A Bewildering Visit to the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival
Yes, I’m an artist, and yes, this blog is mainly about my art.
But this post is about another side to my character, one I don’t talk about much online.
You see, I’m a wannabe farmer.
OK, not a REAL farmer. I don’t want to get up at 4am and milk thousands of cows or plow hundreds of acres.
But I do yearn for a bit more rurality in my life. A couple chickens in the back yard to lay eggs. A small orchard. An herb garden. Maybe some grapevines. A vegetable garden.
Yeah, I know, what’s a city kid like me know about livestock? I mean, I’ve read a couple books, some magazines. I’ve patted a couple goats at a petting zoo. That’s enough to whet my appetite for more information, but I’m still a rank newbie when it comes to rural agriculture. I want to learn! But where to begin?
Well, how about the county fair?
The sad truth is that I’d never been to a county fair. An honest-to-goodness old-fashioned agricultural fair with cattle and sheep and pigs? Never been.
Until last weekend, that is. I finally went to a county fair! Hurrah! It was pretty bewildering, but I had a great time. And took lots of photos like a total rube. Which I was.
We arrived at the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival shortly after it opened on Sunday. The crowds seemed pretty light. I figure it gets a lot busier as the day wears on. The fair runs from 12 noon to 12 midnight each day (it’s 11 days long, total). There’s heavy emphasis on the musical headline performances in the evening. We didn’t stick around for that. We were there for the livestock! Show me the animals!
There were a huge number of festival-food booths and game booths and junk-souvenir booths. You had to walk past lots of them to get to the agricultural stuff. Another whole section of the fair was given to carnival rides, ferris wheels and such. We didn’t go there. We were there for the animals!
In the center of the fairgrounds, near the entrance, was this lovely open-air roofed pavilion with lots of comfy seating and tables. It was the most popular place in the fair, but even at its most crowded we easily found places to sit. Everyone sheltered here to get out of the crushing sun.
We finally found the livestock displays. There were a lot of pigs in one barn, and they were all sleeping in the heat. The barns were surprisingly cool, with completely open sides and lots of big industrial fans keeping the air moving. I guess when you’re a pig in a small pen deeply bedded with shavings, the thing to do is sleep.
In the next building we found goats. Yay, goats! So, yes, I’m completely smitten by goats. These cuties are Pygmies, a mini goat breed that’s mostly used for pets. They stand about as tall as your knee. They were very friendly and came right up to get scratches, which I gleefully provided to several. One sniffed longingly in the direction of the brim of my hat, but I carefully kept it out of reach. There will be no eating of hats!
Most of the goats in the pens were either Pygmies or Boers. The Boers, a popular meat breed, were aloof and not at all interested in being scratched or patted. But one pen had some goats of indeterminate breed who were pretty friendly and active. The white floppy-eared one in this photo looked to my untrained eye like a dairy goat, maybe a Nubian. In contrast with the tiny Pygmies, this full-sized goat stood about 3 feet tall.
We had to laugh when we saw this character standing on a small overturned feed bucket. Goats are notorious climbers, readily clambering up onto any structure they can get at (including trees, picnic tables, and cars). Here is the perfect example: “I’m King of the Hill!” Even if it’s a very small hill.
In contrast with the manageable-sized sheep and goats, the steers were HUGE. This photo doesn’t do them justice. They looked intimidatingly huge even lying down. They were 5 feet wide, and about 9 or so feet long. That’s a lot of beef!
Inside one air conditioned hall we found exhibits of award-winning crafts, baked goods, and assorted other handmade stuff. This handmade wooden rocking pig caught my fancy. My nephews would love riding it! (I’d give credit to its creator, but there was no sign.)
We took in a youth dairy goat “showmanship” competition before leaving the fair. These kids are all in 4H, which apparently requires wearing a white uniform for showing. It seems cruel to make kids wear white while handling livestock, but what do I know? At any rate, the winner was the girl who showed up 15 minutes earlier than the rest and spent that whole time cleaning her goat. I even watched her wipe inside the goat’s ears, a procedure the otherwise placid animal objected to by ducking her head.
Overall, I had a great time. It was all pretty confusing, mostly because there wasn’t a lot of signage to explain what was going on. Why were there only two breeds of goats on display? Why were there so few chickens on display? Why steers but no cows? Does the livestock change from day to day, and if so, how do you know what will be on display each day? When are the different competitions held? The fair website disappointingly has no such information. I’m still confused, but at least now I can say I’ve been to a fair!
Entry filed under: Agriculture.