Artist booking prices on the rise for the Wisconsin Valley Fair

Jo Dee Messina wraps up 3 nights of live music entertainment at the fair Thursday
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 4:56 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2023 at 4:58 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - There’s been over 50 years of entertainment at the Wisconsin Valley Fair and over the years, prices have gone up for not just the food and tickets, but entertainment and music acts too.

Jo Dee Messina is performing Thursday night at the Grand Stand at 7:30 p.m.

People tend to underestimate how much work and money it takes to book music acts. Budgets don’t always seem to match up with artists’ prices nowadays.

About 25-30% of the Wisconsin Valley Fair budget goes toward entertainment. That budget includes renting a stage and paying for a sound system. Overall, they have about $200,000 to spend on music acts, but it’s all worth it, according to Wisconsin Valley Fair entertainment chairperson Mia Bayer.

“It always makes you feel good when you look out into the grandstand and you see a big crowd of people out there. That’s always your hope and intention when you’re booking,” said Bayer.

Right after the fair is done, organizers start booking artists again for the next year and they say the earlier the better. It’s a long process that isn’t always reliable.

Sometimes artists cancel, or prices for booking them can go up within a year. Usually, they try to have a good mix of rock, county, and other genres so everyone can enjoy no matter their musical tastes.

On opening night, country singer Mitchell Tenpenny played on the grandstand.

“The first night Mitchell Tenpenny’s agent told me, he was like, ‘It’s a really nice stage. I didn’t expect that from a county fair,’” said Mayer.

Back in the day, they used to have entertainment Tuesday through Sunday, but since artists have gotten more expensive, that isn’t possible anymore. However, that doesn’t affect attendance,.

They’re two nights into the fair and so far, the fair has had some of the best opening attendance days since roughly 2010.

The nice weather definitely plays a part in how many people come and they’re hopeful that attendance continues to climb over the next couple of days.