande Berg knew she had to step up her game during the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs competition last week during the annual Wisconsin Association of Fairs Convention in Wisconsin Dells.

"I honestly didn't think I would even make the top ten after the 'Meet the Contestants' portion of the competition. I walked off the stage thinking 'what did I just say?'" Vande Berg said with a laugh. "Thankfully I become more comfortable behind the mic as the week went on."

That resurgence of confidence paid off as the 20-year-old Fond du Lac County native was crowned the 2020 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs out of a field of 36 Fairest of the Fair winners representing their home counties from across the state.

Cayley Vande Berg is taking the family tradition as Fairest of the Fair a step further than her mother, Tammy (Stahmann) Vande Berg, left, who served as the Fairest of Fair for the Fond du Lac County Fair in 1993.

Vande Berg is proud to note that she is a second generation Fairest of the Fair winner, with her mom Tammy (Stahmann) Vande Berg serving as the Fairest of the Fair at the Fond du Lac County Fair in 1993.

"I was named Fairest of the Fair at the Fond du Lac County Fair 26 years after my mom was," Vande Berg said. "My parents (Chad and Tammy Vande Berg) and family have been right there with me, supporting me the entire way."

Vande Berg is the third Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs hailing from Fond du Lac County to win the state title. Twenty-seven years ago, the county held a stronghold on the position with Michelle Beilke winning the title in 1992 and Sue Adams stepping into her shoes in 1993.

Sue Adams, left, 21, gets a congratulatory hug from Michelle Beilke, 1992 Fairest of the Fairs, after Adams was announced as the 1993 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs at the Wisconsin Association of Fairs convention at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee. Both represented the Fond du Lac County Fair.

In her new role, Vande Berg will serve as the ambassador for the Wisconsin Association of Fairs, representing 75 county, district and state fairs. During her one-year stint, Vande Berg will log plenty of miles appearing at fairs and events throughout the state, working with the media and promoting the state's fair and agricultural industries.

She will also become a familiar face at the 2020 Wisconsin State Fair, presented by U.S. Cellular, August 6 - 16. During the fair's 10-day run, Vande Berg will greet fairgoers and special guests, perform as the master of ceremonies for several events, participate in various contests, and represent the State Fair during select media appearances.

"I'm really interested in finding out what makes each fair unique: what has worked for them and what hasn't," she said. "Fond du Lac County turned things around at their fair three years ago when they made the change to offer free gate admission, which brought more people out to the fair."

Cayley Vande Berg has gained much experience in the dairy industry through her employment at Rosendale Dairy, the state's largest dairy farm.

Vande Berg who grew up in the Rosendale area and exhibited for many years under the Busy Bees 4-H Club banner, says her experience gained as a livestock exhibitor at the fair has provided her with many opportunities to educate non-farm visitors.

"Not too long ago I was asked by a high school student if we still milk cows by hand," she said. "That comment really opened my eyes and showed the need for our county fairs to help educate the visitors about the agriculture industry. Of course, fairs are also about entertainment and having fun." 

Cayley Vand Berg leads a tour group through one of the massive freestall barns at Rosendale Dairy.

Although she did not grow up on a dairy farm, Vande Berg fell in love with the agricultural field while milking cows at the farm of 4-H leader, Deb Mess and later working as a herdsman at Rosendale Dairy, the state's largest dairy farm.

"I'm not sure what job I will land after graduation but I know I want to work with both cattle and people," she said. "I'll take that one step at a time, and maybe serving as Wisconsin's Fairest of the Fairs will open doors for me."

Welcoming Vande Berg to the Wisconsin State Fair staff this summer, is Kathleen O’Leary, CEO of Wisconsin State Fair Park.

“Cayley demonstrated a true passion for educating people about the fair and agriculture industries. She is a hard-working and dedicated employee, student and volunteer who will be a great ambassador for all Wisconsin Fairs," she said in a news release.

Joining the newly crowned Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs Cayley Vande Berg, center, of Fond du Lac County, is from left, Emma Buss of Lafayette County, 4th runner up, Lauren Flynn of Rock County, 2nd runner up, Mikaila Falash of Adams County, 1st runner up and Jessica Moor of St. Croix County, 3rd runner up.

Mikaila Falash, 20, representing the Adams County Fair, was named first runner-up. She is the daughter of Alan and Laurie Falash of Friendship and is studying Elementary Education at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.

Lauren Flynn, 18, representing the Rock County 4-H Fair, was named second runner-up. She is the daughter of Ted and Cindy Flynn of Janesville and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jessica Moor, 19, representing the St. Croix County Fair, was named third runner-up. She is the daughter of Ann and Jesse Moor of Wilson and also attends UW-River Falls.

Emma Buss, 20, representing the Lafayette County Fair, was named fourth runner-up. She is the daughter of Brad and Roberta Buss and the late Laurie Runde of Platteville and attends the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.

Cole Chapman, 20, representing the Green Lake County Fair, received the Tim Heffernon Congeniality award. He is the son of Jason and Julie Chapman of Dalton and attends Oklahoma State University.

This year’s judges were Jo Reynolds, Steve Asplund and Sarah Kikkert.

Vande Berg succeeds outgoing 2019 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs, Meghan Buechel, from the Brown County Fair.