More than 80 human exhibitors, a few hundred spectators and about 500 birds battled the heat during Friday’s 2012 Bartholomew County 4-H Poultry Show.
With the temperature topping 100 degrees, fair officials made efforts to ensure the comfort of both people and poultry on the first day of the fair.
“We’re trying to keep them as cool as we can,” 4-H Fair Board President Larry Fisher said of the poultry and other livestock. “It’s probably the same as it would be if they were on the farm. Maybe better conditions as far as cooling goes.”
Large fans shot cool air toward chicken cages. Ducks paddled around in a small, plastic swimming pool and huddled in the shade of a tent.
And contest officials allowed human contestants to break dress code without penalty, making way for T-shirts and tank tops instead of button-down shirts.
“A lot of kids have done a good job with the heat this year keeping the chickens alive,” said Matt John, Bartholomew County Feathered Friends 4-H Poultry Club leader, adding the poultry show attracts more exhibitors than other livestock competitions because it is a relatively “inexpensive project.”
The popularity of the event, he said, also stems from the fact kids living in the city can participate, since hens, unlike other livestock, often can be kept in backyards.
The format of the poultry show also changed slightly to ensure the health of the animals. The showmanship portion of the contest, in which exhibitors answer questions about their birds, was scheduled to begin in the morning.
Instead, showmanship took place in the afternoon to allow birds not participating in the event to be taken home. In the past, livestock have been kept at the fairgrounds for the duration of the fair.
Fisher said it is at the owners’ discretion as to whether they will take their animals home.
“Either way,” he said, “they’ll be cared for.”
Livestock aren’t the only ones fair
officials want to keep cool in the coming weeks, though.
“We encourage people to stay hydrated with lots of cold water and Gatorade,” Fisher said.
Misting stations also are available for fair-goers to walk through for a quick cooldown. Fisher said the stations are located on both sides of the walkway on South Street, near Lil’ Hands on the Farm and on the north side of the fairgrounds.
A first aid station, provided by Columbus Township Volunteer Fire Department, is located near the Community Building by the firetrucks.
“I think people can still have a good time at the fair, even though it’s hot,” Fisher said.
Despite the heat, the poultry show brought about its share of fun surprises.
Among the day’s winners were 11-year-old Olivia Hoeltke and her 9-month-old fawn runner duck, Lulu, who took the title of reserve champion light duck.
The key to Olivia and Lulu’s success came in the preparation.
At home, Olivia often can be found talking to Lulu and carrying her around, mother Whitney Greathouse said. Olivia also taught the duck to stand up straight, one of the main criteria judges look for in a duck.
Lulu got a bath before the big day, as well.
“We have three buckets and we dip her,” Olivia said.
“And then I let her go to dry herself.”
Another surprise came during judging of the chickens in the American class.
Eight-year-old Jenna Boewe of Columbus was helping her brother, Brendan, 12, show chickens when she suddenly felt something fall from her chicken onto the sawdust-covered floor beneath her boots.
“I was holding (the chicken), and something plopped down on the floor,” Jenna said. “We looked down, and it was an egg.”
Brendan ran the brown egg, covered in sawdust, to his mother, Lesley Boewe, who was just as surprised as her kids were.
“I’ve never seen it happen,” Lesley Boewe said, “But I don’t have a lot of experience.”
So, just how often does that happen?
“Not very often,” said John, who moderated the show. “That’s kind of rare.”
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