A Bewildering Visit to the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival

August 24, 2009 at 2:05 pm 10 comments

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.

And goats!

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.

Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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!

Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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!

Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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.

sleeping pig 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.

Pigs at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter There were a lot of pigs.

Pygmy goats at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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!

Goats at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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.

Goat on Bucket at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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.

Steers at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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!

Brindle Steer at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter This fellow had a coloration I had no idea was even possible in cattle. Which just shows you how much I know about cattle: very little!

Hay at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter There was an exhibit of hay outside one barn. “Alfalfa is King” proclaimed the sign. It smelled pleasantly grassy.

Rocking Pig at the Antelope Valley Fair 2009 photo by Barbara J Carter 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.)

4H Dairy Goat Showmanship competition at the AV Fair photo by Barbara J Carter 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.

New dot painting: “Blue-Green Square” Candy-colored dot painting


  • 1. quinncreative  |  August 24, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    What an adorable pig! (the sleeping one) And I’ve never seen a tortie steer! Vicarious ag fairs–yea!

  • 2. barbarajcarter  |  August 24, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • 3. Liz Grandmaison  |  September 16, 2009 at 6:52 am

    It’s probably a good thing you’re all the way on the other coast because I have a feeling that if you were to visit this fair you’d want to leave your life in CA behind, never to return:


    Totally organic with no tacky souvenirs or *ahem* colorful characters operating rides with dubious maintenance records. There’s even a Harry S. Truman Memorial Manure Toss. Strange, but true.

  • 4. Julie Stuart  |  September 16, 2009 at 7:49 am

    I have a huge thing for goats too. Somewhere in my future there are goats, and cheese, and goat cheese.

  • 5. Judy  |  September 16, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Brindle is actually not that uncommon a color in cattle,(I have a brindle cat, which in cat parlance is tortie, go figure) but I’ve never seen one that shiny! Those 4-H-ers spend a lot of time polishing their beasts. I like rabbits and mules — something about big ears, I guess. There was probably a printed schedule of when the classes would be — that’s how they did it in the olden times.;p

  • 6. barbarajcarter  |  September 16, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Sadly, there were no equines to be seen, long-eared or otherwise.

    There was a printed schedule of that day’s competitions taped to the door of the show barn, which was how we knew to be there for the dairy goat competition. But I never found any listings for the other days.

  • 7. ps pirro  |  September 17, 2009 at 6:29 am

    I’m not a farmer or a 4H alumni, but I love going to a good county fair just to see the animals. For years my favorite summer trip was to the Jackson County fair in southern Indiana because the animals there are just awesome. Huge Belgian draft horses and an amazing variety of sheep and goats and wildly-plumed chickens and a hog barn full of the most enormous creatures this side of the hippo habitat at the zoo. Thanks for sharing your fair w/us. Love that little “king of the hill” goat.

  • 8. Gina Alesso Haberkorn  |  November 21, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    What a fantastic “find” while searching the internet for my Cousin, Casey Alesso of Alesso Farms. Coincidentally, he won this years Alfalfa is King Award. Quite an honor! I can say this without bias as my father and his, Virgil and Johnny Alesso, managed Alesso Farms until they passed away; my father, Virgil, last year, my uncle Johnny 5 years ago. They farmed in Antelope Valley for some 50 years and I couldn’t be prouder of my cousin for carrying the torch, so to speak. I am so glad you enjoyed yourself as I truly enjoyed reading about your experience at the fair. It’s been stomping ground for me for 40 years now; your comments made me smile!

    Thank you and take care!

    Gina Alesso

  • 9. Kelly K.  |  June 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    My daughter forwarded your blog to me…she is the one who won the dairy goat showmanship (senior div.).
    The goats in your photos belong to our family (and you are correct – the white doe is a Nubian). That was my daughter’s last Fair – she aged out of 4H. My son is still active and will be showing dairy goats, a market goat, and a hog in this year’s fair. So glad you enjoyed yourself, & we’d love to have you back this year! If you look in the ‘premium book’/’entry guide’ section of the fair website they have the tentative livestock judging schedule so you can see when particular critters will be there. 🙂 If you come again this year, look for the Littlerockers 4H Goat Project in the barns – we’d love to see you there!

  • 10. Baby Lizard « Barbara J Carter  |  December 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

    […] gathered from my angry rattlesnake story (not to mention my sojourn into the uncharted territory of county fairs) I’m quite the animal lover. So any chance to get this close to a wild animal, even just a […]

Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

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