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Fun at Field Days: Livestock and politicians are big part of the scene

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Posted on August 16, 2010 |
By Andrea Suozzo and George Altshuler



web_cowinside1509.jpg
MEGAN HILL, ABOVE left, and Britney Hill groom a calf in the 4-H Dairy Barn before competing in the Cow Palace at Addison County Fair and Field Days last week.

Livestock and politicians are big part of the scene

Editor’s note: Addison County Fair and Field Days provides a calliope of sights and sounds that tantalize the senses and tickle the imagination, and the 62nd annual edition last week was no exception. As always, the five-day event proved too much to capture in one place, but we’re presenting a few verbal snapshots from the fairgrounds along with some of Trent Campbell’s fantastic photographs so you can relive the experiences and hopefully make plans to attend next year.

NEW HAVEN — Two brown Romney sheep pulled Raymond Bushey, 12, and his 10-year-old brother, Jarod, across the New Haven fairgrounds one day last week.

The group of four attracted some followers.

A half a minute after the quartet had left a 4-H competition in the sheep tents on the western edge of the fairgrounds, the foursome met up with the boys’ 22-year-old half-sister Jacqueline Hunt.

After briefly exchanging greetings, the group and its newest member were off, with the sheep pulling the 3-foot ropes attached to their harnesses tight as they led the charge.

There was a brief pause in front of the 4-H dairy tent as the sheep, named Peace and Jewel, held up the group to enjoy some grass.

“The reason why this one’s Jewel is because of the white Jewel on its head,” Jarod explained as he lifted Jewel’s head up from the grass, showing a white splotch in between the sheep’s ears.

After the sheep tore away a few more mouthfuls of grass, the group was off again — this time with the boys pulling the sheep. Raymond and Jarod wanted to show their mother Peace and Jewel, whom they had just sheared for the third time.

They assumed she was in a barn on the eastern side of the fairgrounds.

Jacqueline smiled as the group sped up to an ovine canter restrained by harnesses (about the speed of a human jog). As the pace slowed again to a walk, she explained that she had competed in bovine 4-H competitions when she was a little younger.

It was smooth sailing east on the fairgrounds’ main pedestrian path, with only two quick stops for admirers who wanted to pet the sheep.

Then the group turned left after the Lions Club concessions stand and things slowed down a little.

Kaci Davis, a 20-year-old concession stand worker from Middletown, Conn., wanted to take a picture of the sheep with her camera phone.

Raymond explained that the sheep are this year’s lambs.    

“But they can get up to be 10 years old,” Jarod added.

The boys are from “just down the road” in Addison, and earlier this summer they went to an overnight “sheep camp” on the fairgrounds.

The charge continued past antique equipment demonstrations and finally to the sheep barn.

Mom wasn’t there, though, so the group took advantage of their eldest member’s cell phone and a meeting was planned at the family’s trailer next to the demolition derby tractor pad. 

There, mother, daughter, sons and sheep were happily united.

 — George Altshuler

UVM students show their hands-on work

Several University of Vermont students trimmed and cleaned a docile Jersey cow in a barn at Field Days Thursday afternoon.

The students were part of CREAM (Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management), which maintains a 70-cow dairy herd in Burlington. The students in the program — 12 in the summer, and around 16 during the rest of the year — take care of the cows, make decisions about the financial management of the farm and get course credit for their work. And for a couple weeks in the summer, they travel to the Addison County Fair and Field Days and the Champlain Valley Fair to enter their cows in competition.

Rebecca Calder, a junior pre-veterinary major, pointed to a tent just outside the barn — within plain earshot of screams coming from the midway rides.

“That’s where we’re staying all week,” she said.

On competition days, she said, the crew gets up between 4 and 5 a.m. to get the cows all ready for their shows.

The Holsteins, who had already headed back to the farm on Wednesday, netted two third-place prizes and one fourth-place in their categories. And the students still had more competitions to prepare for.  The team was primping their best Jerseys for the next round of competitions.

But though the students were all smiles on Thursday, managing a dairy herd isn’t always a day at the fair.

“You do make tough decisions,” Calder said.

— Andrea Suozzo

Foxcroft Farm makes a game out of choices

Bill Moore read out definitions of character traits like “loyal,” “obnoxious” and “shy” at a table in the Field Days Children’s Barnyard last Thursday afternoon.

“Doing your homework” was one of the phrases that defined “responsible” — but with 36 character trait cards to choose from on the large piece of posterboard, it wasn’t an easy choice. Those who chose right put a colored tile over that word on the board, while a wrong choice gave the next player a chance to answer correctly.

The game was part of the annual presentation at the Foxcroft Farm Harvest Program’s booth at Field Days

The alternative education program in Leicester allows students struggling with the traditional education system to attend classes for half a day, then spend the rest of the day working on the farm or doing service projects. Most students, Moore said, come from Otter Valley Union High School, but other districts can tuition students into the program as well.

The Field Days booth was part of Foxcroft’s six-week summer program, which has a slightly different focus than during the school year. Among other things, the summer students create a game to play with those passing through the Children’s Barnyard. Last year’s was a board game featuring trivia about Lake Champlain. This year, the theme for both the game and the larger Foxcroft program was “cultivating character” — which will also be incorporated into the design for the school’s annual corn maze.

Seth and David, both 15-year-old participants in the summer program, had been at the booth since 9:30 that morning, and would be there for the rest of the afternoon. They played the games and handed out the prizes: stickers, pencils and pieces of cheese.

Moore, who would be there all week, said spending time at Field Days was a good experience for all the students who participated in the program.

“It’s a great opportunity to have positive interactions with younger kids,” he said.

— Andrea Suozzo

Area politicians serve up dinner and laws

Along with the floor debates and politicking that come with being elected to public office, lawmakers from this area also earn the right to do something a little more hands-on: They are allowed to serve dinner at Field Days’ Vermont Products dinner.

So various legislators, including Vermont’s senior U.S. senator, Patrick Leahy, stopped in to serve up mashed potatoes and Vermont chicken in the fairgrounds’ main dining area last Tuesday evening. 

Leahy, who is running for reelection in November, and his wife, Marcelle, had spent the afternoon at the fair, and Leahy explained that the couple’s first stop was the 4-H barn.

“I love seeing the 4-H kids,” he said. “In the eight years I was state’s attorney I had a very active juvenile court, and we never had a kid in there that had been involved in 4-H or Scouting. They teach them responsibility.

“So every time I come to one of these fairs, I go to the 4-H tent and tell these young people their work is worth it,” he continued.

Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Weybridge, joined Leahy to serve food in the dining area; she’s come every year since she was first elected to the state Senate in 2002.

“The food is always wonderful,” she said. “It’s nice for our local producers to be able to show off what they make. It made a difference to me. The first time I had Misty Knoll chicken, for example, was here, and that’s what I buy now.”

— George Altshuler

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