Dane County has offered a 10-year contract extension to the World Dairy Expo in an attempt to keep the agricultural trade show at the Alliant Energy Center, County Executive Joe Parisi said Wednesday.
Officials with the expo — the largest convention and exposition in Dane County with an estimated annual economic impact of more than $45 million — solicited proposals last month for alternative locations due in part to Dane County’s COVID-19-related restrictions, although they said Madison remains the preferred location for this year’s show.
The 2020 expo was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the proposed contract, the 2021 and 2022 events would be hosted by the county at no cost to the expo to help recoup losses from 2020.
The proposed contract would need to be approved by the World Dairy Expo board and the County Board.
One of the Madison area’s signature events, the World Dairy Expo was founded in 1967 and has grown into one of the premier agriculture events in the world. The expo includes shows, exhibitors, seminars and food events.
“World Dairy Expo is a long-standing partner of Dane County and this contract extension reflects our commitment to our farmers, our agricultural heritage and this event,” Parisi said in a statement.
Expo general manager Scott Bentley said Dane County’s “generous offer” of a 10-year contract will be thoroughly reviewed by the expo’s executive committee and a decision is expected later this spring.
“Madison is Expo’s home, and we intend for that legacy to endure for generations to come,” Bentley said in an email. “World Dairy Expo also remains committed to gathering the global dairy industry again this fall and continuing the tradition as the must-attend event for everyone in the global dairy industry.”
Under the proposed contract, the show would stay in Madison through 2030.
“Glad to see that Dane County is finally making an effort to ensure that the World Dairy Expo stays in Wisconsin,” state Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, said in a statement. “Hopefully it is not too late. It should have never come to this!”
In a statement last week, expo officials said “uncertainty remains surrounding future health regulations that may govern Madison this fall at the time of WDE 2021.” The statement went on to note that expo officials are exploring alternative venues to host the 2021 show, which is scheduled to run from Sept. 28 through Oct. 2.
Dane County has been home to the event for more than 50 years, and has made investments in the Alliant Energy Center that have benefited the World Dairy Expo. In 2014, the county built a $24 million facility to replace the center’s aging barns. The New Holland Pavilions have been used for the expo, as well as other large events, such as Comicon.
The event brings in 62,000 people from 100 countries for a week each fall to the community, serves as a major economic boon for hotels and restaurants and also draws high-profile visits, such as then-U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue attending in 2019.
PHOTOS: WORLD DAIRY EXPO OVER THE YEARS