Peggy Sanders: A look inside county fairs | TheFencePost.com

Peggy Sanders: A look inside county fairs

Peggy Sanders
Oral, S.D.

The dates for county fairs, and 4-H achievement days are getting close or already here.

Hundreds of volunteers from fair boards to 4-Hers to parents are hustling around getting the fairgrounds ready for the big time. True, by some standards the "big time" is mighty small, but to those who put their hearts and souls into it, the fairs are a big deal. Our collective hats are off to all of you.

There is usually a rodeo or two, barbecues, a beer tent, mud wrestling with hogs, exhibits of the public in open class and the 4-Hers in their areas. And above all else, there is time for visiting and renewing acquaintances, swapping crop stories and — some years — fire stories. Food trucks may come with old favorite or strange concoctions, but you can bet the fare will be tasty.

A favorite, at least in our county, is the chicken show. Each 4-Her individually brings their animal to the judge in the show ring, which is fenced in case any chicken escapes from its handler's arms. There is a certain way to hold the chicken as it is judged. Who knew? Believe it or not there are quality videos on YouTube to demonstrate what to do. The judge visits with the 4-Her and asks questions such as: What is the breed of chicken? How do you care for them? What do you like about the chicken project? What have you learned about chickens in the past year? The questions are so a judge can get an idea if the 4-Her has truly participated in the project. It is also a time for the judge to answer questions about chickens and help fill in any knowledge gaps the youngster might have. It's all about learning and fun.

“Believe it or not there are quality videos on YouTube to demonstrate what to do.”

Cattle are washed and groomed before showing. At our county fair the bathing process is more enjoyable than others because the water is warm when it comes out of the ground. One year when I was showing calves in August, it was cold enough to snow and it did; that warm water was especially welcome by me as well as my fat steer.

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4-H is no longer "cooking and cows," and it hasn't been for several years. Our younger son was the first 4-Her in the county to shoot off a model rocket at the county fair around 1990. The project has grown exponentially since then. Now there is a pre-flight consultation with a judge when the kids can expound on how they assembled their rockets and how they work. It's another chance for the judge to teach if questions arise.

Open class is a chance for non-4-Hers to show their best works from photography to handiwork and baking to flowers. Spectacularly talented individuals bring their best items to show and share. Inspiration is sure to strike when you see these displays.

Go to the fair if you can, have fun and support the communities and the kids. ❖

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