Just Desserts: The Glories of Wisconsin State Fair

They are, to wit, bunnies, brownies, baby yard birds and assorted Cream Puff royalty.


State Fair opened on Thursday, drawing about 90,000 people through its gates and tempting them with skewered, butterflied and triple-salted delights. The occasion also marks a rare convergence of rural and urban life, with tall barns standing open on the grounds, full of cows, pigs and other lovelies. Come Friday, Just Desserts had weaseled its way into the good graces of the Cream Puff Daddy (“Puff” to his friends), some baby quail and one very sleepy bunny.


Matt Hrodey: We learned today that hot and sunny is not the ideal State Fair weather.

Claire Hanan: We did. We also learned that State Fair has only been canceled five times in 164 years.

MH: Three were due to the Civil War. One was due to World War II. And the fifth was related to competition from the World’s Fair in Chicago.

CH: I didn’t catch that final reason. I wonder if it was sort of a game of … chicken.

MH: Ayuk, ayuk.

Part glory, part gory.
Part glory, part gory.

CH: Let’s skip all of the data that was thrown at us at 10 a.m. and get right into the celebrities we met.

MH: We met [the Cream] Puff Daddy himself. And nobody has yet asked me, “What was it like to meet the Puff Daddy?”

CH: There’s still time left in the day. I thought he was a good sport for some pretty ridiculous questions, mostly from you: “When do you sleep?”

MH: All I did was ask if the Wisconsin Bakers Association engages in baking lobbying. The answer was highly equivocal.

CH: Since they’re baking cream puffs 24 hours a day, do you think they give a couple to the Clydesdale’s when everyone leaves the fair?

MH: They eat the leftover flowers from the Horticulture, Crafts and Culinary Pavilion.

CH: Stop right there. We’ve completely skipped over the most interesting part of the fair. What was your favorite contest category?

MH: Brownies. Was brownies a category?

CH: I think so. I’d never been in that building before. It was pretty surreal to see a bunch of loaves of bread behind glass.

MH: Maybe we were behind glass? Maybe the bread was watching us.


Brownies and assorted treats that won ribbons at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Brownies and various ribbon-winning treats.

CH: You know who was watching us? The potato people.

MH: Do you want the entire list [of who was watching us]? Potato people, apple salad-makers, gladiola artisans. Although this was “Adult Day,” we made a beeline for the baby animals.

CH: Yes, the Discovery Barn is one of the best places in Milwaukee if not the entire state.

MH: What did you discover?

CH: Where else can you watch little chicks and baby quails hatch live, IRL, with no buffering? Plus, you can pet baby goats. And there’s all the free hand sanitizer your heart could ever want.

MH: They had ventilation tearing through the place like a wind tunnel.

CH: Did you start to wish you grew up on a farm?

MH: I almost did. I smelled farms while growing up. Half of the people in my high school lived or worked on one.

CH: I was starting to wish I’d grown up on one until I saw a teen girl applying cream to a cow’s bulging udder. That brought me right back down to the city streets. I wanted to take a picture but something about walking up to the business end of a cow and snapping a picture seemed wrong [They really don’t mind -Ed]. I don’t think the image will leave my memory any time soon, though.

MH: Think about that when you’re eating your cereal.

CH: Were you satisfied with our gastronomic endeavor? I know people who make an entire day of eating fair food.

MH: I liked the smell of beef being grilled a few dozen yards from the cow barn. It was the whole circle of life.

CH: Truly.

MH: Will you ride a “Midway” ride before the circus, ahem, fair leaves town? And speaking of fresh meat, who do you think won the debate last night?

CH: I’m not going to live to be 100 if I try every fair ride I encounter.

At home in the bunny barn.
At home in the bunny barn.

MH: But we were told they run “a ridiculously tight ship.” I also have a list of all the law enforcement agencies present at the fair’s Command HQ: Both Milwaukee and West Allis cops, State Fair’s own PD, Wisconsin state troopers, assorted bicycle and mounted police, State Fair’s own safety dept., the list goes on.

CH: I believe them, but my constitution does not handle both wild swings in gravity and greasy meat. What was your biggest regret about Adult Day?

MH: Not taking an action shot of someone buzzing a cow’s back hair. Do you think the bunnies and cows are safe from the Milwaukee Lion? “Little bunny foo-foo hopping through the forest …”


CH: I think so. The Angora bunnies especially weren’t messing around. Now, the fresh hatchlings would be an easy amuse buche for the lion because they were just lion around under a heat lamp.

MH: I’m wheezing.



Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.