Winding down at the fair

Traci Westcott/The Herald
Clayton Sickbert, 8, of Holland, relaxes in a cattle trough while Mark McAninch, 9, of St. Henry, and his brother, Gus, 5, watch from inside the beef barn at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Tuesday.


BRETZVILLE — The carnival rides had shut down for the night, the exhibits closed and the food stands were getting rid of their last hamburgers. But as the rest of Bretzville went to sleep Tuesday night, mooing cows, bleating goats and laughing children filled the barns at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds.

It never really gets completely quiet, but with the energies expended for activities and showings throughout the early afternoon and into the evening, the sudden calm was blissful.

Nearly 20 kids and parents occupied the goat and cattle barns, many of which liked the reassurance of being with their animals.

“I like knowing that I’m with my animals,” 12-year-old Grace Kluemper said of her cow. “I wake up and there she is.”

See more photos from Tuesday at the fair

The fourth-year 4-H’er and her friend, Isabella Harmon, swung in a hammock above Grace’s cousins goat pens, where the cool air blowing from a nearby fan washed away the heat from their exhausted bodies.

“These goats are pretty calm,” she said of her cousin’s 6-month-old goats. “They are used to people, so they don’t get too excited or rowdy.”

Grace, who lives on a farm in Jasper, said it’s not the heat or the smell from the animals that bother her when sleeping, it’s the mosquitoes lurking about the barn.

For Isabella, being able to hang out with her friends and the animals is what makes spending a night at the fair so enjoyable. The only thing she has to watch out for, she said, is the goats biting at her hair from the low-hanging hammock.

“We were laying here earlier and Grace’s hair was hanging out [of the hammock], and they were reaching up trying to grab it,” she said.

Isabella, 12, of Jasper, was in 4-H the past two years, but didn’t participate this year because of time constraints due to volleyball. She said she misses competing against her friends, and plans to rejoin next year, when she hopes to show her new rabbit.

Isabella helped Grace give the goats food and water before calling it a night.

Eighteen-year-old Bailey Leonard was resting after a long day during which she took home first place with her sheep.

“We just like the atmosphere of being at the fair and being around all of our friends,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about, ‘Oh, I have to get up and go to work tomorrow.’”

The Ferdinand resident was getting ready to go home for the night, but said she often sleeps in the barns at the fairgrounds. Bailey didn’t grow up on a farm, but always loved animals and decided to join 4-H two years ago.

Seventeen-year-old Allyson Werner of Ferdinand will show her cattle today. An eight-year veteran of 4-H, Allyson has raised cattle since she was little, and said the fair brings out the best in everyone.

“This is a week where a bunch of us come together and compete with one another,” she said. “It’s something that we love doing.”

Allyson also returned home for the night, but there is no doubt the energy and excitement nestled inside the barn will remain until she returns in the morning.

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