The sweltering mid-May sun beat down on my thirteen year old face as I waited anxiously in a pig pen. The sounds of baying, clucking, and shouting could be heard echoing from every angle, and I was in the center of it all. I made small talk with the other exhibitors, mainly the turkey showman. They told me, that whatever I do, I can’t drop the turkey. Simple enough. As I entered the show ring holding pen, a white turkey hen was released towards me. I adjusted my number, lucky number 13, and found my matching turkey. I was ready! I’d practiced the questions! I felt pretty confident about this portion of the showmanship– “please flip your birds!” our judge yelled over the roaring fans. Now this I was not prepared for. There were many unfavorable factors on this day, and in this particular event: it was unseasonably hot–even for central California, I was the last round of exhibitors to come through and flip this bird, which had been working all day, and I really had no clue what I was doing. So I put the hen’s head between my knees, squat down, grab the legs, and swiftly pull up and out while standing back up. I had done it! The bird was properly flipped! Now, I had not anticipated just how long I would be standing with this 25 pound bird in my arms, and the bird didn’t either. So, as the judge moved down the line– that I was at the end of–asking questions, the turkey began to fidget. First it was a wing flapping here and there, then it started straining its legs, and then it decided to start attempting to bite me through my white jeans. I looked at each of the other exhibitors with their perfectly behaved birds, and I got frustrated. The judge noticed, as she reached me, and my tears were brimming. She gave me a little confidence-building speech, and I was able to answer the questions well. At the end, I placed extremely well, and it was definitely one of the more rewarding experiences I’ve had as a 4-H showman.
Now, many of you are probably wondering, “now why would Kate WILLINGLY subject herself to this?” The truth is, that I love the fair, I love exhibiting, and I do have a slight love for competition. I can assure you that just like I had an experience that helped me grow as a person and a showman, almost every other 4-H’er, FFA member, Grange member, and independent can attest to the character building that raising an animal and showing has to offer.
But enough with that sappy speech, and on to talking about the wonderful “AGventures” available at the fair! Now many of you might not know much about the agriculture industry or why youth and adults show at fairs at all, but at the CA State Fair, you can learn more about these things and more! I’m going to outline the perfect Ag day for you, filled with exciting competitions, fun, and especially, learning opportunities. Did you know that each week at the fair we have new animals move in? As of this weekend, we have animals that range from sheep and swine, all the way to llamas, longhorns, and alpacas! I had the exciting opportunity to Snapchat these events today, and no, I did not get spit or bit by the llamas (a first for me!). Come see youths and adults show in the ring, and learn just how certain animals are judged, and what livestock animals will take home the famed Golden Bear. As we move merrily through the barn, remember to ask exhibitors about their animals, and learn more about how they raise their livestock, and how their species/breed fits into the agricultural industry as a whole. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you will see a longhorn calf. I had the pleasure of enjoying a serenade by a wonderful juvenile longhorn—teenage angst, am I right?
So, as we leave the wonders of the Tractor Supply Co. Big Barn, we stumble upon both the petting zoo and the baby barn! Go to the petting zoo for an up close and personal experience with goats, chickens, ponies, deer, and so much more! You may even get to pet the baby goats, also known as kids, recently named by fair-goers like yourself as “Loki” and “Thor!” Wow…even I want to head out there now. Once you have properly enjoyed the wiles of the petting zoo, hop on over to the baby barn, where you can learn about the poultry, swine, and milk industry! I mean, you get to look at cute baby livestock animals…what could possibly be better. So after we have permanent heart-eyes over these animals, gallop on over to the Hollywood horses exhibit. If you follow the CAStateFair Snapchat (shameless plug), then you know I was fangirling hard over these horses. See horses from the live-action Cinderella, Flicka, The Lone Ranger, and even The Walking Dead! There are exhibitors and personnel all over the horse grounds that would love to answer questions and share some knowledge about the equine industry. Also, don’t forget to take a picture with some of your favorite life-size Hollywood stars in the exhibit barn—my favorite meet and greets were with R2-D2, Chewbacca, and C-3PO. Be sure to catch the awesome shows in the arena; the schedule is on our app.
Next to the horse arena is the wonderful SaveMart Farms. Go on a scavenger hunt to see more of the farm, and enjoy a fresh surprise when you complete the passport. You will also learn about hydroponics, aeroponics, and probably a few more “-ponics.” There are so many different vegetables planted, insects to be seen, and shows to be enjoyed at the farm. Getting hungry yet? Make sure to stop by the kitchen and watch Chef Keith Breedlove make a masterpiece out of fresh veggies and other flavorful ingredients.
If you want to improve your palate for wine and olive oil, be sure to go to the California building to learn more about the olive oil industries and taste just what makes certain wines and olive oils better than others. If you enjoy this activity, head on over to the Savemart Wine Garden and enjoy a wine slushy, some tasty food, and other quality beverages. While you’re sipping away on your fine wines, make sure to peruse the wine exhibit, which shows how certain spirits, beers, and wines are made “from farm to glass.”
Alright, I’m going on and on. These are just the highlights! Don’t miss other agricultural exhibits, which can be found on the app. I hope you are inspired to go see these exhibits, and maybe leave the fair with a new career course in mind…I know I did!
Written by: Kate Albiani