Every year I wonder if it’s really worth the time and effort to go to the fair. My friends and I go to Black Sheep Gathering because…hmmm…why do we go? It’s a Road Trip With Sheep. I just bring sheep, look at fiber, and hang around with my friends. That can’t be said for the California State Fair. Although it’s close to home, it’s a lot of work. I set up a big display booth and my Farm Club friends and I staff it all day. It’s hot (105 this year), dusty, and I stay every night until about 8:30 because there are so many people still in the barn. We are under pressure to keep the area spotless and be nice to everyone because we are in contention for a couple of major awards for the display.
For Farm Club member, Mary, who is also a new farm owner, this was a new experience. She has been here before but it’s different when you have your own sheep. Before we can put the sheep in the barn they are checked by the veterinarians.
Once the sheep are settled in their pens we start with the display.
There is prestige and a good monetary award at stake for the Marketing Program that “should be directed at potential customers and show case the exhibitors Breeding Program and Operation”. Here is the scorecard:
Here is the finished display.
I’m glad that I had the last minute thought to provide a Touching Table. That came to me when I was looking for something else in the barn and came across these horns. We’ll expand on this next year. I was especially glad I thought about this when I realized that I had forgotten to bring the A-frame that holds some of our other interactive display material.
In addition to the Marketing Program, there are Herdsman awards that are offered “to encourage attractive, educational, and high quality presentations of all livestock exhibits”. The Herdsman Award is judged on :
- 65% General Appearance
- 25% Neatness/cleanliness of bedding and aisle
- 10% Signage, banners, QR codes
- 10% Creative use of plants and special exhibit materials
- 20% Condition/cleanliness of animals
- 10% Educational material, marketing, breed promotion)
- 25% Feed Alleys/Tack Pen
- 15% Free of debris, not obstructed
- 10% Tack storage
- 10% Conduct
- 5% Exhibitor sportsmanship and cooperation with other exhibitors and staff
- 5% Public interaction and accessibility
In addition there is Best Educational Presentation over all the species entered in the three week run of the fair.
Farm Club members help to set up the display and come each day to staff the area and answer endless questions.
This is the crew that was at the fair on Friday.
I think they worry that I will forget to eat. On $2 Sample Thursday (all the fair food booths have to include a $2 item on their menus) they returned with this treat for me. I have a good photo of all of them eating their selections but they wouldn’t let me use it.
Other faces in the barn include:
This Lincoln across the aisle from us.
Suffolk ram that was just down the aisle.
Longhorn steer at the other end of the barn.
This is one of Mary’s new lambs who seemed delighted with the attention.
The yearling ram, Meridian Rotor, standing behind the “DO NOT PET THE RAMS” sign.
We spent the four days answering questions
- Q: Is he normal? A: Yes, Jacob sheep can have 2 or 4 horns. (And that info is on the other sign right in front of the ram.)
- Q: Where are the pigs? A: Out there (pointing).
- Q: How do you get get it from this (wool in bucket) to this (carded sliver that I’m spinning)? A: We explain. Next year I will include the carders and carded batts, etc to more easily explain that.
- Q: What happens if it breaks (fiber I’m spinning)?. A: Demonstrate how to join it.
- Q: Where are the cows? A: Longhorns are at the other end of the barn. The dairy cows were here last week.
I spun three skeins of singles yarn while I was there.
But it’s really supposed to be all about the sheep show.
Mary and Russ practicing with their sheep.
Dona, Mary, and Amy prepping sheep for the show. We don’t do all the fitting that other breeds do. That morning I had taken each sheep to the wash stall to clean their legs and feet. We wiped their noses and cleaned the grime off the eartags. Then we pretty much just brushed off the straw and were ready to go.
The show started with yearling rams and I was thrilled when Rotor was placed first in his class and then awarded Champion Ram of the Primitive Breeds Division. The judge was not as happy with the rest of my sheep and they were interspersed with or at the end of the line-up of Shetland and Karakul sheep that were also in our division. Even Honey, who was champion Jacob ewe at Black Sheep Gathering, was placed last in her class.
The breed show was Saturday. On Sunday champions from all 14 Divisions compete for the award of Supreme Champion. Rotor lo0ks pretty small in that line-up. (Some of those smaller sheep ahead of him are ram lambs that won their divisions.) As the judge went down the line he stopped and scrutinized him more than the others.
He was one of four rams pulled out of the line-up to be in contention for the award.
Thanks to Dona who got these great photos of us in the ring. In this photo the judge is discussing the four rams and said that although he wouldn’t ever want a Jacob (at least I think I heard that) he was very impressed with Rotor.
He awarded Rotor Supreme Champion Ram of the State Fair!!!
Here is me right after with all my loot.
Oh yeah, some of that is for the Herdsman and Marketing awards. Usually that is the highlight for me because I don’t expect to win with my sheep.
From right to left: Supreme Champion Ram (banner and buckle); Best Educational Presentation (Herdsman); Best Program (Marketing); Third Best Educational Presentation over all the species for the three weeks of the fair; Second in Herdsman; Best Marketing Program.
Of all the years showing in 4-H and later with our dairy and then with sheep, I’ve never had a belt buckle! I guess I need some Wranglers to go with it. And maybe some boots. I realized after the show that I hadn’t even changed into my (work) boots for the show and I was wearing those sandals through the whole thing. The excuse is that it the show was at 5 p.m. in the afternoon of a 105 degree day. (I was wearing jeans though. This picture was taken later at home.)