JEFFERSON — On a contracting job about a half-century ago, Lloyd Behl was helping remodel a house and the owners said to toss everything that was stored up in the attic.
Among the detritus, Behl spotted an intriguing item he didn’t think belonged in the circular bin: a colorful, double-size poster from the 1888 Jefferson County Fair, in remarkably good condition.
A business education instructor in Lake Mills, Behl was doing weekend work for Roger Koplin and Koplin Construction at the time, the Fort Atkinson man said.
“This was something I was supposed to throw away,” Behl said. “It got as far as my pocket.”
The poster, about two feet high and one foot wide, features two main drawings, both in color: one an overview of the fairgrounds on a busy day, the other a detail of a horse-race in progress, which was one of the biggest draws at the fair during this period.
At that time, fairs were held later in the year to coincide with harvest. The 1888 fair stretched froM Sept. 1-14.
The poster advertised “A Splendid Programme of Amusements Each Day,” “Splendid Races Daily,” and “$3,000 in Premiums and Purses.”
Behl kept the antique fair poster all this time, framing it behind glass and displaying it in his garage. It traveled with him from Lake Mills, where he lived for about 40 years, to Fort Atkinson when he moved here in the 1990s.
Now the antique poster has a new home — Jefferson County Fair Park.
Behl, now in his 90s, and several members of his family traveled to the county fairgrounds Monday to present the framed poster to Amy Listle, Fair Park director.
It will go on display at the fairgrounds in the near future, probably initially in the Fair Park office, and then potentially in the main lobby of the Activity Center, which is slated for remodeling in the next year.
“It’s time to start disposing of my old stuff, and I want to do so while I can still see people enjoying it,” Behl said. “I don’t think it’s very valuable from a monetary perspective, but I have enjoyed it all these years, and I think other people would get a kick out of it, too.”
Behl and his family did a little research as to potential area recipients before deciding to donate the poster to the fair park. The Jefferson Historical Society was interested and would have offered a spot for the poster in its museum, Behl said. However, the family ultimately decided the best place for the antique was at the fairgrounds itself, which is visited by thousands and thousands of people per year.
Jefferson County Fair Park actually has several items of historical interest on display in the Activity Center lobby, including reprints of Daily Union coverage, century-old fair ribbons and lots of other memorabilia.
When it goes up, the “new old” Jefferson County Fair poster will be one of the oldest artifacts on display, Listle said.
She said new display cabinets are planned for the Activity Center entryway, and will provide space for more artifacts and other displays in one of the highest-traffic areas of the fairgrounds.
“To me, this is where it belongs,” Behl said.
It’s likely Behl will see the poster many times after it goes up in its new home.
While he never took part in the county fair as a youngster, Behl now has several great-grandchildren who have lots of fair projects on exhibit each year.