Neighbors enjoy sights of the Rock County 4-H Fair
JANESVILLE A roaring, racing 50-foot caterpillar isn’t the sort of thing most people want to see across the street.
Bill and Linda Dooley don’t mind. After 49 years, they’ve gotten rather fond of the view.
The Dooleys live on Memorial Avenue near the northwest corner of the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds. That’s the corner that contains the bulk of the fair’s carnival rides, including the caterpillar.
Now that the Dooleys are retired—Linda celebrates her 70th birthday this week—they don’t mind the noise and traffic that invades the neighborhood every year during the last week of July, Bill Dooley said.
“It’s nice when it comes, and it’s nice when it goes,” he said.
These days, the couple spend most afternoons on their wide front porch watching the fair traffic. Indoors, they can barely hear the sound of the fair, Bill said.
Up the street, fairgoers are likely to find another couple in the yard watching the fair activity. Mickey and Therese Coogan don’t have quite as many years in the neighborhood as the Dooleys, but they make up for it in spirit.
Tuesday afternoon, the Coogans and their kids and grandkids sipped sodas under a sign announcing the 38th annual Mickey Fest. The Coogans were married in 1972 and started the next summer holding a party in their yard during fair week.
Therese grew up a few blocks away on Blaine Avenue and can’t imagine anything but a celebration the week of the fair, she said.
“I never knew what it was like to go away from it even for one night,” she said.
From its humble beginnings, Mickey Fest has grown into a three-tent celebration complete with hats, T-shirts and sponsors. Mickey donates the money he collects from sponsors to breakfast clubs at Janesville schools, he said.
Thomas Van Blaricom is a Memorial Drive resident who lives yards from the fairgrounds but hasn’t been to the fair in 10 years.
Nor does he sell any of the primo parking space in his long, wide driveway. He saves it for his former employers at Jack & Dick’s Feed and Garden on South Jackson Street in Janesville, Van Blaricom said.
Many people do sell parking spots in their yards and driveways, but it must be a cutthroat business. None of the parking entrepreneurs working outside Tuesday afternoon would talk to the Gazette about their businesses.
Ted Kilcoyne is fond of people watching during fair week. He spends a good part of the week in his Craig Avenue driveway. He and his wife, Judy, enjoy a parade of 4-H’ers carrying their masterpieces into the Craig Center.
Ted likes that Janesville comes to him this week. He knows a lot of Janesvillians from his former job at Kohl’s grocery store on Milwaukee Street and likes to sit at the end of the driveway and greet them as they go by.
“With all these people walking through, I’m bound to run into someone I know,” Kilcoyne said.
Rod Zautner was the only person a Gazette reporter could find who would complain even a little about the noise and traffic of fair week. Zautner is a letter carrier who works one day a week in the neighborhood near the fairgrounds.
During fair week, he often has to double park the mail truck and wince as cars squeeze by on Craig Avenue. On occasion, customers invite him to park the truck in their driveways so he can avoid the traffic. More often than not, however, he has to maneuver around miles of parked cars.
He managed to grin when he described the scene.
“It’s a nightmare,” Zautner said.