The afternoon, funded by a grant from Kohl's Cares, transformed the main lobby of the Children's Hospital into a mini fair where at least 250 people gathered to celebrate.
This is the second year the fair has made its way to the Children's Hospital. Eileen Clark, family services manager of the Children's Hospital, said after Kohl's sponsored such a successful fair program for the hospital last year, there was no question that the fair would make another appearance this year.
"Everyone doing fun things for the kids to make a little child smile is a pretty cool thing," Clark said.
The Children's Hospital focused on getting in-patient families involved in the fair but also included anyone who simply walked by the front lobby and wanted to come in.
Patients who couldn't make it down to the lobby largely because of illness still shared in the fair fun. The fairest of the fair and official hostess of the state fair, Richelle Kastenson, visited individual kids in their rooms. And all patients, including babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, received a big blue fair ribbon. According to Clark, some babies were smaller than the ribbons handed out.
Those who did join the festivities in the main lobby had plenty of food vendors and performers to check out.
"People were laughing," Clark said. "The entertainers kept the kids engaged, and it was just a really great experience."
Fair treats included the signature cream puffs, samples of flavored milk, lemonade, corndogs, popcorn and ice cream. Hospital fairgoers could also watch a juggler in action, participate in pig races with toy pigs, pet the hospital's therapy dogs dressed up as fair animals, and take part in crafts and games such as a bean bag toss.
"It's a really humbling experience," said Jen Puente, Sponsorship Manager for the State Fair. "We work really, really hard to plan a big party for 900,000 people at the fair every year and to be able to bring this small piece of the fair to these 250 people – these families that maybe don't get to the fair otherwise – it's truly humbling and it makes you appreciate even more all the hard work we put into the fair."
Puente said she hoped the kids had fun experiencing some of the simpler things in life like watching the juggler and petting the dressed-up dogs.
For Clark, the care of the volunteers and staff was fulfilling in itself.
"In my role, I think standing in the lobby and turning around and knowing how many people came together to do this is what's really cool," Clark said.
"I think it's a nice blend of our community and our staff coming together for the kids," she said.
The Wisconsin State Fair will continue through Sunday, Aug. 12. For a schedule of events and listing of food vendors, visit www.wistatefair.com/.