Those of you who didn't grow up showing probably won't understand this, but showing at the county fair is something that just sort of gets in your blood. Back in the glory days, there were so many kids showing that we'd pack the bleachers every Tuesday afternoon to listen to Weezer tell us to feed our hogs before the Ladies Lead, not to feed in the barn, and to be sure we had our pens cleaned out by 9:00. It was amazing to look around and see how many showers there were just in our own county.
Friendships are made at county fairs that last forever. BFF and I met at the county fair 17 years ago, and I think it's safe to say that relationship isn't going anywhere! The best part is usually these friendships are with people from different schools. To this day I'll run into someone from another high school and people will be baffled at how I could have been such good friends with someone from another town. A lot of the times, the answer involves the county fair.
And when you made friends at the fair, you didn't just make friends with the kids showing, but you made friends with their parents and ag teachers too. This is where your real "showing family" bonds got started. When we were showing, we were lucky. We had a group of people "in our corner" who were (and still are) like one big disfunctional family. We had to have our showboxes together. We knew which was the lucky can of Revive and which was the lucky halter. We had rules, like no one besides us, Rusky, Mr. F and Wade were ever allowed to touch our lambs. And we had showing family in other barns as well. I can't tell you how many times I ran a blower or was the official breaker flipper for the Perez brothers! It was great to know that you'd always have your showing family behind you.
Lots of fun is had at the county fair. Water fights on the washracks, playing cards in the pig barn (this is probably way better now that the pigs are all fat and full and happy instead of starving to death like back in my day!), shooting the breeze in a circle around someone's show box, dances on Friday night.....these are some of my favorite memories of my childhood.
It wasn't all fun and games, don't get me wrong. The fair was hard work and fierce competetion. There were years when my brother and I would have over 20 animals at the fair and about the time you got done watering pigs, it was time to drench sheep, and then it was time to water pigs.....and the cycle never ended. It was worth it though if you took home that banner at the end of the show.
Then there was also the family bonding. One example is how my brother and I developed a little sign language all our own for coaching each other in the ring. My parents were always really supportive of my brother and I, and right in the middle of the fair fun. Working concession stands, sheering lambs, trying to keep everyone calm on the pig washrack....the parents had it pretty rough. The phrase "washrack moment" was coined at the county fair in about 2000 or so when my brother smarted off and wound up in a choke hold by my father up against the washrack. There were probably 15 people out there or walking by, and no one blinked. They all knew...they'd been there before! (Oh, and let's not forget the yearly family photo....example below!)
So there you have it. Hopefully those of you who didn't grow up showing will take advantage of your county's fair and go check out the animals. Hopefully those of you who did grow up showing appreciate the experience as much as I did. I wouldn't trade those days of walking around with wet shoes, a sunburned face, feeling completely exhausted and being covered in dirt for anything. They made me who I am today.