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Sat, Dec. 14

Fair participants serious about animals - this is no pet project

Adriana Aguillon and her pig, Gorda, at the 2015 Mohave County Fair.

Adriana Aguillon and her pig, Gorda, at the 2015 Mohave County Fair.

KINGMAN – If you can smell cow dung, hear pigs squeal, goats bleat and horses neigh, you’re either on the farm or at a good old-fashioned country fair that harkens back to America’s rural roots.

That’s what makes the Mohave County Fair one of the best in the state, said Gerald Olson, director of Mohave County 4-H program.

Some 250 4-H members will show their animals and year-long projects at the 70th annual Mohave County Fair starting Thursday, culminating with the 4-H and FFA Parade of Champions and Livestock Auction at 6 p.m. Saturday in the livestock arena.

“These kids have been working hard all year, raising their animals and working on their entomology projects, and this is where they exhibit at the end of the year,” Olson said Tuesday. “This is the showcase of what the kids have learned all year.”

Youths ages 9-19 have spent months feeding and caring for their animals and keeping a budget of expenses, and now it’s time to take little piggy to the marketplace. This is where they learn that raising hogs, sheep and beef is a business venture, not a pet project.

For some of the larger animals, the 4-H kids have to take out a loan from the bank and pay it back. A six-month-old steer can cost $1,000 to $1,500, and it’ll consume several hundred pounds of feed over the next nine months.

It’s a lot cheaper for a commercial venture to feed 1,000 head of cattle than for a 4-H member to buy 50-pound bags at the feed store for one animal, Olson noted.

And the kids don’t just drop off their animals at the fairgrounds and get back to playing Pokemon Go. They’ll spend hours grooming the animals and getting them ready for judging. The blue-ribbon beef fetches top dollar, so it’s all about showmanship at this point.

It takes a lot of practice for a skinny 4-H kid to lead a 1,000-pound steer around the arena and “put their best foot forward,” Olson said.

James Guillot, manager of Mohave County Fair Association, said the livestock portion of the fair outside 4-H participation has died off in recent years, probably due to Kingman growing as a city and losing some of its farmland.

“Our animal department was filled a few years ago,” Guillot said. “Anybody could bring in their pig or cow. Honestly, people just don’t have time anymore.”

Along with livestock,

4-H exhibits on display at the fair include baking, sewing, photography and crafts.

Most of the county fair exhibits are judged before opening day, whereas the 4-H judging takes place during the fair.

“It’s kind of a show within the show to watch the kids handle their animals and the actual showing and judging,” Olson said.

For a complete schedule of 4-H and FFA judging and other fair events, go to mcfafairgrounds.org.

Fair admission is $7 for ages 12 and up; $4 for children 4-11 and seniors; and free for children under 4. Parking is $3.

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