Thursday, September 24, 2009

California State Fair

I am a huge fan of going to county fairs, possibly because I grew up going to the opening day of the Alameda County Fair every year. This is (or was) one of the best county fairs in the state, and we went despite living in a different county (which had one of the lamest county fairs and therefore will remain unnamed).

As much as I like county fairs, nothing can quite compete with going to the California State Fair at the end of the summer. My first memories of the place are from showing dogs there when I was in 4-H, and the "pet-friendly" motels we stayed in the night before the show (the cigarette burns in the mattress, the algae in the shower). I am still trying to figure out exactly where on the fair grounds we showed the year my friend Leanne's dog went jumping into one of the water features during off-leash obedience. Did I mention the dog didn't know how to swim? And you know that 4-H kids have to show in all white? Good times, good times.

My parents entered several of their miniatures and various hand crafts that my mom made, and they won a Golden Bear trophy one year. But over the years, especially since we moved to Vacaville, we have gotten to know the Cal Expo grounds as though we lived there, and I suppose when you add up the days we've spent on the grounds, we probably have spent at least a couple of months wandering the grounds.

Nigerian Dwarf goats have been showing at the State Fair for the last seven years, and unfortunately the show has been getting smaller and smaller- as has fair attendance. Part of the drop in attendance has to do with school starting earlier and earlier in the year, making it harder for families to get to the fair. But we enjoy going and even when we haven't been able to show, we have been able to drop by for a visit with our friends who are showing. After the Saturday to Saturday stay at the Cal-Expo grounds required by the ADGA national show, we looked forward to a relatively short four day stay for the State Fair.

So, the first day we get to drive onto the grounds with our animals, the UCD vet students check the animals for obvious disease, then we unload gear, animals, check in with the fair staff, they check tattoos on the animals, and then we get our credentials (so we can get back onto the grounds if we leave), then park, then return to actually set up our pens and get the animals settled in.

When we get to the livestock barn, the pens look like this:

Add one signifigant other, put up a few decorations, win a few ribbons, and the place starts looking like this:

There, much better.

One of the interesting things about being at the fair is getting to see the other livestock, and talking with the people who have other types of livestock. The cattle people don't really talk to non-cattle people...and they're too busy constantly washing off and blowing out their cattle to talk. The angora goat people were pretty friendly, the pygmy people are starting to recognize faces and warming up to us a little (it's only taken five years, but let's not rush into anything, m'kay), and the Boer goat people mostly stayed outside.

We met some new faces

Oh Hai! Have we met?

Colored Angora

White Angora-

Pygmy Buck

This is the time of year when all of the bucks start to get a little oderific, but with the pygmy bucks keeping all of their hair on, man howdy! Do they ever stink!

Just for a little size comparison, here's a 2 1/2 year old Boer buck (Boers are a meat breed) and our Mr. Lincoln (1 1/2 years) checking each other out. Mr. Lincoln's back barely comes up to the Boer's belly.

The third and fourth day of the fair (the show days), we picked up some ribbons. Raven did well:

Once Ina Blue Moon did even better:

Full results, first day:

Grand Champion Doe in Milk and Best Udder: Castle Rock Once Ina Blue Moon

Reserve Grand Champion Doe in Milk: Cloverdale YJ Blue Raven

Reserve Grand Champion Dry Doe: CRF Castle Rock Rella

Grand Champion Doe of the day: Castle Rock Once Ina Blue Moon

Reserve Grand Champion Doe of the day: Cloverdale YJ Blue Raven

Mr. Lincoln got second in his class, which was fine with me considering I only entered him in the fair because I knew that was the only way we would get an updated, shaved picture of him on the web site. I don't usually show bucks these days, but figured what the heck. He started getting really stressed after the first show, which was completely my fault. I realized at the fair that I had never taken Mr. Lincoln off the farm, and making his first experience a four-day, away from home show, was not a very good move on my part. Probiotics, electrolites, fresh hay, and a sign explaining to visitors that he didn't feel like visiting helped a little, and I pulled him from the next day's show.

Second Day's results:

Grand Champion Doe in Milk: Cloverdale YJ Blue Raven

Best Udder: Castle Rock Once Ina Blue Moon

Grand Champion Doe of the Day: Cloverdale YJ Blue Raven

All in all, pretty good considering we only took two does in milk, two dry does, and one buck. One of the things we were much more watchful about than in years past was making sure that the general public generally did not touch our goats. This sounds awful, I know, but we really did not want to bring home any exotic diseases, and people who go along touching various animals are unknowingly passing around all sorts of bugs. We were surprised that quite a few groups of animal science students came through the barns and every one of the students were touching every one of the animals. I would hope that the teachers would have explained at least some basic bio-security information to the students, but we were not so lucky.

Oh, and I finally tried a deep fried Twinkie. I've been saying I would do it for years, and then kept backing out, because really- $4!! for a Twinkie!! seemed a little expensive, even by fair-food standards. This year, curiosity finally got the better of me. It was good- probably the best way to eat a Twinkie if you have to, but not something I will be seaking out again.

We had plenty of time to check out "The Farm", the displays of beneficial and harmful insects (I tried to memorize them ALL), and the Nursery- where little baby farm animals are born and on display, and spent lots of time in the County Building to cool off since end of August + Sacramento = HOT.

There are rumors that the fair will be moving to July to accomodate school schedules next year, but there are all sorts of other activities that have to be taken into account- horse racing, vendor schedules, other big fairs, etc. Whenever it is, I'm looking forward to the next one!

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