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World Dairy Expo to stay in Madison

From the 2021 year in review: Greek letters, championships and a persistent pandemic series
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World Dairy Expo

FFA members watch presenters in a showmanship demonstration during the opening day of 2019 World Dairy Expo at the Alliant Energy Center.

Officials with the World Dairy Expo confirmed Thursday that Dane County’s largest convention and exposition will once again be held at the Alliant Energy Center this fall — continuing a more than 50-year tradition that was disrupted last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news comes after event officials solicited proposals earlier this year for alternative locations due in part to Dane County’s coronavirus-related restrictions, although they maintained that Madison remained the preferred location for this year’s show. The 2021 expo is scheduled to run from Sept. 28 through Oct. 2.

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“We are eager to build upon the strong partnership between Dane County and World Dairy Expo as the organization moves forward with plans for its 2021 event in Madison,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement. “The only home World Dairy Expo has known is Dane County, Wisconsin, and we are ready to welcome the dairy industry’s premier event back to our community this fall.”

Dane County last month offered a 10-year contract extension to the expo in an attempt to keep the agricultural trade show at the county-owned Alliant Energy Center. Expo officials say discussions on the contract extension, which would keep the event in Dane County through 2030, will take place in the coming months. It would need to be approved by both the expo board and the County Board.

The 2020 expo was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Dane County’s 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.

“We are just elated that the World Dairy Expo has decided to remain in Madison, Wisconsin,” tweeted state Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, a fifth-generation dairy farmer. “This never should have even been a topic that was up for discussion, but thankfully, with all of the attention brought to it we were successful in convincing the Expo to stay.”

Expo board president Bill Hageman said in a statement that efforts to seek clarity from Dane County on how to host the 2021 event “responsibly and safely” were successful.

“We are grateful for the patience and commitment to World Dairy Expo exhibited by our stakeholders and the dairy community throughout this process,” he said. “Expo is excited for Madison to once again be the place where the global dairy industry meets.”

Premier event

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 expositions in the world. The expo includes shows, exhibitors, seminars and food events.

Dane County made significant investments in the Alliant Energy Center aimed at helping the expo. Those included a $24 million facility built in 2014 to replace the center’s aging barns. The New Holland Pavilions have been used for the expo and other large events, such as Comicon.

The event brings in 62,000 people from 100 countries for a week each fall, providing a major economic boon for area hotels and restaurants. It also draws high-profile visits, such as then-U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who attended in 2019.

“We are so happy that Dane County, the Alliant Energy Center and World Dairy Expo have reached an agreement to keep this global event in Madison,” Destination Madison president and CEO Ellie Westman Chin said. “We appreciate the hard work everyone has done to make this happen. World Dairy Expo is a critical event to help our hospitality businesses rebound from the pandemic and is an important part of our community’s and our state’s cultural heritage.”

Fair summer

On Wednesday, organizers of the Dane County Fair announced that event will also welcome guests to the Alliant Energy Center on July 15-18. The fair was canceled last year.

The event will have some COVID-19 modifications to promote safety, including changes to the fair layout for food and commercial vendors, youth project displays and entertainment to allow for social distancing.

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