Fair season is in full swing in counties around the Midwest, and for kids in 4-H it’s the culmination of months of work. Many have been raising animals to show and sell at the fair. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant spent time with one farm family and reports that the experience can be rewarding and difficult for children:
Fair season is in full swing in counties around the Midwest and for kids in 4-H it’s the
culmination of months of work. Many have been raising animals to show and sell at the
fair. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant spent time with one farm family
and reports that the experience can be rewarding and difficult for children:
(sound of auction: “Okay, next coming in we’ve got…”)
Today’s the day they’re auctioning off animals at the Randolph Fair in Portage County.
(more auction sound)
Sarah Allen is only 12 years old. But she stands confidently at the front of the show ring
with her pig Orlando…
(sound fades out)
For many young people, these projects started nearly a year ago…
(farm sound up)
When we first met Sarah at her farm a month ago, she’d already been working with
Orlando for quite a while….
She and her older brothers have been raising farm animals for the fair since last fall.
Aaron and Lucas are standing in the barn behind their house…
JG: “Would you guys mind showing me your animals?” Aaron: “No… these are Lucas’s
cows.” Lucas: “Yeah, these are my steers for fair. I’ve got three of ’em. Their names are
Mrs. Anderson, Andy, and Josh.”
JG: “What do you have to do today to take care of them?” Lucas: “I rinse ’em off, cold
water until they’re real wet. Bring ’em here. I brush ’em down, I blow ’em out, then I
spray hair conditioning on ’em, then I blow them out again. And then I do that at night
JG: “Why do you have to do that?” Lucas: “It grows the hair out on ’em, so they look
nice and pretty. It’s just like an appearance thing. The judges like you to have the hair
and that… I think it shows have much dedication you have to your project cause you’re
always out here doing something with ’em.”
These kids are serious about raising their animals for fair. Lucas has a special mix of
feed made for the steer and works nearly every day to break them into a halter and get
(sound of Sarah patting pigs with a stick… and pig sounds)
Sarah and Aaron direct their hogs with sticks…to practice keeping them in line when
they’re in the fair arena…
Sarah: “This one’s mine. This one’s Orlando. I don’t know what you call yours.”
Aaron: “I don’t name mine usually. Because if you name them, you start getting
Sarah is tough as any farm boy, but she also smiles a lot and shares her feelings easily.
Last year it was tough for her to give up the pig she raised for the fair…
Sarah: “I was so sad. I just get attached to ’em so much. Because I like coming out here
and like brushing ’em. And sometimes we give ’em baths whenever we like clean out the
pen we spray them down and give them baths and stuff. So, you get pretty attached.”
(sound fades to black)
(fair sound fades up: “Well, good evening. It’s a nice night to be back here to judge your
2004 Portage County fair. This our first class of lightweight hogs…”
After months of working with the animals, this is the week the kids have been waiting
Aaron Allen is back in the pen where the kids keep their animals.
JG: “How are you feeling? It’s been awhile since I saw you.”
Aaron: “Yeah, I’m not really that nervous, at all. Actually, I’m going up right now…”
Aaron and seven other kids lead their hogs from the back pen into the arena. They use
sticks to direct them around for the judge to see. Sometimes the pigs go wild and just run
But for the most part, the kids and the animals perform well.
By the end of the fair the Allen kids win a handful of ribbons for their showmanship.
And they did okay at auction. Both Aaron and Sarah got decent prices for their pigs.
(sound of rain)
The weather’s been holding out all week, but it’s the last night of the fair and the rain has
let loose. It seems to fit the mood. It’s time for the kids to give up their animals.
JG: “How long have you had that pig? “Since May.” JG: “What’s its name?”
“I can’t do this… (crying)”
Many are hanging around the barns hugging their sheep, steers, and hogs for the last time.
(sound inside barn)
Teenagers take their cattle from stalls and lead them single file through a large empty
barn up a ramp onto a trailer to be sent for slaughter. These kids understand the sacrifice
that’s made to make sure the meat counter is full.
(sound of loading steer into trailer)
Some of the cattle bawl and buck against the men trying to load them. Many of the kids
are crying. Charles Harner and his teenage daughter lean against the railing of an empty
stall in the steer barn. She’s a little teary-eyed. Harner says the kids are learning an
“It’s a good teaching for when they lose a parent or if they lose a grandpa or grandma.
That, life does go on, we know that. That’s just part of the process of life, you know.
You’re here for a reason, and you go on, so…”
On the other side of the fairgrounds, Sarah Allen sits with her mom getting ready to say
goodbye to her pig, Orlando.
JG: “So is your pig still here?”
Sarah: “Yep. It goes with Aaron’s, so that’s good. I’m not sad. Nope, I’m not sad.
Maybe just a little bit, not a lot.”
Her brother Lucas says it was hard to put his steer on the truck…
Lucas: “It was kind of hard because you work with them, you bought them and you raised
them throughout the year then you put ’em on the truck and you’re like, ‘oh shoot, they’re
gone now.’ You got to go home and have nothing around. It’s kind of hard. But you get
used to it.”
Lucas plans to use most of the money he got for his steers to buy another one in a few
weeks. And then the process starts all over again. But next year, he’ll have some
competition from his little sister. Sarah’s also planning to show cattle at the fair next
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.