When the Thurston County Fair draws to a close on Sunday, exhibitors will pack up and head home for Adna, Chehalis, Tenino, Rainier, Yelm and Olympia alike.
On Thursday, FFA, 4-H and Open Class livestock owners, along with artists and visitors walked through sprinklers and found shade in barns as the sun shone on Lacey. While the event offers education and fun for the public, the heat was a reminder that for entrants, county fairs are no cake walk.
Callie Thomas, of the Chehalis FFA, was showing three of her goats at the Thurston County Fair, including one fainting goat.
“It’s a lot smaller than the (Southwest Washington) Fair. So I think it’s fun to experience the fair with different people, a different crowd. I think that’s why I like going to different fairs. Different competition is the main thing,” she said.
Adna graduate Clara Price, who will head off to Utah State University for college in just over two weeks, was there with other Adna and Chehalis FFA students showing six goats. Despite her high school career being over, she’s still showing at the fair because she “loves it,” Price said.
No matter the category of their exhibit, these students and adults have been honing their skills throughout their lives. For those showing livestock, it takes training themselves and their animals in the art of showmanship, embarking on the endless education of agriculture and trusting their relationship with the animals enough to step up and be judged. For those showing their art, it means going toe-to-toe with other creators who may have also spent a lifetime cultivating the skill.
But for Annalisa Moore, of Rainier, bringing her cows to the fair is an obligation.
After doing FFA in high school, Moore continues to show her Hereford cattle at fairs, despite the amount of work required.
“I think the best part is the reward of working hard and just being proud of what you have,” Moore said. “No matter what place you get, you always can be proud because you're always improving yourself.”
From her FFA teacher, Angie Karns, superintendent of FFA beef at the Thurston County Fair, Moore learned the event is an opportunity to be a representative of her field to the public.
“They're the ambassadors for agriculture. So many people are removed from where their food is coming from,” Karns said. “This isn’t a grocery store and it doesn’t just appear there. It takes months and years — depending on the type of animal — to get it there. I was always on them about keeping things clean and talking to the public. Just really exhibiting what agriculture looks like is really important.”
Karns said Rainier FFA is currently in a rebuilding phase after COVID-19 caused a drop in the number of participants. She would encourage anyone to join FFA, no matter their school or background. Programs will find a way for kids to work with animals even if they don’t own any themselves, she said.
The showmanship category at the fair also ensures that winners aren’t just chosen based on the number of dollars they’ve spent on their breeds, Karns added, because no matter how fancy a cow is, if it doesn’t stand still for judging, points get knocked off.
“FFA and 4-H makes kids great people in adulthood,” said Elizabeth Reeves, of Rainier.
Moore added: “It teaches them responsibility and how to be accountable. Not only for yourself but for your animal. It takes a lot to take care of an animal and it’s important to be able to take care of yourself. And the respect you get for animals. A lot of people think that when you butcher the animals, you just don’t really care about them. But these kids bond with their animals.”
For more information, visit https://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/fair.