When the county fair rolls into town, one can almost feel the buzz of excitement and electricity as the giant arms of steel are erected, the lights flicker on, the machines creak to life and the plant and animal exhibits start arriving. 

This is a feeling that Marle Punzel, along with her husband Lynn and son Kurtis, of Conover, has looked forward to each year since 1995. 

The Punzels were recently awarded an honorary membership at the Vilas County Fair Board’s annual meeting for their ongoing support, volunteerism and participation in the yearly event.

During the Punzel’s long-time association with the fair, the family has entered hundreds, and possibly thousands of items, at their peak entering more than 120 items in a single year. 

“Their dedication has made the Vilas County Fair an ongoing tradition and history in the making,” said Dale Ayers of the Vilas County Fair Board.

Lynn’s specialties were the largest sunflower heads, tallest sunflower stalk and vegetables, while Marle has had entries in various areas including woodworking, wood­burning, natural arts, home furnishings, flowers, vegetables and photography.

Kurtis has received nine Best of Show awards for his work with chickens and roosters, and even a duck and rabbit throughout the years. He also got involved with flowers like his mother. 

“As a family, we enjoyed putting together a natural Christmas tree in the Native Sciences category,” said Marle. “We would use a sunflower for a star, homemade birch bark ornaments, garlic cloves, berry clusters and other colorful decorations.”

In 2016, Marle reached a major goal of hers, which was to receive a Best of Show ribbon at the 100th year of the Vilas County Fair. 

“I was fortunate enough to celebrate two anniversaries — the fair’s 100th and my 20th!” said Marle.

Lynn and Kurtis have also spent time assisting in poultry and flower judging, placing ribbons on entries, reading off entries and more. According to the family, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into the entries, and if a person doesn’t love doing it, they shouldn’t bother. 

“Many often question all of my efforts for a few dollars and a ribbon,” added Marle. “The Vilas County Fair has to be in your heart, and I have been fortunate to have met many wonderful fair people because of their dedication to the fair and would like to think the Punzel family had a little something to do with helping to make the Vilas County Fair an ongoing tradition.” 

Benefits of an honorary membership include voting privileges at the annual meeting of the Vilas County Agricultural Society, lifetime waived membership fees, a free lifetime parking pass for the Vilas County Fair, and inclusion in the listing of honorary members in the “Fair Book,” which is published annually and also posted on the Vilas County Fair website.

The Vilas County Fair Board is always looking for nominations for individuals to be awarded an Honorary Membership in the Vilas County Agricultural Society. The board will accept nominations at any time throughout the year and recipients are then announced at the annual meeting in September. 

The criteria to be considered as an honorary member is based on the individual’s involvement and dedication as an exhibitor, volunteer or board member. Acceptance is based on that person’s significant contributions to the fair in any of those capacities.

For a nomination application, contact the fair office at (715) 479-2057, email vilascofair@hotmail.com or mail a request to Vilas County Fair Board, P.O. Box 1013, Eagle River, WI 54521.