Sure greasy fair food, carnival rides and games are what we all look forward to when we go to the fair each summer. There aren’t many things better, or more “American” than enjoying a summer night at the fair. Every year growing up it was tradition that our family would jump in the car, drive 45 minutes to Puyallup, WA and attend our state fair. It is the biggest fair in Washington and part of the reason I looked forward to going to school every fall…each student gets one free fair ticket at the beginning of the school year.
Even now that I have grown and have to pay my way, I still look forward to the fair each year. But the last three years have been especially exciting for me because Kate has earned her way to the state fair each year by showing her goats! In order to qualify for the state fair, 4H members must first show at their county fair and earn blue ribbons. Each club then sends their top showman and goats to the state fair. So, in a way, the state fair for 4Hers is like the state championship game for high school football players.
This year Kate and hundreds of other young members of 4H and FFA from around the state will spend today through Tuesday at the fair. Ross and Kate took off at 5:30AM this morning to get in a long line of trucks and trailers from around the state filled with animals deeply loved and cared for by these young showman. For us, it was only a 20 minute drive. For some, they come from hours away to represent their county at the fair.
The showman will spend the next four days grooming, clipping, bathing, feeding, watering, showing and loving on their animals. When they aren’t tending to their animals, they will spend the day in the barn working on homework that they will have accumulated from being absent from school for two days, taking their turn on barn duty which includes scooping poop, sweeping hay from the aisles and making sure all the animals are comfortable and being on hand to answer fair vistors’ questions about their animals.
For Kate and many other 4H members, answering questions and sharing the knowledge and life lessons she has learned from raising goats is her favorite part. She is usually the first to go up to fair visitors who are admiring her goats and ask them if they have any questions. All year she has taken care of the goats, gone to shows to get ready for the big state fair and studied goat husbandry books so that she can correctly answer the questions fair visitors and judges have. This is her chance to shine and show the state all that she has learned in her goat 4H adventure.
So, I encourage you to visit your local fair and scream your heart out on a carnival ride, spend $20 tossing balls at milk jugs to win a stuffed animal worth $1, stuff your face with an elephant ear and then head over to the barns where the 4H and FFA members are and ask some questions about the different animals. Encourage your children to ask questions – you would be surprised how many kids don’t know that male animals can’t make milk. Grab a seat in the bleachers while you chow down on your elephant ear and watch a show class. And most importantly, congratulate the showman on their hard work, dedication and achievements in the show ring. They have worked hard for this and having others acknowledge that means the world to them.
If you happen to be at the state fair in Puyallup this weekend, make sure you swing by the goat barn and say hi to Kate and her state qualifying goats, Dozer, EB, Sade, Dallas and one baby who still doesn’t have a name (feel free to give Kate some suggestions)! See you all at the fair!