Portage County Fair—Amherst opens July 13

By Brent Frankenhoff

Just as it has nearly every year since 1949, the Portage County Fair—Amherst returns to the Amherst Fairgrounds this July, running July 13-16.

The first two nights of the Fair feature truck and tractor pulls at 6:30 p.m. each night with various classes of both types of vehicles. On Saturday afternoon, the annual Demolition Derby is held at 2:30 p.m. All these events are on the track.

Friday and Saturday mornings are taken up with judging of the many exhibits that 4-H and FFA members have prepared during the year. From animals to cooking to photography to model building and more, there’s something for everyone to see and learn about around the fairgrounds.

Outside of the exhibition buildings, the Fair features a Commercial Building with displays from area businesses to showcase their products and services. Further south on the Fairgrounds is the ever-popular midway with rides and games for all ages, plus food and beverages served by numerous service organizations. Funds from those food sales help these organizations grow and offer more to the community.

In addition to all the events at the fairgrounds, the fair holds a parade through Amherst’s downtown on Saturday with this year’s theme being “Small Town, Big Fair.” In addition to the many floats and groups walking the parade route, the fair uses the opportunity to recognize the Persons and Business of the Year selected by the Spirit. One major change to the parade route is where the entries assemble. With the drop-off loop under construction, entries need to line up in the back parking lot of the school, south of the football field.

Sunday morning, Ambrosia Pub and Grill caters an all-you-can-eat breakfast.


Market Animal Sale adds stock. A longtime fixture of the Fair, the Market Animal Sale, held on Sunday, has traditionally offered turkey and pigs raised by 4-H and FFA members for sale to bidders. This year, sheep have been added to the offerings and, in 2024, beef will also be available. Many area businesses purchase the animals at or above market value. Market Animal Sale results will appear in the August Spirit.


Fair history. Originally organized in 1869 and running until 1917, the Fair Board opted not to hold a fair in 1918 due to so many area men serving in World War I. At that time, the state legislature voted to halt state aid to any fair that was not held in 1918, which forced the fair to be cancelled the following year. In the early 1920s, a new group, the Portage County Advancement Association, was formed, built a new pavilion at the fairgrounds, and held annual cattle sales there until the Depression. In 1949, the Amherst Lions and area businesses worked together to revive the fair, which has been held ever since under the management of the Portage County Fair Association.

Today, the Amherst Fair is one of only two county fairs in the state to not receive state aid. Fair Board President Tim Pederson, who has held that position for 23 years and been involved with the fair for 37, said, “All the money paid to exhibitors comes from money we earn at our fair or other income throughout the year.”

Some of that other income is derived from rentals of fairground buildings for weddings, auctions, and other activities. In the winter, several buildings are used for boat and RV storage.


Something for everyone. Pederson encouraged visitors young and old to attend the Fair, especially children interested in exhibiting at a future fair. “They can come and see all the exhibits and watch how much pride and fun exhibitors have showing off their projects,” he said. “We really try hard to be a family fair and have something every day for visitors to enjoy. We have activities for every age.”

Pederson added that the improvements to the fairgrounds and the Fair itself could not happen without the help of so many volunteers. “We are always looking for volunteers to help us out, so contact any Fair Board member to volunteer,” he said.

More information on the fair can be found at its website at amherstfair.com and in the flyer inserted in this issue of the Spirit.

Based on the number of entries, photography is one of the more popular projects for 4-H members.

Recent improvements to the swine area have made the fair much more comfortable for the pigs.

Colorful and thrilling rides on the midway are just part of the fair experience.


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