Fairness at the Fair
The Iowa County Fair is arguably the largest event in the county. Thousands of families pass through the gates to ride the rides, see the prize-winning ducks, sheep and cows, and see the entertainment.
Our local Action Network paid for a booth in the exhibit hall, next to the Democrats, across from the Republicans, and just down the aisle from a group raising money for a new horse arena. For four days, we talked to fair goers about the ban, passed out buttons and bumper-stickers and literature, and enjoyed the fair.
The Wisconsin Coalition for Traditional Marriage had a different plan. Rather than play by the long-established rules of the fair (ie securing a booth in the exhibit hall), their volunteers simply showed up, wearing deceptively printed t-shirts which read “Fair Worker.” They then stood at the front gate, next to the ticket takers, and handed brochures to every car entering the fairgrounds.
The ticket takers, being bona-fide volunteer fair workers themselves, didn’t know anything was amiss and didn’t know what was in the brochures, until the fair office started hearing complaints. And then more complaints. The fair commissioners asked the faux “fair workers” to leave. They refused. The Mineral Point police were called, and the problem was resolved.
I only learned of all this after it had been resolved, upon speaking with Iowa County Fair Commissioner Phil Crawford. Phil said the group would have been welcome to pay their fee and secure exhibit space like anyone else, but the fair commission has never allowed anyone to distribute any kind of literature at the fair gates, or on the fair grounds themselves. “It’s just not appropriate,” he said. “People are coming to see the pigs and the chickens, not to be confronted by any political campaign.”