Monday, August 29, 2011

County Fair - Day Six and We're Done

All good things must come to an end, right? So does county fair. Today was promising to be another warm one for us, relatively speaking of course compared to the rest of the country, but still what one would call 'hot' here in the Northwest. Agenda for the day included the Master Showmanship Contest of which Goat Princess would participate in, the 4H Awards Ceremony, and then the task of dismantling our club decorations and the tedious job of getting all of the livestock and participants out of the fairgrounds in an orderly fashion. Full day.

But not before I took H-Bob to get her face painted. I had been promising her that all week...

and a ride around the fairgrounds on the little train...

and a stop at the frozen lemonade stand.

The contestants for the Master Showmanship Contest started out by taking a written test covering various aspects of the different species they were about to show: dairy goat, meat goat, fiber goat, pygmy goat, dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, swine and llama. Goat Princess felt it was a breeze and was up from the table in about 20 minutes.

Next came rotations through each of the species with each of the age categories, juniors grades 4-6, intermediates grades 7-9, and seniors grades 10-12, plus those in FFA. Here they were being judged on their ability to show their given animal to its best advantage for the judge. And the fun begins. Some kids who raise more than one species find this contest simpler than those who concentrate on just one. For example...

When your swine decides to lay down in the show ring, then what?

How do you handle your monstrous dairy cow who decides she's stopping at the bale of straw in the ring next to the panel gate and about pancakes you against the metal bars? Of course I'm not quick enough to capture that on film. I was feeling a little panicked actually.

Or the market goat that attempts to swipe a piece of your face while setting up her feet? Ditto with this photo. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or be worried when I saw that head swipe at her face.

Did you notice some of the intense eye contact those showmen were making with the judge? A key factor for sure.

All fun and games in the toasty heat. Those kids had the sweat dripping down their faces for sure. But in a couple of hours, it too was over. This became the first time all fair that Goat Princess felt she could actually enjoy herself without the pressure to show, study, or be otherwise productive. So off she took with some friends who were visiting her at the fair and had a great time for a couple of hours before the awards ceremony.

It was a proud moment seeing her in the lineup of Master Showmen participants, sporting her newly won Champion Showman belt buckle. She didn't win the overall Champion or Reserve Champion title but did find out that she nearly aced the exam: 51 correct of 53 questions is pretty impressive.

So the hard work of dismantling the club barn decorations began and the job of keeping the club's goats corralled once some of the stall backings and dividers were being removed. But it was handled. The goats were led out to the trailer once our turn came to load, the supplies from the tack barn loaded up as well, and home I headed with Goat Princess and H-Bob while Hubby stayed back to help load up the club decorations with the rest of the guys.

The way home was almost magical...our first warm evening of the year where there was a slight warm breeze, a gorgeous sunset, and the feeling of relishing the memories of the best county fair ever.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

County Fair - Day Five and Feeling the Heat

Have you ever woke up...felt suffocatingly hot...but still too immobilized to do anything about it? Well that was this afternoon in the tent at the fairgrounds campground. Today promises to be the warmest of the year for us here in the Northwest...perhaps reaching 90. That shouldn’t be a big deal. But since we have hardly cracked 80 degrees and only since the middle of July, our bodies are not ready for it...or at least would seem. So long story short, I found myself feeling a little worn out and decided to take a quick snooze in the tent this afternoon not realizing that the windows were zipped shut. The sun had apparently moved over the tent where it had been in the shade before and bumped up the temp. I truly though I just might die but was still too groggy to do anything about it. Not fun.

But here I am the shade with my Via iced coffee looking out over the scene where the cowboys and cowgirls are warming up their horses, ropes out, and seemingly oblivious to the sun while putting together this post.

I’m relishing the thought that I am lucky to be a 4-H mom. I would never have reason to experience this otherwise. Even though it is quite the draining experience, at times, it is one that sticks with you in a positive way for a long time.

Today’s main event...although Goat Princess was still working on studying for her Master Showman Contest tomorrow...was the 4-H and FFA livestock auction. The members purchase, raise, fit, and show a particular project animal with the end goal being to sell it to a community member for a profit and then some at the Saturday auction at the end of fair. Steer, lamb, goat, and hogs are the main auction animals though there have been some pens of fryer rabbits and poultry lately. Our oldest raised a steer two different years through FFA for the auction and Goat Princess took a market goat one year for 4-H when she was in fourth grade. The experience at that time was too much for Goat Princess to go through again. It was agonizing as a parent to maintain your own composure watching your child lose it emotionally in the show ring with their market animal as the auctioneer is trying to bid it up. She made a decent profit but at a emotional expense. She has not repeated it since and would rather fund her project by breeding and selling goat kids instead.

But here were tears again just a few minutes ago when the mother of a first year 4Her who had an auction goat this year just came up to me to be sure I knew that Goat Princess had stood with her daughter in the auction lineup while the member was bawling her eyes out and being as supportive as she could. The mom herself confided that she couldn’t be there for her daughter because it was too emotional for her as well. Those are the things that warm your heart and make you realize that this is why I’ve encouraged my kids to be involved in 4-H. It is definitely a positive experience. Chalk one up to life experiences.

The breeze is glorious. The view straight up into the towering firs is mesmerizing.

But I should probably wrap things up and see what’s happening down in the barn.

Take another look the piglets on display.

Tomorrow will be a long day with packing up camp, the Master Showman Contest, and breaking down the club display and pens in the barn before we take our animals and memories home with us from yet another year well spent at the fair. But you know what, I'm not going to miss these...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

County Fair - Day Four and Still Functioning

By day four of the county fair, things start to feel a little routine. Not even much motivation to photograph anything. It’s all too familiar to be interesting at this point.

Of course there was a goat obstacle course that I missed Goat Princess partaking in which was a bummer. It makes for some funny scenes watching naturally agile dairy goats trying to maneuver some of the creative obstacles they come up with. There was also a milking relay contest where local personalities, law enforcement, and the like are teamed up against the 4-Hers. Rules are simple: get as much milk as you can into a plastic water bottle and return it to a quart jar. First team to overflow their quart jar is the winner. But again, somehow I unfortunately missed that as well as that makes for some great video taping. I believe the first time I attempted to milk a goat or any dairy animal for that matter was in that same contest.

Today I seemed to be mainly occupied with keeping H-Bob busy and by being the support staff for Goat Princess who needs to be reminded to eat and keep hydrated. She has been studying for the written test portion of her upcoming Master Showman Contest she qualified for by taking the Champion Intermediate Showman title the other day. In addition to the written test, they show the different species...beef cattle, dairy cattle, llama, swine, sheep, dairy goats, meat goats, fiber goats, and pygmy goats. That requires the 4Her to connect with the other top showmen of the other species to learn from them the ins and outs of their species' showmanship. It can be a draining experience. I've sure got to give her credit for doing her homework.

Other than that, the day flowed as usual. Wandering the exhibits with H-Bob, checking on the little dairy calves,

making trips back and forth between home and fairgrounds, admiring the handiwork of others who obviously have more time than I,

stopping by the OMSI booth and making some goop,

and avoiding the temptation to gorge myself on fair foods...that gets reserved for the final day of fair on Sunday, and just generally killing time, even if it was hanging out in front of the fans.

One of the goat kids from this year’s kidding that is at the fair on exhibit is looking a little punky. I need to remember to bring some grape leaves from home in the morning. For some reason it tends to perk them up a bit. It is always a worry that they will pick up a virus or the stress of the fair will affect them negatively. Tucked tails and hunched backs are not a good sign.

I will admit that it is fun to share our knowledge about goats with the fairgoers. Some people are curious. Others are serious to-be owners. All seem to be amazed at the personality that goats have. I tell them it’s their personality that got us here in the first place. Be careful.

Stayed tuned. There are two more days until County Fair is over.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

County Fair - Day Three...Keeps Getting Better

Well I had my goat milk latte this morning and sweetened it with some cinnamon dulce de leche from said goat milk then headed down to the county fair to see how the producers of that milk would do in today's 4-H conformation dairy goat classes. While yesterday's classes focused on the showman, today's classes focused on how well the 4-H member's project animals fit their this case as a dairy goat, their milk production and breeding capacity. Pretty simple.

Of course before I could head out there were horses next door to tend to, things to remember to take back to fair, camera memory cards to clear, and the like. Today was another one of our non-summer mornings and required a sweatshirt to stay warm. No complaints though. County fairs with temperatures in the 100s are definitely no fun for anyone.

Upon getting to the campgrounds, I found Goat Princess in her sleeping bag catching forty winks and trying to warm up. After getting up at 5:00 a.m. today, she bathed the four goats that hadn't been shown in the showmanship class yesterday and got them prepped for their show. I guess it was a pretty chilly morning to get wet, both for her and them. I noticed that they were all sporting their 'blankets' won from previous shows.

As you never know exactly when your breed of goat will be called into the show ring, parents and spectators have to just hang around in the area and keep tabs on things. Thank goodness we weren't going to walk all over the fairgrounds again. My feet probably couldn't take it again. There were still the butterflies to visit in the same vicinity, or the cattle to watch

or the llama agility course

or check out the sheep, dressed in their jammies to stay clean for their show

or the rest of the club members to watch show.

When the miniature dairy goat classes were called, it became apparent that there were not a lot of entries besides the ones from our family. Too bad. Plenty of competition is a good thing. But the judge did an excellent job commenting on each of the five does Goat Princess brought to show and had nothing but praise for several of them. She walked away with Grand Champion Miniature Dairy Goat Doe with her primary breeding doe and Reserve Grand Champion Miniature Dairy Goat Doe with her dry yearling from the aforementioned doe. Lots of blue ribbons, purple championship ribbons, and cool looking signs to hang above their pens.

With the showing done for the day, Hubby and I along with H-Bob headed home for awhile. Goat Princess had a four-hour barn duty shift and wouldn't be free until evening. At home time flew as I fed and cleaned next door, fed our animals, tried to squeeze in a little watering, make dinner, and scoot back out the door in time to return to the fairgrounds for the Parade of Champions.

Any 4-H or FFA member who took the Champion Showmanship title for their age category and species was invited by the Fair Board to parade around the rodeo arena before tonight's rodeo. Quite a sight. It's one of those opportunities that I hope each one of those kids will remember. Their moment of glory was due to nothing less than a lot of hard work and skill. Congratulations to all of them!

Hubby and H-Bob stayed to watch the rodeo

while I became the sounding board for Goat Princess's hectic day. Nothing greater than the feeling that your teen can unload to their parent. Worth every minute of my time. Then it was back home to wash a load of show whites, deal with the kitchen and baskets of unfolded laundry before whipping up this post.

Tomorrow should be a fun day of sorts. Classes like milking relays and obstacle courses. Pictures should be worth a thousand words tomorrow, I hope!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

County Fair - Day Two and a Great One at That!

This morning opened the second day of our county fair.

After feeding the horses next door and gathering up more loads of things to take down to the fairgrounds...boy, those reusable fabric grocery bags from the story come in mighty was time to see what the day had in store for us.

Wednesday is a fairly important day in the life of a 4H dairy goat showman. This is the day that the junior, intermediate, and senior showmanship classes are held.

Showmanship classes demonstrate how well you fitted out your 4-H animal and yourself, how much knowledge you have learned about your species, how well you have trained your animal to be calm and responsive in the show ring, and as well, is the time to put on your "show" face and be confident in your communication with the judge.

It really is a lot for these kids to work on throughout the year. I have always told my kids not to put all their eggs in the same basket and use their showmanship class as the end-all pinnacle of their yearly 4-H experience. If you're not thoroughly enjoying your day-to-day responsibilities of raising your animal, then you're missing the whole point of being a 4-Her. One hour of the entire year should not make or break you. You can be mightily disappointed.

But sometimes, it all comes together for them. It did today. Goat Princess took home the title of Champion Intermediate 4-H Dairy Goat Showman of the 2011 Clackamas County Fair and earned herself a spot in the coveted Master Showman round robin contest. She now has the shiny belt buckle to prove it. It's quite an accomplishment, and we are pretty proud of her.

The rest of the day consisted of last night's dinner leftovers at camp for lunch, a most fabulous Starbucks Via iced coffee...make it up with milk versus water and you won't be disappointed, more time in the butterfly exhibit,

an extended time in the pioneer village and Indian encampment,

and H-Bob's purchase of an ermine skin with her saved birthday money. Of course we wandered over to see the llamas,


three of the cutest little dairy bull calves that must have been only a few days old,

more trips through the goat barn to visit with the littlest goat kids that were on exhibit,

of course visiting with our own miniature dairy goats,

visits to make the turkey 'gobble' back,

trips through the campers on display...enough to make Hubby quite envious of them, took a gander at some of the vendor displays,

and made a visit to the Kitchen Pantry where they had the most marvelous looking baked goods on display. You can tell I've been supportive of H-Bob's gluten free diet and have been refraining from baked goods that she can't have. They looked mighty good today. We even watched the dog agility show one more time.

I'm pretty sure I developed several blisters and know for sure that my feet were aching after the day standing and walking, so it felt good to head back to camp and sit for awhile watching the rodeo contestants get ready for the night's event while waiting for the noodles to boil. Tonight's camping entree...spaghetti with Alfredo sauce and pesto along with bagged salad. Not too shabby.

Now that I'm back home and Hubby is there with Goat Princes and H-Bob, I'm tending to the dishes at home, washing show clothes for tomorrow...dairy whites do not stay clean for long, and wishing I had time to water and see what's growing in the garden before dark. Perhaps in the morning.

Congrats again to our great little showman! A job fantastically well done.

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