“Birds of a feather can’t flock together — but their humans can.”

Those words of optimism, along with an illustration of a sick chicken with a thermometer, were featured on T-shirts available during Friday’s 4-H Poultry Show at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair. Written at the bottom of the shirt: “We survived the Avian Flu at the 2015 Bartholomew County Fair.”

A few weeks after a single flock of virus-infected poultry was found west of Fort Wayne, a statewide ban on exhibiting birds of any type at Indiana county fairs was announced May 27.

The ban was relaxed Friday by the State Board of Animal Health, but too late for Bartholomew County 4-Hers to show their chickens at the county fair Friday morning. The ban will be fully lifted Sept. 17, too late for the Indiana State Fair next month.

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Even without their feathered entries, most of the 106 local 4-H’ers enrolled in the poultry project still competed.

In the 4-H Pavilion, Chloe Krueger was nervous about competing without her dark Chinese silkie chicken.

The St. Peter’s Lutheran School student had been eager to show off the bird’s plumage, which is so fluffy her friends often mistake pictures of it for a rabbit, Chloe said.

“My daughter is so nervous because now it’s all on her,” said her mother, Joleen Krueger of Columbus.

However, a 4-H member from Hauser had a different perspective.

“Actually, they made it easier on us,” said Beau McKinney, 14. “We just have to make a presentation and answer questions.”

While chicken eggs were brought in, the 4-H’ers competed on showmanship. A number of them used photos, posters and other visual aids during presentations before a judge.

Quite a few 4-H members nodded in agreement as poultry superintendent Trina Brumley described how her daughter suddenly hated the grind of caring for her chickens after the bird ban was announced.

But poultry judge Guy Studebaker commended the local 4-H organization for obtaining movie passes and gift certificates, as well as organizing a chicken cook-off and other activities, as ways to reward the kids and their parents for their hard work.

While having a poultry show without poultry is certainly unusual, Studebaker compared it to being given lemons and deciding to make lemon meringue pie.

“The kids are what is important,” said Studebaker, a Clinton County minister and farming implement dealer who has been judging poultry shows for 20 years. “Do we teach them that when we can’t have our way, we pout about it? Or do we teach them to try to make something even better?”

In the livestock barn next to the pavilion, Regan Nicholson contemplated what it would be like to enter pigs at the fair without being able to show them.

“I’ve worked so hard for this and put in so much time and effort,” the 14-year-old said. “It would be heartbreaking.”

However, the Columbus East freshman admits she might not be able to escape a different kind of sadness during the 4-H Livestock Sale on July 18.

“I know I’m not supposed to get emotionally attached to my pigs,” Regan said. “But this one nuzzles and wants me to pet him all the time. It’s going to be so hard to let him go.”

While gardeners didn’t seem to be as attached to their Open Class Flower Show entries, there was certainly a lot of pride as the exhibits were brought to the fair Friday, said Sherry Warner, president of the Common Ground Garden Club.

Individual lilies, carnations, daffodils and other varieties were displayed in soda pop bottles or plastic containers, so only the flower could be judged, Warner said.

However, the planter category for the competition is an entirely different matter, she said.

For example, Donna Mount entered a child’s red wagon with a bed that had been transformed into a complete farm landscape, including an illuminated barn, fencing, cattle feeder and watering pond. The plants appear as tree foliage throughout the farm.

While doing her best to maintain objectivity, the club president said Mount’s creative entry could make it a little tough on the competition this year.

Fairgoers were braving soggy weather Friday as they brought entries into the fair and competed.

The lingering rain did affect one of the fair’s biggest attractions on opening day.

After Friday evening thunderstorms were added to the forecast, the fair board canceled the opening night Lucas Oil Pro Pulling competition for trucks and tractors at the grandstand.

There just wasn’t enough time or breaks in the rain to get the track in shape for the competition, said Larry Fisher, fair board president.

About the fair

The Bartholomew County 4-H Fair is at 750 W. County Road 200S, Garden City.

Admission to the fair is free, although fees apply for midway rides and grandstand entertainment.

Today is Military Appreciation Day. Anyone with a military ID can park for free. Parking fees are assessed after 1 p.m.

VIP parking will be provided at Southside Elementary School by the Columbus FFA. Parking is $5 per day while space is available. The Southside parking lot will not be available for paid parking on Sunday, as it will be utilized for the Little Miss & Mister and Jack & Jill contest participants.

Handicapped parking is available for vehicles with a state-issued handicapped parking pass, located near Southside Elementary School off County Road 200S.

Information: bartholomewcountyfair.com, 812-372-6133

Fair schedule

TODAY

Military Appreciation Day; anyone with a military ID can park for free.

7 a.m. to 11 a.m.: All species check–in

8:30 a.m.: 4-H Horse & Pony English Halter & Performance Show

9 a.m.: Lil’ Wrangler and 4-H Dairy Shows — Pavilion

12:30 p.m.: Lil’ Wranglers Goat Show — Pavilion

1 p.m.: 4-H Goat Show — Pavilion

2 to 10 p.m.: 4-H Community, Family Arts Buildings, Commercial buildings open

2 p.m.: Share the Fun 4-H Winners — David Boll Theatre

3 to 5:30 p.m.: Registration for Pedal Tractor Pull — Farm Bureau Building

5 to 10 p.m.: Midway opens — Regular tickets until 10 p.m.

5 to 10 p.m.: Lil’ Hands on the Farm

5 to 7:30 p.m.: Pedal Tractor Pull — east of Farm Bureau Building. Registration begins at 3 p.m., $2 entry

6 p.m.: Autumn’s Dawn bluegrass — David Boll Theatre

7 p.m.: 4-H Rabbit registration deadline — Community Building (Leader available at 5 p.m.)

7 p.m.: Demolition Derby — Grandstand

7:30 p.m.: Act to be announced — David Boll Theatre

7:30 to 9 p.m.: Wild Azalia Blue — Farm Bureau Building

10 p.m. to 1 a.m.: Midnight Madness Midway, $12 wristbands

SUNDAY

8:30 a.m.: 4-H Horse & Pony Western Halter & Performance Show

9 a.m. to noon: Swine weigh-in

12:15 p.m.: Jack & Jill Pageant check–in — Farm Bureau Building

12:30 p.m.: Lil’ Wrangler Rabbit Show — Pavilion

1 p.m.: 4-H Rabbit Show — Pavilion

1 p.m.: Little Miss & Mister contest interview — David Boll Theatre Gazebo

1 p.m.: Jack & Jill Pageant — Farm Bureau Building

1 p.m.: Columbus FFA Antique Tractor Pull — Grandstand

2 to 10 p.m.: 4-H Community, Family Arts and Commercial buildings open

5 p.m.: Vesper services: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will lead the service — David Boll Theatre next to Community Building

5 p.m.: Midway opens, $23 wristbands

5 to 10 p.m.: Lil’ Hands on the Farm

6 p.m.: Little Miss & Mister Public Contest — David Boll Theatre

6:30 p.m.: Columbus Power Elite competition cheer group — David Boll Theatre

6:30 p.m.: Bartholomew County Farm Stock Tractor Pull — Grandstand

7 to 8 p.m.: Possum Glory Train Band — Farm Bureau Building

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.