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FLASHBACK: How the Wisconsin State Fair got its start

Started in Janesville in 1851
Posted: 10:40 PM, Aug 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-03 11:31:44Z

More than 1 million people will take in the sights and sounds of the Wisconsin State Fair this summer, quite a jump from the 13,000 people who attended the first state fair in 1851, when admission was just 10 cents. 

"It started in Janesville because they wanted the Illinois people to come up," said Kathleen O'Leary, the CEO of the Wisconsin State Fair Park. 

She says the fair originally traveled all over the state, before finding a permanent home in West Allis in 1892. 

"The Green Bay Packers have played at the Wisconsin State Fair, we had the Wright brothers fly in the state fair at the Milwaukee Mile," said O'Leary. 

One of the many interesting things about the state fair is the exposition center where hundreds of unique and unusual items are for sale.

"Really it was the apothecary traveling vendors that wanted to showcase their wares," said O'Leary. "What we know now as infomercials really was the ground level of those slicers and dicers."

The state fair has endured the test of time, and even bounced back from a smallpox scare in 1894, to become one of the most popular summer attractions in Wisconsin.