State Fair turns cardinal and white for UW–Madison Day

August 11, 2011 By Stacy Forster

Slide show: A Day at the Fair

Forget cream puffs and the Midway. The Wisconsin State Fair’s main attraction Wednesday was Braveheart the dog.

Braveheart, who was rescued out of a Kentucky trash bin this spring and nursed back to health at the School of Veterinary Medicine, spent most of the day happily accepting ear scratches and belly rubs before leading the daily parade around State Fair Park, decked out in a handmade red sweater with a white “W” on his back.

The hardy retriever was the centerpiece of UW-Madison Day at the State Fair, where the spirit of life at the university was transplanted 75 miles east of campus and where the fair’s Central Park was transformed in to a place for discovery, fun and celebration of the university’s history of service and outreach to the state.

Tom Zinnen, outreach program manager for the Graduate School, who helped coordinate the more than 20 stations for fairgoers to experience a range of sciences, said it was important for UW–Madison to have a presence at the fair to reinforce its commitment to the entire state.

“Some people think the university is about those who come for school,” Zinnen said. “But part of being a public land grant university is serving the 5.7 million people in the state.”

The day was organized by UW–Madison’s Office of University Relations and the Wisconsin Alumni Association, with additional support from the UW Foundation.

In tents across the UW–Madison area, fairgoers had the opportunity for hands-on learning. Graduate students from the art department pumped out ink press prints in one tent, while students from the School of Medicine and Public Health gave out rubber gloves to people who wanted a to poke and squish a human brain, stomach and liver.

“It feels like a prune,” one girl said of a gall bladder; the medical student showing it to her agreed.

Steph Tiber, 10, of West Salem, spent a few minutes running on a treadmill so researchers from the Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab could record her movements. They then slowed the video down and showed it to her so she could see how her body moves as she runs.

What did Tiber learn?

“My feet turn in when I run,” she said.

Meanwhile, Brian Hudelson, senior outreach specialist in plant pathology for the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences, fielded questions from frustrated gardeners about what’s causing problems for their plants. At this time of year, that means offering instructions on recognizing blossom end rot or tomato leaf blight, he said.

One woman asked him what to do about the Japanese beetles decimating her plants and Hudelson referred her to another UW–Madison expert, entomologist Phil Pellitteri, who was at a nearby booth with giant cockroaches from Africa and blue caterpillars that are native to Wisconsin.

“The most fun thing I do is talk to folks and solve their problems,” Hudelson said.

Seeing the range of research activities happening on campus and watching people get excited about the university was a fun experience for UW–Madison sophomore Katie Klinger, who came to the fair with her mom, Mary.

The Klingers live just six blocks from State Fair Park, and when Mary read that it was UW–Madison day at the State Fair, the pair knew it would be the perfect time to make their first trip to the grounds this year.

“It’s an incredibly great idea,” Mary Klinger said. “I love seeing people come to the fair in their red and white.”

What were they looking forward to the most?

“Seeing the band and Bucky!” Mary Klinger said.

The Klingers weren’t alone. The plaza of the UW–Madison area was packed by early afternoon when the pep rally started. The UW Marching Band, cheerleaders and Bucky Badger wound through the crowd before taking the stage and leading the crowd in clapping, singing and swaying along with such familiar tunes as “On, Wisconsin” and “Varsity.”

Just behind the pep rally, fans of UW athletics could hoist Paul Bunyan’s Axe or take a photo with former Badger football great Ron Dayne. Future Badgers could pose for pictures while trying on a set of football pads, a cap and gown, or medical scrubs.

To benefit Milwaukee-area children who lack the equipment for a successful school year, UW–Madison sponsored a school supplies drive as part of the day’s events. More than 200 gate volunteers helped to gather piles of supplies that will help ensure this school year is a productive one.

And fairgoers with a story about the university’s influence on their lives had a place to tell them – a video booth devoted to recording stories about the Wisconsin Idea, which is being celebrated this year by the university.

Those sharing their work at UW–Madison with fairgoers heard their share of UW–Madison stories, too.

Sheila Stoeckel and Heather Weltin of the UW–Madison libraries took questions about a series of historic university photos and documents from the digital archive, such as a 1927 map for women attending UW–Madison and fielded inquiries on resources for family genealogy projects.

They’d also talked with dozens of alumni, including some couples who said they’d met in a campus library.

“It’s a fun extension of the Wisconsin Idea,” Stoeckel said of representing UW–Madison at the State Fair.