A year after the coronavirus pandemic closed down the Barron County Fair, the five-day event returned Wednesday through Sunday, July 14-18, to throngs of people, according to Kevin Roske, Hillsdale, County Fair Board president.

“We have no idea of the attendance yet – it’s too soon,” Roske said Tuesday, July 20. “But we had to close the grandstand two nights in a row (for the fair’s demolition derby and tractor/truck pull).”

Not only that, the fair organizers had to close the parking lot on the fairgrounds on Saturday evening, July 17, after running out of space, he added.

“If this is the new normal, it’s going to great for the fair,” Roske said.

Barron’s Len Grygiel, who served as on-site general manager for the past six years, retired from his job on Monday, July 19. Like Roske, Grygiel said the crowds were impressive.

“I talked to one vendor who said he did more business in one day, last Friday (July 16) than in any five previous days at the fair,” Grygiel said.

“And the lines of people at the rides and food stands! Holy man. It looked like the carnival rides were doing as well over the weekend as they usually do on Kids’ Day,” when rides are offered at a discount, he added.

Food stands reported running out of many items well before the fair ended Sunday, he added.

Grygiel split administrative duties with Roske in April of 2015. He said he agreed to manage the office and work with the carnival and vendors, while Roske attended to out-of-town fair business.

“I’ve been working at the fair for 48 years,” said Grygiel, who took over the office position after the death of veteran fair general manager Tim Heffernan in April 2015.

Grygiel is also a veteran educator, working for the Barron Area School District (full-time and as a substitute in retirement) for 54 years. He also coaches several sports and was district athletic director for 19 years.

“Working at the fair was a great way to connect with the Barron kids in a different way,” Grygiel said. “Sometimes, I would run into them years later, as adults, with their own kids.”