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Keeping her boots on the ground, WI Fairest Cayley Vande Berg continues connecting with the fair industry

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When she was selected as the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs in January, Cayley Vande Berg of Fond du Lac County prepared for a packed summer traveling to as many of the state’s 75 county and district fairs as possible.

Just as each individual fair adapted to the Coronavirus pandemic, so too did the role of the fair ambassador. Vande Berg will continue to serve as the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs in 2021.

“I was really happy that the Wisconsin Association of Fairs is giving me this experience gain in 2021 to complete my reign,” she said.

The decision to extend her year came with great consideration. Jayme Buttke works as the executive secretary/treasurer for the Wisconsin Association of Fairs. The organization is actively communicating with fair coordinators and worked with them to see if the rollover was possible.

“We are fearful that we may lose a couple of contestants that could have only run in 2021, but the word for convention will be flexibility,” Buttke said. “We may see one or two contestants from a program depending on if the need is there. We are going to be as flexible as we can so that everybody gets that opportunity.”

This fall, the association hopes to put together final pieces for the annual convention that was originally scheduled Jan. 10-13 with a banquet, trade show, showcases, and more.

“The convention as we know it is changed,” Buttke said. “It is now a two-and-a-half-day convention of business planning Jan 10-12. Just with our fairs, if associates want to come, they can, but otherwise, we’ve asked our associates to share information virtually with us. We can share videos and promote their associate membership to our fairs.”

Even in this modified year, Vande Berg is far from having a slow summer. Keeping her boots to the ground of the agriculture industry, Vande Berg is also working at Rose-Eld Farms.

“They were my quarantine classroom when UW-River Falls moved classes online,” she said as an incoming senior at the university studying dairy science and agriculture business.

Her lessons have been hands-on learning bovine reproductive physiology, synchronization, and heat detection from a specialist in the field.

“I’ve still gotten my fair fix with the little ones that come out to the farm and practice with their animals leading up to the Fond du Lac County Fair, which was hosted as a modified fair,” she said.

Additionally, she’s been responsible for fresh cow care, mixing feed for dry cows, and learning skills with heavy farm equipment.

“I enjoy driving the big hay loader. I got to be part of a haylage chopping crew, and learned how to drive a tractor and back a two-wheel wagon, which I haven’t done before,” Vande Berg said.

Her duties as Fairest did not completely come to a halt. Vande Berg is participating in State Fair affiliated events and posting updates on social media. One of the biggest activities is the Wisconsin State Fair Necessities that bring together more than a dozen components of the Wisconsin State Fair for fans to enjoy until the celebration returns in 2021. Favorites include official FairWear merchandise, the Fairtastic Poster Art Competition, and of course, the Fair Food Drive-Thru that takes place through August 16.

“You’ll be able to get your State Fair staples like deep-fried cheese curds, funnel cakes, freshly squeezed lemonade, and corn dogs,” Vande Berg said. “My favorite is definitely a tie between the Cream Puff and cheese curds, and there are easy ways to get your Cream Puff fix this summer.”

Those hoping to grab the Wisconsin State Fair staple can pre-order to guarantee their Cream Puffs. There will be curbside cream puffs Aug. 6-9 and Aug. 13-16 at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. Businesses within 25-miles of the Wisconsin State Fair Park can also order corporate Cream Puffs to be delivered Aug. 6-16. Otherwise, Traveling Cream Puffs will be available at select Festival Foods locations.

More information about the State Fair Necessities and Cream Puffs can be found online. The Wisconsin Association of Fairs also has updates on its website as individual county and district fairs decide how to proceed this year.

The 2021 Wisconsin State Fair is scheduled for Aug. 5-15.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.