We attended our county fair tonight, and it brought back a flood of memories.  Ten years ago, I had two step-kids with not nearly enough to do all day while GD and I were at work.  We enrolled them in 4H thinking this would be a way to fill up five nine-hour summer days a week.  As much as they drug their feet, Janine had enough money in her savings account to pay for a semester of college from just three years of participating.  James did too. 

The 1999 County Fair Fiasco

     Well, we learned from last year’s fair and had all of our 4H projects
completed two weeks before entry day, Sunday.  Ha!  Saturday found us cutting
out fish and pasting them to a board, collecting then sticking bugs with
pins, collecting and pressing leaves and gluing leaves to paper, baking
cookies and doing lots of computer work.  Sunday found us cutting out fish
and pasting them to a board, collecting more bugs and sticking them with
pins, gluing leaves to paper, baking cookies and doing more computer work.
My ambitious stepchildren signed up for a wide variety of 4H projects
this year.  James took pigs, excuse me, “swine”, chickens and
fishing.  Janine, the dilettante, signed up for gardening, trees, bugs
(entomology), baking and cat. I decided it would only be fair if I showed
some things as well, so I took three photographs I had matted on
Thursday, some basil and some pickles. I had also graciously offered to
bake a pie for the 4H booth to sell.  Some how I also managed to convince
Denise (our niece) to take zucchini bread, since she had never shown
anything at a fair before.

    Saturday found everyone busy locating their shirts with the little patch
on them and putting the “finishing” touches on a couple of projects.
James signed up for poultry showmanship, so he watched a video then
pretended that I was the judge and showed one of his chickens.  As he
pulled the feathers back to show the skin, we saw lice.  “Ok, the
chickens need a malathion bath.  Dad can help you when he gets home.”
Nothing and I do mean nothing is more homely than a freshly bathed

     Back to Janine.  We collected and froze lots of bugs over the summer, but
some disintegrated and we had pinned others wrong.  A word to the wise,
don’t plan to move the bug on the pin after it has dried on it several
days.  It won’t work.  One of the bugs was actually moving when we
entered the box at fair.  I think he died before the judge saw him

     All summer I pestered Janine to get some of her labels done, but she would
only do one or two at a time, amidst much complaining.  Twenty-five bugs
and ten trees added up to more patience than I had, hence Janine typed in
most of her labels Saturday and Sunday.  Fortunately, she had several
unfinished projects so she could skip back and forth between them all and
not get tired of any one project.   We enlisted James to help cut
labels out.

     James spoke with a USDI Fish and Wildlife person about endangered
species earlier in the summer.  She gave him some pamphlets on endangered
fish, so he sanded a board, stained it and used double sided tape to
stick the pictures to the board, until the tape ran out and he used clear
packing tape.  He also spent time on the computer typing out information
and titles.  This process dragged on due to his lack of desire to do
anything that remotely resembled learning.

     Janine wrote her recipe out for ginger cookies ahead of time so she made
the cookies while I made two pies on Saturday.  Unfortunately she did not
follow the recipe and let the dough chill for two hours as recommended,
and I was too busy to notice and just thought she had not put in enough
flour.  “Well, we can make those Sunday after lunch, yeah that will work
because we will be done with bugs and trees by then.”

     James and Dad spent the afternoon laundering chickens and
collecting bugs for Janine.  We missed an opportunity by not using
a louse off of the chickens for the entomology project.  I went to bed at
about 12:00 that night, long after everyone else had been asleep.
Sunday morning I got up at 5:00 to make watermelon pickles, since I had
already cut up the rind and I would not have time the rest of the week to
finish the pickles.   The recipe said it would make six pints but
actually made slightly less.  I was pretty disgusted at having to heat up
the water bath for two and a half pints of watermelon pickles.  By noon,
the pickles sat cooling, the fish board and tree book completed, garden
vegetables picked and washed, almost all bug labels typed in and new bugs
cooling their heels in the freezer awaiting pinning in the afternoon.

     Dad informed us that the bus left at 3:00 p.m. sharp.  I took the sheets
off the kids’ beds and put them in the dirty laundry.  This left me time
to take quick shower and wash my hair.  Half way through my shower,
someone called from fair wondering if we were bringing the pigs.  Dad
said we had planed to leave at 3:00 and the guy said they needed to be at
fair by 11:00 a.m., so please hurry.

     “Everything is under control” I kept telling myself.  I already had the
ingredients out for the cookies.  I looked at the recipe and noted the
cooling time.  Oops.  “Janine we are not using this recipe, get the one
from Miss Ona.”  Same ingredients, no cooling period.  I supervised the
baking while putting labels on bugs and rounding up all the other
projects.  While the cookies baked, we arranged bugs and wrote out the
new recipe.

     Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dad and James speed washed four pigs,
which had to be a sight to behold.  However, I was busy pinning
hypothermic bugs at this time and unable to behold.  We got our stuff
together and loaded.  We made it to the fair by 2:45.  One pig weighed
nine pounds too much, but he was not alone in his class.

     Monday, the hog show started at 7:30, the cat show at 8:00 and poultry at
11:00.   Dad overslept and the kids slept on the floor of the living room
as their sheets were still in the laundry.  Coincidentally this is also
where we found James’s Wrangler jeans that went over his boots.  We
found the cleanest of the dirty and he put them on.  We got to the fair
at about 6:45, starting out way behind everyone else in getting pens
cleaned and critters fed.  Janine and I did the chickens.  James
realized he had misplaced the necessary hog brush for showmanship so I
made a mad dash to the grocery store.  When I got back with the brush,
somebody was asking Denise if she would be interested in handing out
ribbons and trophies at the hog show.  She said, “why not.”  The show
lasted five hours, and now she is on speaking terms with several influential people
in our county.

    The cat got nervous and pooped on Janine’s shirt, getting a little on Dad
too. A nice lady loaned us her kid’s extra shirt.  Dad went with Janine to
watch her show the cat, who got a blue ribbon because she was too thin.
Meanwhile, James and I geared up for hog showmanship. In showmanship
the judge looks at how the kid handles the animal, not how the animal is
built.  James got into the ring and his gilt (female pig) decided to
dig a hole in the arena.  I told the mothers sitting near me that it was a
special truffle hunting pig.  James handled the situation well
though, and got a blue ribbon from Denise for his efforts.  The gilt show
came first and she dug in the arena again, but managed to get a purple
ribbon.   James and I took off for the chicken show, crossing paths
with Dad and Janine headed for the pig show.  The small animal judge was a
real rabbit fan so that show lasted forever, causing the chicken show to
start late.  James showed his banty hen in showmanship then ran to
the hog show, getting there just in time to watch Janine and some nice kid
showing his two barrows (male pigs) who were in the same weight class.
Each got a purple ribbon from Denise.  Back at the poultry show, I found a
boy to show the chickens for James in his absence (you can have
someone else show the animal when it is not for showmanship, especially if you are supposed to be showing pigs at the same time).  This is when I found out we had only entered two chickens in the fair, but brought three.  One chicken got purple, one got a blue and one got an all expense
paid trip to town with meals and four nights lodging at no obligation
whatsoever.  James got to show his overweight hog and got a purple
ribbon on him.

     Finally we got to see how everything else did.  James got a blue on
his fish project.  Janine got purples on her cucumbers, bug box, leaf book
and cookies.  She got a blue on her summer squash. She also got a monetary
award for having the best entomology project! Denise got a blue (which is
purple in the adult show) on her zucchini bread and I got blues on my
pictures and basil and reds on my pickles (too much headspace).

     All week long we had to get to town early to clean out pens and feed and
water livestock.  We had to be there in the evenings for the same process
again.  Needless to say the kids slept on the floor all week long and we
ate a lot of fair hamburgers.

     Monday the pig guys tracked us down to find out which pig we planned to
sell at auction.  Tuesday one nabbed us again to find out whom to write
the hog check to.  Wednesday he wanted to know if we planned to sell the
extra pigs to the packer or if we intended to butcher them.  As we stood
gazing at James’s pigs the nice pig man said, “First year showing
hogs?” I replied “Does it show?”  He smiled and said, “Well, we were
supposed to have all this information Monday.”

     But all in all, it could have been worse.  The chicken in the pen next
to ours was blue because the mom read you could wash a white chicken in
bluing to make it whiter.  It must not take very much!


I overheard GD talking to Mae about showing hogs next year.  I am not so sure about that.  I don’t mind her showing livestock, but I wanted to wait until both the ladies were old enough for 4H because it involves a lot of running around, and I would just as soon do it for two as one.  I also am going to insist that we have a camper when we start showing large livestock.  You  have to be there most of the day to make sure they have water and feed and the aisles are swept.  You need to be there first thing in the morning, at the middle of the day and again in the evening.  It is a good 25 miles to the fair and we don’t have a grandma in town we can hang out with for part of the day.  I also see that we will have children eligible for 4H for the next 20 years, no need to get in a huge rush.  I sure did love the fair when I was a kid.