Editor’s note: For a Sidney Daily News freelance reporter, Monday at the Shelby County Fair was not an ordinary assignment. He shares his day at the fair.
SIDNEY — My assignment: Track down OSU Extension officer Laura Norris at the Shelby County Fair Monday, get an interview and possibly some photos. Piece of cake.
1:10 p.m. Learned that the Junior Fair Board has 28 members, 73 of whom were beating the sweltering heat by glomming onto the A/C unit in the Junior Fair Board Office. Assured that Norris just left and was headed to the dairy barn. On my way.
1:30 p.m. The Open Class dairy shows were just winding down in the Kent Feeds Arena. The last event on the schedule Monday was the dairy judging contest, where the exhibitors become judges. Working in teams of four, exhibitors from the various 4-H clubs are shown four heifers and asked to indicate which one was the biggest (not as easy as it sounds), which one had the correct feet and legs, and so on. Participants are not allowed to speak to each other during the judging and must turn in their written answers, leading to the amusing spectacle of 20 silent 4-Hers scribbling notes while following four heifers around the show arena. Think of it as an Accountants’ Rodeo. Asked a junior fair board member where Norris could be found, was told that she was probably at the horse barns. On my way.
2:16 p.m. After thumbing a ride from Director Walt Wright to the horse arena (we talked about how hot it was), found that Western riding was in full swing. Here horse and rider are expected to execute a series of moves — pivots, full stops, tight circles — all under the watchful eye of a judge, who assigns a point value to each trick. This is not a weekends-only activity. Making it to the horse arena Monday was the result of hundreds of hours spent in the ring at home with a beast that might just outweigh you by half-a-ton and has its own ideas about what’s what. Participants wear helmets for a reason. A junior fair board member tried Norris on her phone. No go. Was told to try the Extension Office. On my way.
2:22 p.m. Learned that going to the Extension Office would involve actually leaving the fairgrounds. On my way to the Junior Fair Board Office.
2:48 p.m. Having been told on good authority that the Pork Producers’ sausage sandwich beats anything on the Midway, stopped by their booth to test that theory. Found no reason to be a disbeliever. Try it with a little horseradish, pickles, and mustard. On my way … in a minute.
3:10 p.m. Had a nice chat with Judie Gaerke at the suspiciously busy (and nicely chilled) Junior Fair Board office. Learned that the goat show might be delayed as the judge is stuck somewhere in Lake County. Hung out in the A/C as long as possible without being rude. Gaerke took my number to give to Norris, who may or may not have an operational cell phone. Given that every Junior Fair Board member has a phone of their own and Norris’ number on speed dial, it was understood that Norris was not adding anyone to her “friends” list during Fair Week. Unconfirmed Norris sighting at the horse barns. On my way.
3:18 p.m. Received call from Norris herself. She was not at the horse barns. Our brief conversation underscored how hectic Fair Week is for the Extension Office. What with looming goat show delays and dozens of other details, we let her off the hook for the time being. Perhaps after the goat show finally gets started? That’s fine.
3:35 p.m. Watched various beef and dairy critters being pampered with cool showers behind the cattle barns. Yes, Virginia, they do blow-dry steers. Gave a very wide right-of-way to two skid loaders that were disposing of 5-feet-tall piles of straw and manure.
5:58 p.m. Checked in at the Junior Fair board office. Just missed Norris, who has a great future in Witness Protection. On my way to the Human Tractor Pull in the Grandstands.
6:37 p.m. A Chevy truck with 49 occupants and a overtaxed suspension is driving through Gate D. Seventy-three people wedged into a box truck came through the gate a few minutes prior. This must mean one thing. It’s Carload Night at the Shelby County Fair. The All-Time Record for number of people in, on, around, or under one vehicle is under dispute and ranges from 88 to 93 people. Trailers don’t count.
7:10 p.m. Four grade-schoolers are using a rope to pull a Case tractor approximately 150 feet. This is the Richard Prince Memorial Human Tractor Pull. Presented by the Shelby County Antique Power Association, teams of four — men, women, boys, girls — are charged to drag tricked-out vintage farm machinery half the length of a football field while being timed for their efforts. It’s a wonderful showcase for some beautifully restored tractors and a real hoot for those not participating.
8:10 p.m. One last pass at the Junior Fair Board Office. Just missed Norris. Gave up search until Thursday.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.