4-H Fair: People, animals acclimate to heat

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Cody Danhafer of Dubois, 13, left, was unsuccessful in snatching the hose from Lexi Mattingly of Holland, 13, as Lexi sprayed Cody with water outside of the horse barn during the Dubois County 4-H Fair on Thursday morning. Both 4-H’ers showed horses at the fair, where the temperature reached the mid-90s Wednesday and Thursday. More photos from the fair are here.


Herald Staff Writer

BRETZVILLE — Water and fans are in high demand at the Dubois County 4-H Fair as workers, participants and animals alike try to cope with the summer heat.

Hogs tussle over whose turn it is at the water spigot, horses are hosed down and birds spread their wings for better air flow. Sheep and goats pant, while rabbits keep their ears in the breeze.

Humans are finding their own solutions. They guzzle water, plunk down in front of huge fans in the barns, try to stick to the shade and find temporary refuge by visiting air-conditioned trailers at the nearby Dubois County Park campground. A massive, planned shaving cream and water fight Thursday afternoon left participants soaked to the skin, but 4-H’ers also have taken to spraying each other with water in mini-battles from time to time.

“We all go through a lot of water,” said a soaked Dan Collignon, 4-H council president, after dousing another council member with a cooler full of ice water in water-battle retaliation Thursday. “But it’s been better this year. Last year was like an oven 24 hours a day because it just didn’t cool off at night.”

Since the fair started Saturday, daily high temperatures in nearby Huntingburg have remained above 90 degrees. Wednesday and Thursday marked the hottest days of the year so far, with both topping out at 96 degrees. High humidity levels throughout the week also have taken a toll.

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasmine Curtis of Ferdinand, 15, attempted to keep her pug, Rocky, cool by putting a cold wet towel over him after competing in the dog obedience judging at the Dubois County 4-H Fair on Thursday. More photos from the fair are here.

Large fans run nonstop in all the barns, the drone of them audible from well outside the barn entrances.

“If we keep the air moving, it helps,” Collignon said.

Grace Sickbert of Huntingburg, 11, spent part of her morning giving her four hogs fresh bedding and refilling their water dispensers. Pigs don’t sweat and are one of the most heat-intolerant species at the fair.

“We’re here probably five times a day giving them water and spraying them down,” Grace said. “Sometimes it’s so hot, we’ll just dump the water on them instead of spraying them.”

Rabbits also have a hard time coping with high temperatures, but unlike hogs, they shouldn’t be doused with water and their owners have to get creative. Jasper 4-H’er Anna Wagner, 14, lightly mists her rabbits if needed and will put Gatorade bottles full of frozen water inside their cages for the animals to lie next to.

“They love them,” she said of the bottles. “They’ll roll it around their cage.”

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Sam Kluesner of St. Anthony, 7, raced to finish his ice cream cone before the heat melted it in the swine barn at the Dubois County 4-H Fair on Thursday morning.

Jaylyn Giesler of Huntingburg, 12, said her quarter horse, Nacho, was tolerating the heat better than she expected. She hoses him down, though his chestnut coat still showed a couple of sweat stains Thursday morning after being ridden Wednesday night.

“I’m actually kind of surprised how well he’s doing,” she said. Horses “tend not to listen very well when they get hot and miserable. He’s been doing pretty good.”

4-H’ers flock to the Huntingburg Optimist Club’s food stand to get what is commonly known as “4-H water,” a foam cup of ice water that participants can get from the organization for free.

“We’ll go through probably 1,000 cups just for the waters by the time fair week is over,” Optimist Club board member Kerry Blessinger said. “It’s a constant flow all day long. It can be challenging to get all the waters, especially when we have people lining up for food too. But we’ve done it forever.”

Fair Queen Brooke Wessel and her court have been at the fair all day every day.

“We have had mass amounts of lemon shake-ups,” the 18-year-old Wessel, of Jasper, said. “That and lots and lots of water. We check in with each other making sure we’re drinking enough water, staying hydrated.”

The queen’s court members also have a semi-secret, air-conditioned hideout — an office at the Clover Pavilion — they can duck into when needed. They often hitch rides with fair staff on all-terrain vehicles instead of trudging across the fairgrounds in the sun.

“People have been really good to us,” Wessel said.

The 4-H council sets up coolers of ice water and stacks of cups at shows for volunteers and participants so they can stay hydrated as they work in the arenas.

“We have a private stash of bottled water that we’ve been going through too,” Collignon said of the council members.

So far, Collignon said he is unaware of there having been any major problems at the fair caused by the heat for either humans or animals.

“And we’re hoping to keep it that way,” he said.

All animals are being released from the fair today and will head back to the comfort of their own homes.

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com.

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