Liz Dietsche has strong 4-H background
By Sarah Nigbor
ELLSWORTH – Liz Dietsche has loved county fairs since she was a child. Before coming to Pierce County to take over the fair manager position, she was part of the Washington County Fair in one form or another for 32 years. Her .rst day with Pierce County was March 14.
“The days have gone fast and they’ve been busy, full of learning all kinds of things,” Dietsche said. “With any business you switch to, everybody has something a little dierent." Dietsche grew up north of Bloomer on a farm where they raised Holsteins, horses, chickens, geese, rabbits and goats. She raised English and French Angora rabbits to show at the fair, plus took up sewing as a hobby she enjoys to this day. Her grandparents lived next door to her family growing up, so that helped propel her sewing skills.
“I had a really great 4-H leader who kind of recruited
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me for Barron County 4-H,” said Dietsche. "The first thing I remember is doing a speech on snowmobile safety. We practiced and practiced at her house. Funny thing is, we never had a snowmobile, but I remember that speech.”
Dietsche’s favorite part of 4-H as a youth was meeting new and diuerent people. “When you live in a small town, these people have always been there; you don’t really know where they came from,” Dietsche said.
4-H helped her broaden her horizons, learn new ideas and see more depth in the world.
“4-H really allowed me to understand that things are lot more intricate than meets the eye,” she said.
After graduating high school, Dietsche attended UW-Eau Claire where she majored in healthcare administration. Before she and her husband had their four children, she worked as a nursing home administrator. Once the kids came along, she became an administrator for her home and an investor in her kids, she joked. She also took time to develop her consumer sewing skills and enter shows.
Living in Cottage Grove, Minn., Dietsche was able to see 4-H from a “city perspective.” All four of her kids participated in it and learned skills they use now as adults. She laughed as she told how one of her sons set ou a rock et accidentally in the house; he’s now an astronautical engineer. They all learned others skills, such as woodworking, performing arts and lifeguard.
“It’s not just about animals,” Dietsche said. “What other things can they really learn. The boys are still into woodworking and fixing things. The fair gave them a reason to make that cherry lamp that probably costs $250 in a store. Without 4-H, they probably wouldn’t have known how.”
Dietsche was the Washington County entertainment director for 14 years. When her kids were in 4-H, she was at the fair daily. When she learned the entertainment director position there was open and had been for two years, she jumped at the chance.
“The kids were becoming teenagers and didn’t necessarily want me hanging out with them, but then they could be there,” Dietsche said. “They eventually got jobs there and so did their friends.”
Her duties entailed find ing, scouting and contracting entertainment for the fair. She jokes that she discovered the Okee Dokee Brothers in a friend’s haymow, long before the bluegrass and roots duo from Minneapolis won a Grammy for Best Children’s Album in 2012.
“We got them right at the beginning of their fame,” Dietsche said. “There they were, in my friend’s haymow playing bluegrass. They really had potential.”
Scouting fair entertainment isn’t the only job she had. Many people don’t realize all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into providing fair entertainment, Dietsche said. The equipment needs, administration, making sure all the performers are slotted in the correct time slots, maintenance and tech crews’ coordination, set up and take down.
“There’s a lot of behindthe- scenes duties trying to make it all work,” Dietsche said. “The fun part is when you get to see it all come together.”
Eventually, Dietsche and her husband moved to rural Prescott, which prompted her decision to apply for the open Pierce County position. Longtime Fair Manager Ann Webb Bluhm retired in January after 20-plus years in the role.
“It was a good meld of what I was doing before and adding more pieces to it,” Dietsche said. “Our family has always had a strong interest in 4-H and agriculture. It just seemed like a good fit." After being an attendee or employee for the Washington County Fair for 32 years (they’ve been going since her daughter was four months old), Dietsche is taking the time to learn how the Pierce County Fair operates. She’s noticed one way that county fairs diuer in her home state compared to Minnesota.
“In Minnesota, each county fair is like the prelude to the Super Bowl, which is the State Fair. All roads lead to the State Fair,” Dietsche said. “The ultimate goal is a little diuerent here in Wisconsin. Here, fairs and festivals keep going after the State Fair.”
But no matter the county fair, they all have one common bond: Bringing the community together. This is Dietsche’s favorite part of any fair.
“That’s the most important thing about fairs, bringing the community together,” she mused. “When you look at how people haven’t been able to be close to each other or have fun together the past couple of years, it’s a great catalyst for things to be more normal.
“My favorite part is watching families who have been stressed sit back and have fun. The fair is a great place to sit on a bench and chitchat with neighbors that you haven’t seen for a while.”
She and her husband used to watch the Saturday night dance at the Washington County Fair, and speculate about everyone’s stories, what brought them to the fair, what they were thinking while dancing, the memories they were making.
“I have four kids and not one of them likes the same thing, so fairs brought us together,” Dietsche said. “Whether you’re competing or not, there are so many things you can do and enjoy together.”
Outside of work, Dietsche describes herself as a “pretty plain person.” She loves quilting and sewing, especially garment sewing. She enjoys the challenge of seeing what will grow where in her garden. Cooking and baking also bring her joy, and she relishes trying new recipes. Lately, her focus is on healthy eating and trying new fruit salsas. She and her husband enjoy trail riding in their side-by-side, and she admits he might say she’s a crazy driver.
As she acclimates to Pierce County and cherish- es the bluus and hills that she missed while living in Minnesota, she counts herself lucky to be learning the ropes at a new county fair. She plans to follow the patterns that have been set as she navigates her new role.
The Pierce County Fair has several job openings, including grounds crew members, social garden supervisors, ticket/parking supervisors and ticket/parking personnel. If interested, contact Dietsche at [email protected] co.pierce.wi.us