County fair's first day all about kids, parents, animals

July 20, 2013 Updated: July 21, 2013 at 1:32 pm
photo - Daniel Shapiro, 11, from Black Forest, pets his 5-month-old goat Isabel before a competition, during the first day of the El Paso County Fair, in Calhan, Saturday, July 20, 2013. Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette.
Daniel Shapiro, 11, from Black Forest, pets his 5-month-old goat Isabel before a competition, during the first day of the El Paso County Fair, in Calhan, Saturday, July 20, 2013. Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette. 

At 11 a.m. Saturday, the El Paso County Fair was easing along with 4-H competitions.

The runways were empty and carnival rides idled. The fair in Calhan has a seven-day run, wrapping up July 27.

But this is how a county fair is supposed to start, slow and easy, with farm animals, kids and parents.

By about noon, high profile events got underway.

There were the Street Drum Corps, Timberworks Lumberjack Show, Gypsy Time Travelers.

Turkey legs were going for a hefty $9.

The runways slowly filled with fairgoers, most in shorts and T-shirts to help handle the glaring sun.

Carny barker voices rose and rides rumbled.

"Amigo, amigo," called out one vendor in front of his stand, jammed with blankets and sport paraphernalia with a Latino bent, serapes with team logos and colors from the Green Bay Packers and other NFL teams.

"We have blankets."

The serious stuff was in the arenas.

A few weeks ago, Elijah Henry's family lost their barn to the Black Forest fire, but the animals were saved.

One of them was competing at the fair.

It was a welcome distraction.

Henry, the number 367 on his back, had wrapped up his goat competition for this day. But it's just the start. He has other days of competition ahead and will be at the fair until it closes.

The 14-year-old and his goat, Bertha, won first in her class, third overall.

Bertha, he said, "Looks really good."

The competition, he noted, "is stressful at first. Once you get here though, it's really rewarding."

A breeder, he has 10 goats, two of which will be sold at the fair. Goats are sold for their milk, or for wool, he said.

Henry likes animals and his future, he said, likely will include "a bunch of land where I can have a lot of animals."

While Henry was done for the day, 11-year-old Katelyn Robinson, her mom, Kerri Robinson and a lamb who goes by "Mustang Sally" were in final preparation for competition in the 4-H Breeding Sheep Show.

"She's crazy," Kerri said of the lamb, which ignored her.

Kerri combed the lamb's rear legs, a final touch, like patting down a cowlick before a big date.

Katelyn polished off a peanut butter sandwich. They are with the Stetson Hills 4-H Club.

Around them in this narrow corridor of pens inside the Livestock Arena, goats and lambs "b-a-a-a-ed" and "n-a-a-a-ed."

There really is a difference, said Kerri. Lambs "Baa." Goats "Naa."

Katelyn was "nervous, not super nervous, just kinda nervous."

The trio, "Mustang Sally" in tow, entered the arena, a cavernous indoor space with a few bleachers resting on dirt.

Fencing surrounded the competition area, where Katelyn dragged, shoved, pushed and pulled her lamb, a swat on the rear when Mustang Sally was hesitant.

Then Katelyn put her arms around the lamb's neck as they entered the ring with other contestants.

It's not really hugging, Katelyn said.

Contestants grab their lamb around the neck because it helps with the lamb's posture during competition. Even standing, the contestants hang onto their animal's neck, twisting it at times, the animal's weight against them to gain a good, strong position during judging.

Katelyn and Mustang Sally finished second in their class.

Most important, though, they gained a spot in the finals, where the top placers compete for the championship.

They just missed.

Even though Katelyn and Mustang Sally didn't place in the final, Judge Jackie McKenney singled the team out.

It was close, McKenney said. She almost gave the duo third place in the overall.

It was a good start to the fair for Katelyn.

This was her first breeding lamb competition and Mustang Sally kept from running wild, which was "very unusual."

She got a red ribbon and $3.

And she's not finished competing yet, the promise of more ribbons lingering as the fair rolls through its week.

Her number is 335.

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