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A fair future

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The Wayne County Fair is happening this week, and with the food and festivities comes a week of work for 4-H kids and farm families. My wife works for Penn State Extension and oversees the livestock shows down in the arena, so by association I have a busy time myself. This past weekend, the shows kicked off with the open dairy cow show on Saturday, followed by the open market meat goat, sheep and dairy goat shows on Sunday. There’s a lot to do at these shows and several parents and volunteers are always on hand to make them a success. Normally I’d be helping my wife run papers, take down notes, or help showmen as they line up at the gate to the show-ring. This year, however, I had a far more challenging task: watching our son.


You may think showing a thousand-pound bovine around a ring would be difficult, but at least they have to do that for only a few minutes at a time. Try placating a four-and-a-half-month-old for eight hours in the middle of a busy thoroughfare—and yes, he really is that old already. Am I complaining though? Of course not. Fortunately for me, he really likes to be outside and his mother was never that far away.


It was encouraging to see his interest in the animals. It’s one of those things where you want your kids to like what you like and, when they show interest, it just brightens your day. As we walked around the arena and through the barns, he always looked out with an open mouth, big eyes and constant thread of curious drool as he made sense of the big furry animals that so many other families center their lives around.


Lots of young kids were at the barns, some still riding around in the stroller with mom or dad, other slightly older kids played non-stop throughout the weekend on the pile of wood shavings that made bedding for the livestock. It’s a good thing their parents paid for them to have access to all the flashy rides at the fair… Jokes aside, it warms my heart to see kids being kids and not completely brainwashed by technology and other distracting junk. Then there were the kids just a bit older who were in the shows presenting their project animals, some with the help of mom and dad to lead their animal, others already big enough to take the reins by themselves. And of course there were the graduating seniors, with a decade or more of experience showing animals, participating in the shows for the last time as 4-H members.


My wife was a 4-H member growing up and, as a teenager, would show half a dozen dairy goats or more in a given year. Walking around this year, I had a funny feeling my future was being laid out in stages before my eyes. Not a bad way for a boy to grow up these days, if you ask me. Out here, the way isn’t strictly tied to 4-H, but I’m thankful for organizations like it that preserve this way of life. I’d be proud to see my boy in that ring in just a few short years, tuggin’ around a goat every bit as tall as him and very possibly being tugged around some too. That’s the way it is out here, good wholesome family fun and education with a side of character-building comedy.

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