Since 1941 the Fair has been governed by the Rock County Agricultural Society consisting of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and 14 Directors, together with some 40 members. The Rock County Agricultural Society is a non-profit organization that was organized as a corporation and is exempt for income tax under Section 501(c) 5 of the IRS code.
The Rock County Agricultural Society finances the annual Fair and is responsible for all capital work and maintenance at the Fairgrounds. The Society’s annual budget of $70,000.00 is used to pay expenses, all of which are directly associated with the Fair. The income to support this budget is obtained from annual allocations from the County and the State, as well as from building rental, grandstand admissions and carnival income.
After a few small shows during the late 1800s, it was not until 1905 that the first livestock, fruit and vegetable show was held in Rock County. This was followed by several smaller fairs between 1907 and 1910. In 1911 the Rock County Agricultural Association purchased two acres of land where the Fairgrounds are located today, and later that year the first Rock County Agricultural and Industrial Fair took place. Since then, the Fair has been held every year with the only exceptions being in 1944 and 1945 when only 4-H events were held due to war-time fuel shortages, and again in 1946 when the entire Fair was cancelled due to a polio epidemic.
From the outset the Fairgrounds blossomed with the construction of many buildings, barns and other livestock facilities, as well as a race track. Today the Fairgrounds is also home to many historically-significant structures including the National Register-listed 1911 Floral Hall, located in the middle of the Fairgrounds, as well as four buildings belonging to the Rock County Historical Society. These include the 1903 Fitzer Barn, the District 1 One-Room School, the Lopau Summer Kitchen and the Ordung Building.
An important change in the County Fair over the years has been in the scope of attractions offered to fairgoers. The character of early fairs was dominated by agricultural exhibits and competitions, reflecting the original purpose of encouraging farming in the county. While agriculture is still the primary focus in the form of 4-H livestock events and Open Class exhibits; the scope of activities has broadened to include entertainment, as well as many industrial exhibits.
Today the three-day Rock County Fair is renowned for its high quality programming and exhibits, and is considered to be one of the premier fairs in the region and a highlight of the summer. It is an opportunity for country and townsfolk to come together to enjoy the many events and exhibits on display. A carnival, midway, food and grandstand events, livestock shows, as well as 4-H and Open Class exhibits are only a small part of what can be experienced during this county festival. Other fun events and activities include auto races, a senior citizens’ celebration, a talent contest, and booths operated by the Lions Club and Boy Scouts, as well as pork and beef feeds.