For three decades, Ed Sokolowski was instrumental in one of Walworth County’s oldest traditions.
Since 2004, Sokolowski served as president of the Walworth County Fair. He first joined the organization in 1983 as the group’s treasurer. He died on Dec. 15.
Even before being elected to the fair board in 1983, Sokolowski knew his way around the Walworth County Fair.
In 1957, as a young boy, Sokolowski first became involved in 4H then FFA. At the fair, he showed beef, dairy, hogs and even competed in wood crafts and gardening.
He was known to recall the excitement and thrill of standing in the show ring as a youngster at the Wisconsin State Fair and winning the Grand Champion Landrace Gilt in 1959.
While talking to colleagues, Sokolowski’s passion for the “Americana” that was provided by the fair was apparent.
Throughout his 30 years on the fair board, Sokolowski brought his passion, commitment, compassion and leadership skills to lead the Walworth County Fair to be recognized nationally as one of the leaders in the fair industry.
His commitment to the fair was evident in the many committees he served on. He never missed an IAFE Convention in 29 years and attended four IAFE Zone 4 meetings. He was always the first one to encourage new board members and staff to take advantage of the wonderful education and networking that can be brought back from continuing education about the fair industry.
He attended the Wisconsin State Association of Fairs Convention for 29 years serving as a board member for six years, vice president for two years and two years as president. In addition he served on the Wisconsin Association of Fair Audit committee for 23 years and was chairman for 12 of those years.
He also served for 18 years on the State Auction Committee, eight years on the Special Projects and Education Committee and for eight years on the Wisconsin State Fair Agricultural Committee.
He successfully worked with his local legislators to reinstate funding for county fairs in Wisconsin. Ed, along with his wife, Judy, enjoyed visiting other fairs throughout the state in his capacity as state president of the association. He was always looking for new ideas and ways to improve the fair.
For six days just before and during every Labor Day weekend for the past 30 years Ed could be found working at the Walworth County Fair.
In 1999, Sokolowski had a career highlight when the fair broke attendance records during its 150th Anniversary. That year, 195,000 people attended the fair. As president of the board, his duties included the truck and tractor pulls, antique car and tractor parade, and the demanding role of running the backstage and grandstand area where concerts can sometimes reach a capacity of more than 25,000. His committee duties on the fair board were tickets, personnel, building and grounds, finance, security, vendors and policy.
In 1994, Ed received the Outstanding Fair Person Award in Wisconsin and went on to receive the Wisconsin State Hall of Fame Award in 2006.
Ed is survived by his wife, Judy, two married daughters, Stacey and Amy, and five grandchildren.
Ed was a veteran of the Vietnam War and was a charter and 44-year member of the Elkhorn Rotary Club, serving a term as president, and had perfect attendance for 44 years. He was actively involved in his church, St Patrick’s of Elkhorn. With integrity, enthusiasm and a commonsense approach Ed Sokolowski served the Walworth County Fair, but Ed would be the first one to admit that he would never have achieved these goals alone.
Arrangements are pending at Haase, Derrick, Lockwood Funeral home in Elkhorn.
This press release was submitted by Susan Pruessing, the Walworth County Fair Manager of Marketing and Public Relations.