ESSEX JUNCTION – The 83rd annual Champlain Valley Fair had one its best seasons ever with 299,168 people – about 1,500 more than 2003 – coming through the gates during the annual 10-day fair, held Aug. 28 to Sept. 6. The slight increase in attendance was due, in part, to enjoying one of the Vermont summers longest stretches of sunny weather during the final week of the fair. From an informal survey of license plates on the grounds, visitors from 41 states and several Canadian provinces attended the fair. From the standpoint of operations and quality, this was an outstanding fair, said David F. Grimm, general manager of the Exposition. We had excellent diversity in our grandstand which accounted for a 15% improvement over 2003. We received many positive comments about the cleanliness of our grounds, the variety of entertainment and the improvements we added this year. The Fair hosted two sell-out concerts for country music superstars Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith. The Fair opened with the good vibes of The Beach Boys. Other concerts included local jam bands Strangefolk and The Samples; a rocking Friday night concert with ZZ Top and nostalgic 35th anniversary tour concert by classic rock band, Yes on the second Saturday night. The remainder of the midweek grandstand shows included a freestyle motorcycle thrill show, Figure 8 Racing, a Demolition Derby and NTPA Grand National Tractor and Truck Pull on Labor Day.The Reithoffers Midway featured 35 rides and many special ride and admission discounts over the 10 days.Free daily entertainment included a live bear show, butter sculpture, an aerial thrill show, a juggling family, hypnotist, caricature artist, racing pigs, petting zoo, musicians and an authentic cowboy chuck wagon. Some $75,000 in competition premiums and prize money was awarded during the fair. Significant increases in entries to the art and photography department were realized, including a Best of Show landscape oil painting which carried a record-setting price tag of $12,000. A heavyweight pumpkin record was set at 1,042-pound pumpkin (previous record: 1,036 pounds in 2003) and it was one of the big surprises in the agricultural area considering the wet summer in the region. More than 150 people, including Vt. Gov. James Douglas, were on hand to honor the 2004 inductees into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame at the Champlain Valley Exposition in a ceremony held during the Fair.International Association of Fairs and Expositions popular summer Read and Win program was offered locally to area youngsters, grades K 5 in five counties. Approximately 1,000 completed the assignment of reading three books over the summer and received free admission to the fair on Aug. 30. Significant improvements were made to the fairgrounds and facilities over the summer for this years fair including the addition of $350,000 three-lane paved road connecting Route 15 and Route 2 to Exposition parking areas; a complete renovation of the Ware Building, including heating and air conditioning for the exhibit hall; and general fix-up and repainting of buildings and landscaping. The 2005 Champlain Valley Fair is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27 to Monday, Sept. 5. Photos from the 2004 Champlain Valley Fair are posted in day-by-day photo albums at www.cvfair.com(link is external), which also include information about the Expositions year-round calendar of events.
JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoThis iswhere they wanted to be. Wisconsin’swin over Illinois Wednesday night vaulted the Badgers back into a tie withPurdue atop the conference standings, which places them one half-game ahead ofIndiana.With justfour games left in the regular season, the Badgers control their own destiny inthe race for the Big Ten championship. Four more wins, and UW (22-4, 12-2 BigTen) will lay claim to its first regular season conference title since 2003.“Yeah,we would like to get a piece of the conference championship,” Wisconsinhead coach Bo Ryan said. “We’ve said that since the first day we were onthe job. Compete for it, and let’s see what happens.”Whatappears likely to happen is a dramatic final two weeks of the regular season,with Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana all looking to avoid a costly loss and earna share of the Big Ten hardware.“We’recollege basketball fans. We know what’s going on in the Big Ten rightnow,” forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. “We know we’re in a good positionto have some fun here at the end of the year.”As allthree teams currently have two league losses, a split championship is wellwithin the realm of possibilities.Makingmatters more tricky is that each team has swept another this season, meaningthere is no easy tiebreaker to determine seeding for the Big Ten tournament inthe event of a three-way tie.If thatwere to be the case, Purdue would earn the No. 1 overall seed in the conferencetournament, thanks to holding the best record against the other two teamscombined (2-1). Wisconsin would take the second seed with a 2-2 mark, andIndiana would be ranked third.Thetiebreakers are only used to determine seeds for the Big Ten tournament,however. According to league rules, all teams tied for first place at the endof the season will earn a share of the conference title, including a conferencechampionship trophy and rings.And whilethat may end up happening, after having played all three teams twice, Illinoishead coach Bruce Weber thinks Wisconsin and Purdue have separated themselvesfrom Indiana.“Tome it seems ? Wisconsin and Purdue are the two best teams,” Illinois headcoach Bruce Weber said. “Obviously Indiana has something to say aboutthat, but we’ve been able to play Indiana much closer.”Ryan andthe Badgers are no strangers to tight races for the Big Ten title or sharedconference championships. In 2002 ?Ryan’s first year as head coach at UW ? the Badgers shared the conference crownwith Indiana and Illinois with an 11-5 conference record after surprising justabout everyone by winning their final six games of the season.One yearago in a battle of the nation’s top two teams, Wisconsin saw its Big Tenchampionship hopes dashed in the Value City Arena as Ohio State clinched thetitle on a Mike Conley Jr. floater in the lane with 3.9 seconds left in thegame. To keepthemselves at the top of the standings, the Badgers will need to avoid asimilar fate this Sunday against the Buckeyes.Ohio State(17-9, 8-5) will be looking for another signature win to secure its place as anat-large selection to the NCAA tournament field and is not likely to simplyroll over for Wisconsin.“It’sthe Big Ten; it’s a pretty good league,” Ryan said. “There are someteams that are trying to make some things happen.”OSU bigman Kosta Koufos (13.8 points, 7.0 rebounds) has matured as his freshman seasonhas gone on and will need to be checked by the Badgers? interior defense.The onlyother Buckeye averaging double-digits in scoring is guard Jamar Butler. Theoffense flows around Butler, a senior, who leads OSU in scoring with a 14.2points-per-game average and leads the Big Ten in assists with nearly seven agame.The game,which can be seen at 3 p.m. on CBS, is the only regular season meeting betweenthe two teams. ?