It’s been more than a week since the Knox County Fair concluded in Bloomfield and our 4-H critters and displays made their way back home. All summer long, local farmers hoped the fair would bring a drought-breaking storm, as it has done for many years. A few sprinkles fell on Wednesday and Sunday of the fair and temperatures took a break from the century mark that had plagued county fairs across the state all summer long. In fact, on Sunday afternoon, with temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s, most fairgoers donned jackets for the first time all summer.
For our children, this year’s fair brought lots of smiles and ribbons of all colors. Lauren, Taylor and Zac exhibited bucket calves. Lauren’s calf, Zeke Patrick (don’t ask), enjoyed the fair until he was forced to exchange his comfortable rope halter for that shiny, new, expensive show halter with the noisy chain that dangled under his chin. That turned his normally calm demeanor into something quite different. As Lauren tried to lead him into the barn, he reared and ran, jumped and stepped on her toes. He was no longer the placid calf we loved.
Just before Lauren was about to lead Zeke into the show ring, I made the decision to place the old rope halter on his head and get rid of the show halter, so she could feel comfortable with him in the ring and he wouldn’t feel the need to try to escape. I’m glad I did, because throughout their time in the show ring, Lauren and Zeke seemed very content. Like my old work boots, I guess Zeke prefers his rope halter over the bling of a show halter. Who knew?
Taylor’s calf, Cathy, followed along fine and did just as well. Zac, who is a Clover Kid and exhibited at the fair for the first time, led his calf, Peppermint, around the ring like an old pro. The kids exhibited rabbits in the 4-H pet show too, and numerous displays and projects, including Taylor’s first attempt at entomology.
It reminded me of my days in 4-H at the same fair. We usually parked our old camper on the fairgrounds and stayed there throughout the event, tending to our calves. It was always exciting because you could count on someone’s calves escaping during the night, or a romp around the fairgrounds by goats that jumped from their pens.
Almost every year, a major severe storm blew through the fairgrounds, rocking our camper, pounding the pickup with hail and wind, and scaring some of the younger 4-Hers staying on the grounds. One year, after about four inches of rain fell overnight, maintenance crews spread straw on the midway to help absorb the mud.
That wasn’t the problem this year. But, amazingly, people still attended the fair, enjoyed the home baked apple pies at the church food stands, exhibited 4-H and FFA livestock and projects, sang along at the concerts and enjoyed themselves, even in the face of drought.
That’s one of the great things about the county fair. It brings folks together every year, no matter what kind of cropping year we are having. Together, we can catch up on old times, plan for new days and rekindle longstanding friendships.
Be sure to watch www.nebraskafarmer.com and our upcoming September print issue of Nebraska Farmer for news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at www.DatelineDrought.com.