Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The County Fair

I'm thinking of getting a t-shirt that says, "I Survived the County Fair". Mind you, this was not my first county fair. I grew up wandering through the Pennington County Fair, picking plastic ducks out of the water, and riding the Music Fest. The fair holds a special memory for Rich and I because 28 years ago we had our very first date...and we guessed the county fair. We rode the Zipper and danced at the Grandsand Jam. I've been to the county fair.

But never like this.  Taking two families, two horses, four goats, a couple dogs plus everything you need to care for all of them to the fair…for five days…is a whole other experience.  It takes planning and endurance…not to mention a trailer, a camper, and a couple pick ups.  And don’t forget the “show clothes”.  I’m still not sure how it all came together, but it did.

Thankfully, we were parked next to the Wright County Fair Extraordinaire – our dear friend Cristine who has been doing this fair since 1981 – that’s 31 years of experience. We couldn’t have done it without her…thank you Cristine and the rest of the Nielsen gang! 

Now let me tell you…a lot more goes into the fair than I ever imagined.  I know this post is far too long, so read what you want and let the rest go, but I simply can’t help myself.  I must recap the week.  For those of you who know what it takes to show animals at the fair, this will be review.  For all you city slickers out there, this may give you a glimpse (from a rookie’s point of view) of what goes on behind the scenes in order for you to stroll through the fair barns and actually have live animals to look at.

Friday (before the fair):  Haul goats to Cristine’s to  tattoo their ears so they can be properly identified.  Learn how to show a goat.  Just another example of how helpful those Nielsen’s are when it comes to goats. 

Saturday/Sunday/Monday (before the fair):  Bathe and shave goats, bathe and trim horse, bathe and groom dog.  Shop for and prepare enough food for five days.  Yes, you read that right…shave goats.  It takes about two hours for a newbie (that would be Ashley) to shave a goat for the fair.  We have four goats…you do the math.  That’s a lot of hours buzzing goat hair.

Tuesday:  Pack camper, haul it out the fairgrounds, and park it in a field with no water, no electricity, and no shade and about 300 yards from a public restroom.  I know I may be a bit spoiled by all the luxurious campgrounds we stayed at while we were gallivanting around the country in a motorhome…but seriously…the grass was the sharpest, pokiest, stuff I’ve ever seen.  It hurt to wear flip-flops.  Was it cut hay or something?  And we backed up to a corn field that doubled as a male latrine.

Wednesday:  Pack barn including animals, hay, feed, tack, milking stand, muck cart, etc. into a horse trailer, two pick up beds, and a small SUV.  Get animals into their stalls, set up the camper and take a pack of tweenager boys to a “Combine Derby”.  Milk goats.  Crash. 

Thursday:  Get up a 4:30 am to milk goats so their udders are “tight” for the show.  Try to get back to sleep before getting up again at 6:30 am to get ready for the “Egg and Spoon” horse competition that starts at 8 am.  Wash all the goats and shave their udders so they are ready for the 6:00 goat show.  Watch the kids show their goats…and win ribbons…and state trips…and have a ball!

To tell you the truth, I cannot keep track of what all Ashley won because I’m still learning the lingo.  I know it was Reserve Grand Champion (meaning 2nd place) in market goat (Einstein) showmanship.  Daisy (our baby girl) won Champion Junior Doe.  And Nellie (our Alpine yearling milking doe) was wonderful enough to win a trip to the State Fair!  The show finished about 10:30 pm…just in time to milk the goats. 

Ashley and Abigail with their "market goats" - Einstein and Mopsy

After two days of dirt, sweat, and grime, I was finally willing to endure a public shower at the insane hour of 11:30 pm while being seranaded by a way-too-loud 80's band named "Hairball" playing at the Grandstand.  After a refreshingly cool shower, I walked back to the camper and talked Ashley into taking one too…so off we go through the pokey grass at midnight to take a cold shower. 

Friday:  Up at 5:30 am, put Ashley’s hair in a bun, put on the fancy horse clothes, and get to the horse barn  for the 4H horse show that begins at 8 am.  Ashley got Reserve Champion (2nd place) in showmanship and thought she was done for a few hours.  She went to milk the goats, but just had a feeling…and decided to check on the horse show to see where they were at…and found out she was supposed to be in the ring again for showmanship in just a few minutes (this is what happens to rookies).  She sprinted back to the camper, frantically changed into her show clothes while her dear friend Delaney (who had just laid down for a nap) flew out the door and raced to the horse barn to get the halter on Joe (the horse).  As Ashley was running away she yelled at me to bring her hat…so I grabbed it out of the car and began the first leg of a relay race running through pokey grass in flip-flops all the way to the goat barn where I handed off the baton to Isaac Neilsen who took the hat the rest of the way.  Yes, we made it in time. 

Ashley on Joe; Delaney on Gazon. 

Spent the rest of the day back and forth from the camper to the horse arena.  Clipped Macie’s nails to be ready for dog show.  A storm was brewing so we brought the tweenager boys inside the camper instead of the tent.  Our camper, with three queen beds plus the dinette and the couch, housed nine people that night…all with beds…nobody on the floor.

Saturday:  Ahhh…the weekend…time to sleep in.  Oh no you don’t!  The dog show starts at 8 am.  We got up late…and it’s suddenly COLD outside. We’ve been sweating it out for days and now we’re bundling up searching for sweatshirts and hot chocolate, but there is none to be found.  Delaney and her dog, Titus, swept the competition taking 1st place  in showmanship, rally, and obedience. Way to go, Delaney!

On the other hand, Macie was...well...distracted.  She got a blue ribbon, but her heart wasn’t in it. 

On Saturday afternoon, Robin, Cristine and I actually sat outside under the awning in lawn chairs and had chips and salsa and guacamole for a few minutes.  Sitting was a rare occasion! 

Then came the tough choice…go to the State Fair…or not.  It was not an easy decision, but in the end, Ashley decided that, though she thoroughly enjoyed the fair, she has other things she wants to accomplish this summer…and so she made the tough decision to decline the trip.

Then we were off and running again…had visitors and watched the horse show – penning or cutting or something like that and enjoyed a beautiful evening. 

Sunday:  Got up and took another shower…and it was hot this time…praise God!  Packed up the camper and had a little time to walk around before our shift at the 4H Food Stand from 2-6 pm.  We got the animals ready to go, loaded them into the trailer/pickup, cleaned the horse stalls, and left the fairgrounds at 8 pm. 

Went home and unloaded everything.  The horses were literally running around the pasture and rolling in the grass! Five days in a stall is not their cuppa tea.    They’re never in a stall.  Daisy and Einstein (baby goats) were playing and head butting – clearly happy to be home.  And we were too.

In the midst of all the preparations, the packing, the hauling, the late nights and early mornings, the shows and the long walk to the bathroom…we all agreed…we’d do it again in a heartbeat.  It was an experience we’ll never forget. 

What comes to mind in all of this is the treasure of friendships.  The fair wouldn’t hold the same appeal if we hadn’t done it with friends.  It’s the shared experiences we have the people we love that makes a lifetime of memories worth remembering.

If this blog post was being written up in small town newspaper in the early 1900’s, it would end something like this:

“A good time was had by all”.

Yes, indeed.


Anonymous said...

A good time was had by all, is a very true statement! I think we should send your post to a film writer- I think they could make a movie!


Brenda said...

I LOVED the play by play writing of the fair experience! Maybe when my kiddos are older we will be involved in fairs somehow...