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Fair Memories

July 18, 2010

The fair is a place that is community, competition and the culmination of a lot of work. Those remaining in agricultural areas – from county to state fairs – show rows of preserved goods, well groomed livestock, scores of crafts and an assortment of things that never ceases to amaze.

A recent discussion of favorite parts of the fair brought up costume classes – something in the livestock end of things there should be more of. It’s a chance to have a little fun but can also be a chance to agvocate! I’ve shown at fairs as long as I can remember – back to 4-H and FFA in Illinois at the Bureau County Fair, Henry County and Illinois State Fair. It was, and still is, an achievement to win with livestock at the Illinois State Fair in August of each year. I think that was the last costume class – when Seabiscuit was in the theater I had an English Spot rabbit I affixed a little saddle to (from a model horse) and a ‘bridle’ of ribbons. She didn’t win but it was fun anyway.

I think the most memorable however was many years ago with a friend in Oklahoma with goats. No one paid much attention to the costume class so we decided one year to make a splash. For a small fair the competition in goat was pretty tough and that year we had a long day with many goats prepared to show.  The judge was a fellow competitor on the open circuit…we didn’t know that until the day of the show. We had planned a special thing for the goat costume class as we had some incredibly ‘fun’ goats to play/work with. Too many actually we needed more hands so pulled a small fan from the stands to show one of the goats. Our plan was not just costume but presenting the different types of goats in a way that people would not forget.

The friend had some boer cross goats including a very pretty little black and white doe – we used butcher paper to create a sheet, taped it on her and drawn on it were the different cuts…MEAT goat. My little Togg doe (shown by the little fan) we put a Tshirt on and pinned a toothbrush, hair brush, toilet brush….BRUSH goat. Another goat wore a Tshirt with a milk carton, cheese wrapper, yogurt container etc pinned/taped to it – she was DAIRY goat. Had a big white doe we made a little ‘saddle’ for, tied a couple of stuffed plastic sacks to for a PACK goat. We’d had costumes for us to go with it…it definitely was a hit with the audience and the judge and many came back into the barns afterwards to meet our ‘stars’ that tolerated so much…the goats. Another exhibitor had cold chilled goat milk for people to taste if they wanted to.

Sometimes we take things so seriously in trying to make a living it takes times like the fair to let us show others our incredible animals we get to work with every day. For everyone in agriculture from the crops to the livestock it’s a chance to shine at agriculture competitions around the US.

The fair season is in full season and I’d encourage everyone to go. Watch the livestock shows, be it 4-H kids showing hogs, FFA showing sheep and steers or adults showing dairy animals. It’s a great opportunity to learn about farms and food – and at fairs like the Illinois State Fair you can try a lamb burger or other foods you may not make at home but would like to try. Take the family for a taste test – try some new offerings from lamb to ice cream!

The economy is tight and fairs are a great way to get out for a short day without travel as a vacation. Go watch a show, talk with the exhibitors, learn about livestock. Come to the fair!

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