JEFFERSON — Jefferson’s third annual Goat Fest — a celebratory community festival supporting the city’s weed-eating goats — will feature three live bands, goat races, the Milwaukee Brewers Racing Sausages, raffles, children’s activities, food, beverages and more.
The rain-or-shine event will take place Aug. 14 at Rotary Waterfront Park. There is ample parking available behind city hall and in the adjacent Tyson parking lot, which the city has agreed to open for the occasion.
The whole idea arose out of an unconventional weed-control tool the city has used for the past several years: a group of goats.
The goats have been employed for the past few summers to crop the undesirable foliage growth on a small, inaccessible island at the confluence of the Rock and Crawfish rivers, which since has become known as “Goat Island.”
The goats have become somewhat of a public attraction, but it’s often hard to catch a glimpse of them from the river’s edge. Thus, the city began to receive a smattering of requests from local families whose children wanted to meet the goats.
That’s how the first-ever Goat Fest came about two years ago, said event coordinator Heidi Pitzner, secretary of the Friends of Goat Island, a community group that supports the goats, overseeing their feeding and care.
The first Goat Fest occurred in 2019, and it was set to come back bigger and better in 2020. Then the pandemic hit.
There were initial concerns that the 2020 event would have to be canceled, but as researchers learned more about COVID-19 and determined that outdoor spread was rare, organizers were able to go ahead with the 2020 event, which drew 500 people throughout the day.
Organizers are planning for around 800 attendees this year, although people still will be encouraged to socially distance to protect the unvaccinated, including all children ages 11 and under.
The 2021 Goat Fest will run from noon to 10:30 p.m.
The goats will be the main feature, of course, with the island goats and young goat “kids” on display.
All proceeds from the fest go to feed, house and support the goats on the island, and to purchase the fuel to allow the goat-keepers to visit the island by boat every day.
Pitzner said that the group of goats has a new member this year, purchased from a local 4-H member through the Small Animal Sale at the Jefferson County Fair.
Since animals sold at the Small Animal Sale usually are slaughtered for their meat, the new island goat is considered a “rescue.”
Pitzner said the Friends of Goat Island group is pleased to be able to support local 4-Hers’ educational endeavors while offering a lucky goat the opportunity to live the sweet life with goat companions and frequent human interaction.
The popular area cover band The Van Eskes will kick off the slate of live musical entertainment at noon, playing classic tunes. They will be on through 3 p.m. when The Swing Crew will take the stage, playing until 6 p.m.
Then, from 6:30 to 10 p.m., Bree Morgan of Milton will take the stage, performing female country vocals old and new.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ Racing Sausages will be on site from 4 to 5 p.m., kicking off a Goat Race across the Milwaukee Street Pedestrian Bridge.
There also will be food (tacos and more) and beverages available for sale throughout the fest. Raffle tickets also will be available at the event, with a $1,000 cash grand prize to be drawn that evening, and Goat Island T-shirts for sale.
Also at the fest, Jelli’s Market will have a sweet corn tent offering fresh produce from their Helenville farm.
New this year, S and S Plumbing is sponsoring a car show from noon to 4 p.m. All participants will receive a dashboard plaque, a commemorative magnet they can put on the dashboard inside their car.
Finally, there will be a number of children’s activities, sponsored by the Jefferson Parks and Recreation Department, and Jensen’s Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning of Lake Mills.
Organizers are prepared for all weather, and tents will be available with picnic tables and benches inside where people can shelter from rain, sun or heat. People may also bring their own lawn chairs.
The funds from last year’s Goat Fest provided for the new goat house, a substantial and sturdy structure to provide the goats shelter on the island, Pitzner said.
This year, proceeds from the Goat Fest will be directed toward a new dock on the island from which kayaks can be launched.
The rest will go toward regular food and maintenance.
With questions, people can check out the Friends of Goat Island Facebook page or call Jefferson City Hall at (920) 674-7700 and ask for Mayor Dale Oppermann.