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Coordinators plan for large in-person events around Northeast Wisconsin this summer

Posted at 6:25 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 19:25:30-05

NOTE: Images in video above are from previous years.

KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- For Isabella Haen, last summer was heartbreaking.

Nearly 100,000 people missed Lifest in Oshkosh. Almost 3,000 cars normally at the Iola Car Show stayed in the garage. Close to 10,000 regular attendees missed out on the Kewaunee County Fair.

"Going from 20 [to] 25 hours a week [working on the fair] to nothing, I didn't know what to do," Haen, a Kewaunee fair leader, said.

Iola Car Show Executive Director Joe Opperman could hardly believe it.

"Certainly, nobody's happy about that cancellation," Opperman said about last year's auto showcase. "And the reality for the staff is that unbuilding a show is just as much work as building a show."

This year, the show "should" go on. Events like Lifest, the Iola Car Show and the Kewaunee County Fair are all scheduled to begin July 8.

But for coordinators like Haen, there isn't total peace of mind.

"What's difficult is not knowing what the future's like," she said. "Is it gonna be worse? Is something else gonna happen that's going to make a fair be canceled?"

With that uncertainty, some aren't taking anything for granted.

"The appreciation factor for us, from attendees, from those who come to enjoy the show is really going to be at an all-time high this year," Opperman said.

And that could be a big benefit. Without last year's events, towns like Iola lost thousands of dollars.

"[It impacted] All of the hotels within an hour's drive up here that lost guaranteed-to-sell-out crowds," Opperman said. "All of the gas stations, all of the restaurants [and] all of the grocery stores [were affected]. The impact of the show is immeasurable."

Luckily for coordinators, the plan is the same as last year. Now all they have to do is add thousands of people.

"This year, obviously since we had a year off, not a lot changed besides a band or two and a couple grandstands," Haen said. "So we are prepared."