It's fair time in Wisconsin!

Jerry Apps
A collection of Jerry Apps' father, Herman Apps, fair ribbons from 1926-1928 from the Waushara County Fair.

My dad, Herman Apps, was a great lover of fairs. He showed cattle at the Waushara County Fair in the 1920s, driving them along a dusty road the eight miles from our farm to the fairgrounds in Wautoma. 

He followed his small herd of Holsteins with his team of horses and a wagon load of hay for the cows while they were at the fair. He slept on the hay load at night. 

He won many ribbons and was quite proud of his small herd of cattle. He also showed his team of horses, but I don’t remember him saying they won any ribbons.

When I talked with him about the fair, he said it was one of the most fun things of his life. While he was at the fair, my mother was home taking care of the calves, chickens and hogs, and all the other chores that needed doing on the farm in those days. Not only did Dad enjoy showing his cattle in the show ring along with other Waushara County dairy farmers, of which there were many in those days, he became close friends with his competitors.

I asked him what else he did at the fair—besides taking care of his cattle and showing them and his horses in the show ring. “Well, I didn’t have much money,” he said. “But I did wander down the Midway on occasion. One thing I remember was the sideshow at the fair, which attracted long lines of people.”

“Tell me more,” I said.

“There was a small tent with a big sign outside that read ‘See the horse with its head where its tail ought to be, 25 cents.’ Who wouldn’t want to see that?”

Dad paid his quarter and went inside the dimly lit tent where he saw a big Belgian draft horse backed into its stall. The horse’s tail was against the manager—it’s tail where its head ought to be.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Fairs are for learning, meeting new friends, having fun, and much more.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to