Celebrating Farm Town Values

Wisconsin’s Strander’s Sanitary Service is proud of its long involvement with the almost 150-year-old Lodi Ag Fair
Celebrating Farm Town Values
Dean Strander places a restroom near the midway at the Lodi Ag Fair, as technician Bob Bevars straightens the line. (Photos courtesy of Strander’s Sanitary Service)


Strander’s Sanitary Service of Lodi, Wis., owned by Dean Strander, is a family affair. Strander’s stepdaughter, Rita Burdine, and granddaughter, Nina Waldsmith, manage the office. His son-in-law, Shane Burdine, and grandson, Aaron Burdine, are technicians. Other team members include Mike Kettledon, a year-round technician, and Dennis Davis, a seasonal technician.



Dean Strander launched Strander’s Sanitary Service in 1978 in Lodi, Wis., after taking over a local waste-hauling company. The company serves a three-county area in southcentral Wisconsin that includes dairy farm country, villages, suburban subdivisions and Madison – Wisconsin’s state capital and second-largest city. Strander provides septic and grease trap service, drain cleaning and jetting, and other associated services. He added portable restrooms in 1980, with about 500 units rented to construction sites and special events.



The Lodi Ag Fair has been a tradition for farm families and townspeople in and around Lodi, population of about 3,000, since 1866. The event moved to its current fairgrounds in 1875. About 25,000 people attend the fair during its four-day run in early July for livestock judging (cattle, hogs and sheep), pie auction, milking demonstrations, horse pull, demolition derby, carnival rides and live music.

The Lodi Ag Fair is one of just a handful of independent fairs in Wisconsin; most are connected with counties, municipalities or the state. That makes the Lodi fair a community event involving many local volunteers.



In small towns like Lodi, everybody pitches in. Strander, a Lodi resident since the 1960s, can’t remember when he hasn’t been involved with the local fair. In addition to providing portable restrooms for the event since the mid-1980s, he loans his motorhome to the fair, where it serves as a dressing room for a youth fashion show and karate demonstrations and is an air-conditioned refuge for small children while their parents dish up barbecued chicken at a fundraiser. He also loans his 3,000-pound all-terrain forklift for moving picnic tables and other equipment before, during and after the event.

Meanwhile, Strander’s wife, Darlene, volunteers in the fair’s beer tent every year.

“It’s a relationship that goes back years and years,” he says. “I personally know most of the people who put on the fair. Many are customers.”



After 25 years, Strander and his team have the advance preparation down to a science. A month to six weeks before opening day, he meets with organizers to discuss where units will be located and potential service changes. He brings along digital photos, taken the previous year, showing where units and sinks were located. “It’s easy to forget from one year to the next where things were,” he says. “The photos provide quick proof and save everybody a lot of time.

Strander then alerts the municipal water utility that his service truck will be pulling up to 1,000 gallons a day during the fair’s run from fairground hydrants. The utility installs backflow protectors on the hydrants used by Strander’s crew. He also gives a heads-up to local treatment plant operators near the fairgrounds. The plant, which rarely accepts outside waste, accommodates about two 750-gallon loads a day from Strander while the fair is on.

Strander starts stockpiling the portable restrooms and sinks at the fairgrounds early in the week of the fair. “This is where our working relationship comes in. I have keys to the (fairgrounds) gate and the buildings,” he says. “We’re able to drop off (flatbed) trailers in the parking lot as they come back from other events. They let us store sinks in one of the buildings.”

The day before the fair’s Thursday opening, Strander’s crew hauls remaining needed inventory five miles from the yard to the fairgrounds. The units are unloaded with the forklift that was driven over the day before. Setup takes six to seven hours.



Strander’s serves the Lodi Ag Fair with about 80 restrooms and sinks. Strander says he likes the neat appearance presented by identical units at a special event. At the Lodi fair he uses Maxim 3000 standard restrooms and ADA-accessible units from Satellite Industries Inc. or Five Peaks Technology. He also uses Bravo and Applause hand-wash stations from PolyJohn Enterprises Corp.



Shane and Aaron Burdine service the units with a 2006 Ford LCF (low cab forward) built out by Bosserman Tank & Truck Equipment LLC with a 750-gallon waste/250-gallon freshwater aluminum tank from Amthor International with an HXL4V Masport pump. This rig carries up to 10 units on a flatbed.

The fair’s Thursday opening day is typically lightly attended and requires minimal service and cleanup. Throughout the rest of the weekend, the crew starts at 5:30 a.m. and wraps up about noon. The restrooms are checked and restocked as needed throughout the day.

“At fairs, activities take place at different times. They (the technicians) start at the cattle barns and work their way around the fairgrounds. They’ll do the grandstand area last because that won’t be used until the evening,” Strander says.



The curtain comes down on the fair Sunday evening. Tear down and cleanup starts first thing Monday morning by a four-person crew. Another six to seven hours is needed to reload the units and return them to Strander’s yard. The forklift is the last piece of equipment to return after fair employees button up the grounds for another year.

Back at the yard, Strander’s crew prepares the units for more summertime events, including community celebrations, picnics, a motorcycle rally, bicycle race and triathlon.



“Working with my many friends involved with the fair is something we look forward to every year,” Strander says. He points out a bit of little-known history tied to the fair that speaks to the spirit of Lodi’s people. During World War II, the fairgrounds was a camp for German prisoners of war. Many of the POWs worked at a locally owned cannery or for farmers in the area.

“At the end of the war, many of the prisoners stayed here or came back after being sent home because of the hospitality shown them while being held here,” Strander says.


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