Wausau is the site of the annual Wisconsin Valley Fair, one of the oldest and largest agricultural fairs in Wisconsin. The fair is normally held in early August at Marathon Park, an eighty acre site that was acquired by the Marathon County Agricultural Society in 1867.
The first Wisconsin Valley Fair was held in Marathon Park in 1868, only twenty years after Wisconsin received statehood. In 1920, the land was deeded by the Marathon County Agricultural Society to Marathon County.
That same year, Alexander Eschweiler, a Milwaukee architect, was commissioned to design a new stock judging pavilion, grandstand and cattle barns for the park. The judging pavilion is located in the southeast corner of Marathon Park and consists of an octagonal-shaped building with cupola, and adjoining barns with gable roofs. In 2002, the original grandstand bleachers were replaced by a new amphitheater area with 4,000 permanent seats and a total capacity of nearly 10,000.
The tallest building in Marathon Park is an exhibition building that was designed by the firm of Oppenhamer & Obel and built in 1924. Located between the judging pavilion and the grandstand, the building consists of a hexagonal-shaped building, with cupola, from which radiate six rectangular wings with gable roofs.
Between two of the Exhibition Building wings is the S. Horgan Farm Museum which houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the agricultural history of Marathon County. The museum is normally open by appointment in the summer months (for dates and times, contact the Marathon County Parks Department at 715-261-1550).
On the east side of Marathon Park near the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County is an 1895 school house. Formerly located in the town of Stettin, this one-room school house was relocated to the park in 1963. It is now used in the "Little Red School House Museum" program of the Marathon County Historical Society.
Along the north side of Marathon Park is Stewart Avenue which is also State Highway 52. From the park's main entrance, you will turn right and take Highway 52 East through the City of Wausau. In the 1850's, the town of Wausau and the "wilderness" that surrounded the City of Wausau started near what is now the intersection of Highway 52 and County Highway Z on the city's near east side.