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After 38 fairs, gatekeeper hangs up his ticket apron
Al Stauffacher, left, puts a wristband on a visitor arriving at the Green County Fair. (Times photo)
MONROE - As the 2015 Green County Fair drew to a close Sunday, it was time for Al Stauffacher to say farewell.

The New Glarus man has been a gate attendant at the fair for 38 years. But as of Sunday, he's hanging up his ticket apron.

Stauffacher, a retired Monroe High School social studies teacher, began working at the fair in 1972, he said. There were just five years he didn't work at the fair - each instance was to take advantage of education opportunities, he said.

And Stauffacher didn't just cover a few shifts. Each year, he worked from opening at 8 a.m. until the gates closed - 8:30 p.m. or later - for the full five days of the fair. Last year and this year, he scaled back to just four days of the fair, to give himself one day to help watch his two grandchildren, he said.

All told, that represents almost 190 days - or more than six months - of working the fair.

What's kept him coming back day after day, year after year?

He has a one-word answer.


"It's that simple," he said.

Working the fair gate has been an annual reunion of sorts.

"I get to see people here I don't see any other time of year," including former students and those associated with the fair, he said.

Since 1988, Stauffacher has covered the southwest gate, near the intersection of 11th Street and 25th Avenue. He said his is more of a "convenience gate" for delivery trucks and generally doesn't get too busy.

Sometimes, particularly in the afternoon, there's a lull in people coming to his gate. Stauffacher said before they moved to New Glarus, his wife Ellyn would stop down with their dog and visit awhile. He's got shady areas for different times of day and an umbrella, and he brings a book along to catch up on reading during slow times - he generally polishes off two or three books during the fair, he said.

He's enjoyed being part of the fair, he said, stressing it's a community activity.

Over the years, he's seen changes that have helped improve the fair. He pointed to ground at the entrance of his gate. It used to be a mud hole, he said, but the fair filled it in with gravel. Simple things like keeping the buildings and grounds well maintained helps make the fair more attractive for visitors.

Visitors at his gate are generally pleasant, he said. He chats with new arrivals, laughing that former students usually reject any notion of calling him Al. "They say, 'I can't do it. You're Mr. Stauffacher,'" he said.

Sometimes, people even bring him food.

As much as he's enjoyed his years at the fair, Stauffacher said it's time for him to give up his post. He said he's looking forward to having more flexibility for vacations during summer.

But this weekend, Stauffacher acknowledged he was taking mental pictures of his gate and the blue sky overhead.

"I'm soaking it in," he said.

"I'll miss it. I'll miss it next year and a lot of years to come."