Really, 50 years?
Older we get, more time we spend in the past, it seems. Opened our favorite Madison WI daily newspaper to find a remembrance of a significant development in the history of Wisconsin’s dairyland. Our uncle, Greg Blaska, led the way to transform a two-year failed experiment in 1967-68 — a food exposition — into the World Dairy Expo, the biggest dairy industry convention/show in the world. Uncle Greg would say, “Anybody can see food by going to the supermarket.”
After a transition period, Greg was chosen as president of the Expo in 1971. He held that position for 31 years. This group of visionaries focused on the dairy industry, its capital-intensive equipment needs, and the stars of the show: world-class dairy cows. 1,600 exhibitors show cows competing in their own breed classifications for honors; over 800 exhibitors display their equpment and services.
Visitors from throughout the world attend World Dairy Expo, always held the first week of October. Almost 50,000 attended the Expo just concluded. It’s the biggest event at Dane County’s Alliant Exposition Center; its the main reason the 100,000 square-foot Exhibition Hall was built adjacent to the Coliseum (which brother Mike and I voted to build while serving as county supervisors). Later, the New Holland pavilions (totaling 290,000 square feet) replaced nine rather ramshackle livestock barns. (Great history of the Expo here.) The Expo fills up hotel space for five days throughout the Madison metro area.
In the early years, Greg farmed in partnership with our dad, Jerome, on adjacent farms east of Sun Prairie. Dad specialized in field crops and politics, Greg in dairying and cooperatives, becoming one of the executives in Associated Milk Producers Inc., which was created by the merger of 28 farmer-owned dairy cooperatives. Later on, Greg founded The Oaks golf course a little northeast of Cottage Grove, still operated by his family. (Come out to their fun “Oaktoberfest” this Sunday afternoon 10-10-21.)
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Uncle Greg passed away in 2003 at the age of 78. Like all Blaskas, he loved talking politics and (except for the misfit proprietor of this blogge) playing cards. He was even elected to the Sun Prairie school board as was his son John (also unlike a certain blogguer.)