Fair plans to replace aging barns

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU)- The sights and sounds of the Northern Wisconsin State Fair might seem like a distant memory. But take a closer look at some of the buildings that were home to hundreds of fair animals this summer and you'll notice something.

“We have walls that are falling apart and rafters that are crooked as a snake,” Fair Director Rusty Volk said.

Volk says rotting wood in the hog and sheep barn is his top safety concern, and in the near future it will need to be replaced. The iconic show coliseum is also slated to come down due to poor ventilation, cramped seating and a host of other issues.

That's where local 4-H member Rhett Kragness comes into the picture. One month ago Kragness was getting his prized steer ready for showtime. These days the 4-H kid from Colfax is in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, getting ready for his freshman year of college.

Before he left town he returned to the fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls to give back, putting part of his fair earnings toward a fund for new barns.

“To give back to the fair that's given me so much through the experience it was really the minimum that I could do,” Kragness said.

Rhett says showing animals at the fair is a tradition that runs in his family and he hopes his donation of nearly $550 will act as a springboard for others to pitch in for the new buildings.

“I hope I started something and I hope kids think about doing what I did when they enter their last year at the fair,” he added.

Fair organizers say they will be meeting later in August to put together a long range plan for the replacement of the barns.

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