Family tradition at the Racine County Fair runs deep for the Wilks/Henderson crew with Union Grove roots. (From left) Brady Wilks, Mia Wilks, Bennett Wilks, Madisyn Henderson, Kelsey Henderson and Kylie Wilks (Submitted Photo/The Report).

Fair tradition runs deep for Union Grove family

By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

Although raising animals for the Racine County Fair is considered a personal endeavor, oftentimes the projects take teamwork, which is true for a multi-generational family from Union Grove.

The Wilks family, which currently has a 7,000-acre farm on Highway 11, has been in the field of agriculture since 1947 when Ray Wilks started it with his wife Mabel.

From there, in 1966, the Wilks’ children, Alvin and Norman, took over the farm and started families of their own.

The two brothers, had eight children between them, with three still involved in the family farm.

Alvin Wilks, who had four children with wife, Jean, still maintains an active role on the farm with his sons Kevin and Donald along with nephew Eric Wilks.

Kevin, whose daughter Kylie showcased animals for the final time last weekend, has two other daughters Katelyn and Kassidy with wife Kelley.

Eric and Marcia have three children, Brady, 15, Bennett, 14, and Mia, 10. They are members of Rising Stars 4-H club.

Alvin’s daughter Suzanne married Craig Henderson, had two daughters, Kelsey, 16, and Madisyn, 13, and moved to the Town of Paris in Kenosha County.

The Hendersons, however, are still involved with the Racine County Fair, since Kelsey and Madisyn are members of the Yorkville 4-H club.

Kelsey is also a member of the Union Grove FFA, which is a program at the high school entering 2018-19.

The children, who picked up several ribbons at last weekend’s fair, continued the Wilks/Henderson legacy.

Alvin, 78, has attended nearly every county fair since he was teenager, said their achievements left him proud.

“I am very proud of them. They all have worked very hard,” he said. “We have had a lot of champions over the years.”

Alvin, however, noted there is always time to relax and enjoy the county fair.

“When they get done with that, have some fun,” he added.

Family achievement
Collectively, the five children won nine different awards.

Madisyn, who showed a pig she called “Ace,” won Grand Champion Market Hog.

Kelsey beamed with pride as her younger sister captured the award on Friday.

“One of my proudest moments was probably yesterday when we won grand champion overall pig,” Kelsey said on Saturday. “That was very exciting for our family.”

The excitement continued for Madisyn when she won reserve grand champion for her Maine-bred beef steer named “Blackjack.”

Kelsey, using Madisyn’s steer, won the showmanship category in the 14-15 age group.

“I have won beef showmanship in the past three years and then I won pig showmanship last year,” said Kelsey, who said the accolades bolstered her confidence.

“Last year, when I won showmanship, it was just a turning point and I just feel a lot more confident.”

Kelsey also showed two crossbred pigs she named “Bama” and “Karl.”

Bennett Wilks, who had a crossbred pig named “Big Boy,” earned ribbons for a champion Simmental steer called “Grinder” and champion market breeding heifer named “Ruby.”

Kylie Wilks, 19, rounded out the victories with reserve champion Charolais for her steer named “Winston” and a champion beef crossbreed dubbed “Mo.”

Last hurrah
Kylie’s two wins were bittersweet, considering this was the last year she could showcase animals in the ring, where she admits getting teary-eyed.

“It is really sad. A lot of tears have been shed the last couple of days, especially when I walked out in that ring,” she said. “This really became a big part of my life.”

Preparing for the Racine County Fair brought Kylie and her father closer together.

“Every day, we are in the barn, it is kind of our thing to do,” she said.

Her success, meanwhile, would not have been possible without the help of her family.

Kylie, who plays Division 1 women’s volleyball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, made frequent trips back home to prepare her animals for the fair.

“Even though I am up at school, I still have to come back every day to take care of my animals,” she said.

Sometimes, when she was unable to make the trip, her family stepped in to help.

The family contributions come as no surprise to Kevin.

“Say Brady has a basketball game at night, which he does, and somebody else helps with the chores that night, or if Kylie has a volleyball game, somebody has to do chores,” Kevin said.

“It takes a whole family to make it happen because there is so much work that goes into it,” he said.

The collective effort, according to Brady, strengthens family bonds.

“I think stuff like this really brings together our family, working in the barn, because when you are in the barn it is about being part of a team,” said Brady, who showed two crossbred pigs dubbed “Bob” and “Billy.”

Staying humble
The Racine County Fair experiences have taught the children to win with grace, Kevin said.

“We all love to win, but we all can’t win,” Kevin said. “They are humbled when they win, which is nice, and gracious. Both are good qualities to have.”

Additionally, they have also learned to show gratitude, especially towards their parents and grandparents.

“We all want to thank our parents for everything they have done for us,” Kylie said. “These are truly family projects.”

“We wouldn’t be here without our parents and grandparents,” Kelsey said. “They have always taught us to be vocal, work hard, and just be yourself and do the best that you can.”

Norm’s other children are Becky (Robert) DeMuth, Kelly (Tiffany) Wilks and Linnet (James) Henningfeld, while Karen is Alvin’s fourth child.