“Days of Swine and Roses”: The A.V. Club’s pun-tastic guide to the 2010 Wisconsin State Fair
No other Milwaukee-area festival packs a more gloriously absurd, deep-fried punch than the Wisconsin State Fair. While big-ticket blowouts like Summerfest and the Verge Music Festival valiantly struggle to keep pace with the cool kids, the State Fair simply doesn’t give a flying Cracker Barrel about being hip. Want to take in an afternoon pig race? Eat some unlikely crap on a stick? Risk your life on some rickety carny-built rides? Enjoy a bodybuilding competition? Renew your hunting or fishing license? No problem, the State Fair has you covered.
Along with this kitchen-sink approach to entertainment, the Fair is also known for its groan-inducing, pun-filled slogans. Beginning with “Days of Swine and Roses” in 1980, the State Fair has made a yearly tradition of choosing shameless, often pig or cattle-related catchphrases to promote itself. (1986’s “Check Out Our Dairy Heirs” was a particular high point.) As the Fair begins its 11-day run today, The A.V. Club revisits some of these ridiculous slogans, and offers up a handful of 2010 highlights.
“The Original Fast Food”
Last year’s State Fair slogan featured a picture of the Saz’s Racing Pigs along with the words “The Original Fast Food.” While it was nice to think of these precocious piglets joyously running in circles until the end of time, the message of the slogan was painfully, deliciously clear: These sprinting swine were destined to be your lunch.
Indeed, food remains one of the State Fair’s biggest draws. Along with creampuffs and corndogs, there’s always a new, potentially disgusting creation to send morning chat shows across the state all atwitter. This year it’s the Krispy Kreme cheeseburger, brought to you by the same lunatics who introduced chocolate-covered bacon to last year’s festivities. What’s a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger? Why, a cheeseburger sandwiched between two glazed donuts, of course. Look for this tasty crime against nature at the Machine Shed booth in the middle of the fairgrounds.
Way back in 1982, the State Fair cashed in on the hype surrounding George Lucas’ upcoming Return Of The Jedi with the “Star Boars” slogan, which managed to highlight the Fair’s raison d'être—livestock, and lots of it—while still maintaining a suitable ’80s vibe. (Sadly, a Pac-Man pun just wasn’t in the cards.)
This year, fairgoers looking to bask in the “spectacle and splendor of a livestock show” need only stop by the cattle, horse, swine, or sheep and goat barns. Feeling down after your favorite cow inevitably loses the Supreme Champion Dairy Female judging on Sunday, Aug. 15? Chin up, kid, because the infamous Racing Pigs take to the track five times a day throughout the run of the Fair, with shows at 11:00 a.m., 1, 3:30, 6, and 8 p.m.
“Herd the Music?”
In 1988, the Wisconsin State Fair went with a good old-fashioned cow pun to shine a light on its musical acts, an aspect of the Fair that’s historically been a mixed bag. The Main Stage tends to feature warmed-over oldies acts, and sometimes doesn’t even feature music at all. (Beware the North American Fighting Championship’s “Relentless” event on Aug. 7.) The free side stages aren’t much better. Sure, the Cousins Subs Amphitheater may play host to the likes of Loverboy and Molly Hatchet (Aug. 11 and 12, respectively), but more often than not, it’s lousy with dreck like Kids From Wisconsin, a show choir that makes the cast of Glee seem like N.W.A.
Still, there are a few gems to be mined from this year’s lineup. Those with a penchant for leathery MILFs should check out Bret Michaels’ Roses & Thorns World Tour 2010 Aug. 14. Joining the former Poison frontman/reality TV washout will be ’80s bowling alley jukebox staples Warrant and Firehouse. Looking to recreate the illicit thrills of 1986’s Heavy Metal Parking Lot? Look no further.