Join us for the 2024 Wisconsin Valley Fair: July 30-August 4!
Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn
Home > About > History


First County Fair

Wausau River Pilot advertisement for the first annual fair. 
The first county fair was held in Marathon Park by the Marathon County Agricultural Society on September 25, and 26, 1868--only 20 years after Wisconsin received statehood. According to the Wisconsin River Pilot, the inaugural fair started with a parade into the fair with about 2,000 people including 500 women. It officially opened by the Secretary, Honorable W.G. Silversthorn. The Honorable C. Hoeflinger spoke in German stating, "Nobleness of labor and the trial pursuits of life, giving the farmer the highest rank and praise for his patient toil, and the benefits derived therefrom." The biggest attractions were nice flowers and vegetables, but horses, cattle, swine, sheep and poultry were also exhibited. The Siberian crab apple was successfully shown, and therefore it was recommended that it could grow in Marathon County. The first fair was a perfect success, a "Glorious day for Marathon County, and will always be spoken of with pride."

Sustaining and Building

1926 aerial image of the fairgrounds. 
The 80-acre plot was given to the Ag. Society by August Kickbush and Bradbury Plummer. In 1920, the land was deeded by the Marathon County Agricultural Society to Marathon County.
That same yera, Alexander Eschweiler, a Milwaukee architect, was commissioned ot design a new stock judging pavilion, grandstand and cattle barns for the park. The judging pavilion is located in the southeast corner of Marathon Park and consists of an octagonal-shaped building with cupola, and adjoining barns with gable roofs.
The tallest building in Marathon Park is an exhibition building that was designed by the firm of Oppenhamer and Obel and built in 1924. Located between the judging pavilion and the grandstand, the building consists of a hexagonal-shaped building, with cupola, from which radiate six rectangular wings with gable roofs.

Additional Park Features

Fair-goers learning about the history of Marathon County agriculture outside of the museum. 
Between two of the Exhibition Building wings is the I.S. Horgan Farm Museum which houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the agricultural history of Marathon County. The museum is normally open by appointment in the summer months (for dates and times, contact the Marathon County Parks Department.
On the East Side of Marathon Park near the University of Wisconsin, is an 1895 school house. Formally located in the town of Stettin, this one-room school house was relocated to the park in 1963. It is now used in the "Little Red School House Museum" program of the Marathon County Historical Society, and Altrusa Club.
Back to
Tickets & Deals