Sheltered from the storm and sweltering heat inside the Waukesha County Fair Exhibit Hall on July 21, Ellen Smith, owner of One of a Kind Beadwoven Bracelets, kept a careful eye and a steady hand on her work.
Smith, who has been crafting since she was 9 years old, was weaving an intricate pattern on a small, traditional Native American loom. As she looped the threads and pointed out another piece of beadwork in her hair that was made by a friend, she described her extensive history with the craft.
This is Smith's 16th year competing at the fair, though not always with her beading. When she was younger, Smith explained that she participated in 4-H and showed a horse that she bought and paid for by herself.
Entering quilts, crochet and sewing projects is all in the family, according to Smith. She went to her first beading class when she was 12, where she was the only child in attendance. A few years later, she picked the habit back up again and has been entering projects into county fairs and the Wisconsin State Fair ever since.
'It's a love, it's a passion,' Smith said. 'Being able to share it is great.'
As a person with a disability, Smith said beading is therapeutic. She was hospitalized earlier this year, and said doctors continually advise her to practice beading and weaving to keep her blood sugar and blood pressure down — and keep her happy.
Smith's favorite piece that she's worked on, a beaded bracelet titled 'Fireworks,' will be on display at the Wisconsin State Fair after it scored well at an earlier county fair. It is a red, white and blue pattern of swirls and silver stars, and she said it was inspired by a piece of fabric she found in her mother's sewing cabinet.
In addition to weaving on the loom and displaying a multitude of tiny colored beads she uses for her work, Smith commended the opportunities the fair and other organizations provide for children. After participating in 4-H, she volunteered at a Girl Scout camp for 30 years, two activities that she said give children a chance to stay out of trouble.
'Every kid should be given a chance to get involved,' Smith said.
Animal races are a new watch at the fair
Trumpets blaring, cheering and screaming and excitement in the air are just a few things you can expect at the Waukesha County Fair races — the pig, duck and goat races that is.
While Larry and Barb Laux have been on the road doing these races for three years, this is the first time the Waukesha County Fair has hosted them or hosted races of this kind.
'They've tried to get me the past couple of years, but I'm always at Fond du Lac County Fair,' said Laux, who will be at nine county fairs this year.
Laux said the animals couldn't be happier at a fair, being housed in a trailer that is kept at about 60 degrees.
'They always get fed when they get back in so they just want to get around the track, and get back in the trailer where they get their treat and where it's cool,' Laux said.
Despite the severe storms July 21 both in the morning and evening, Laux said the animals could care less about what is going on outside because they are so content with their home.
Laux's Pleasure Valley Farm just north of West Bend has mainly been a llama farm for more than 25 years. It also doubles as a pumpkin farm that has been doing pig and duck races for eight years.
Even though this is his first time at the Waukesha County Fair, Laux is impressed.
'It's a nice area here, a lot of room for me to set up,' Laux said. 'Yesterday (July 20), we had a big turnout and loud crowd which is always great. The more people there are, the more fun they (the races) are. The more cheering and yelling, the better the animals are.'