The gates opened, hundreds of people poured through, the Algoma High School Band greeted them with a rousing rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” outside the Family Living Tent, and after three years of blood, sweat and tears, Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 2017 officially opened in Kewaunee County.
The host family from Ebert Enterprises LLC was the emotional center of a heartfelt opening ceremony that also featured Gov. Scott Walker, state Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel, and the team that assembled the state’s largest agriculture exposition on the Eberts’ land.
“This show already has forever changed our lives,” said Whitney Ebert, whose parents, Randy and Renee Ebert, run the farm today. “Mom and Dad said we only get to do this one, so let’s give it all we’ve got.”
Her older brother, Jordan, invoked the memory of Whitney’s twin sister, Britney, who lived with what the family called limitations and died unexpectedly in May 2016.
“Our family starts and ends with Brit,” Jordan said, who paused several times to compose himself. “Although our time with her was cut short, she touched many people in this world, many people that I look out in this crowd and see. She taught us all so much; more than we’ll ever know or can ever imagine. She made us into the people that we are today; she is all that we are, and she is and forever will be our greatest blessing.”
At the close of the ceremony, the family released butterflies into the air in memory of Britney, whose favorite book was “The Hungry Little Caterpillar.”
Randy Ebert introduced his own parents, Henry and Carol Ebert, who he said “raised me with the most important clause out there: You treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Henry Ebert said the family feels blessed for all of the people who came out to the opening ceremony.
“God provides us with the sunshine, a sunset, and the good weather to nourish our crops so we can feed people and all living creatures,” he said. “So enjoy learning about Technology Days here today and how we can make things better in the future for the next generation.”
The group also heard from County Board Chairman Robert Weidner, Executive Committee Chairwoman Amber Hewitt, and County University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture agent Aerica Bjurstrom, who five years ago introduced the idea of having Kewaunee County host the annual exposition and shepherded the county’s application to fruition.
Bjurstrom said some people asked her what she was thinking.
“I was thinking that Kewaunee County has a half-billion-dollar agriculture industry, and this county has never hosted the show, and I wanted to make that happen,” Bjurstrom said. “And I was thinking this community – not this county, because it is a community – is filled with people bursting at the seams excited to help.”
Bjurstrom’s hunch was right: More than 1,850 volunteers came forward to make the show happen.
And, deflecting some of the credit for the idea, she said without former county administrator Ed Dorner’s support, Tuesday’s event probably would never have happened.