SIDNEY — The Shelby County Fair: ah, the sights, the sounds, the tastes — the smells.
There is definitely one section of the local fairgrounds that is more pungent than the rest. People need only walk near barns that house the cattle, the hogs, the sheep, the goats, the rabbits and the horses to get a whiff of something that says “fair” as much as does the aroma of cotton candy and corn dogs.
There’s nothing quite like the smell of manure mixed with straw and pine chips on a hot summer’s day.
And what becomes of all that stuff creating those odors? What happens to fair poop?
First, it is cleaned out of the stalls by the young people whose animals are housed in them. Grant Albers, 12, of Anna, son of Chris and Ron Albers, and his brother and sister were busy Wednesday shoveling out the stalls that housed their hogs.
“We clean every three or two days, when shavings start turning brown,” Grant said. The 4-Hers are responsible for supplying the bedding materail. The shavings are sold by the cubic foot in compact packages, each slightly larger than a cider block. There are 2.5 cubic feet per package.
“We go through eight or seven (during fair week),” Grant said. “At home, we use straw, but (shavings) don’t blow away. Straw doesn’t soak in stuff, these do. We have to clean it more often at home.”
The used bedding at the fair gets shoveled into a wheelbarrow and thrown into a dumpster at one end of the barn. Across the way, Morgan Ely, 15, of Sidney, daughter of Dawn and Mike Ely, said she cleans out her lamb stalls every other day. She, too, uses wood shavings for bedding at the fair, but she also uses them at home. It takes eight packs to get her through the week.
The pygmy and boar goats shown by Zachary Bergman, 15, of Russia, have a mix of straw and shavings in their stalls at the fair and at home. The son of Christina and Ken Bergman, Zachary shovels out a couple of times a week and goes through two or three bales of straw during fair week.
Drew Young, 14, of Covington, son of Kelly Young, of Troy, and David Young, of Covington, makes sure he changes the pine chips in his rabbit cage every day. He shows Californians and cleans up after them by using a dustpan to scoop stuff into a large, plastic tub, which gets emptied into a trailer wagon nearby.
According the fair secretary Jerry Schaffner, the barns are thoroughly cleaned before the dairy cows go in and after they leave, before the beef cattle arrive.
“When you have all of them leaving, (the fair board) takes the skid loader in there and cleans them all out,” he said. “We have manure pits for the horses all year long.”
Hemmelgarn’s Rolloff Service, of Sidney, supplies two, 30-yard dumpsters, which they empty — sometimes more than once — every day.
“At the end of the fair, we haul out a lot,” said co-owner and office manager Teresa Hemmelgarn. In 2014, they disposed of 16 dumpsters’ worth.
From the Hemmelgarn’s dumpsters, the mix of manure, straw and wood shavings lands at Anderson Farms near Hardin. Proprietor Kenton Anderson composts it for use in his corn, soybean and wheat fields. Anderson Farms is a major pork supplier.
“We feed out 10,000 head of swine a year and run about a 2 percent death loss,” Anderson said. He uses what he gets from the fair to pack carcasses in.
“The carbon in the material (from the fair) helps break down the carcass of an animal. Once it’s broke down, we spread it as fertilizer. It’s an environmentally sound way to dispose of dead animals,” he said.
When the stuff arrives at his farm, “it’s a lot of volume, but once it breaks down, there’s only a third of it left,” Anderson said. “It’s about the same thing as using compost for your garden, only on a larger scale.”
Back in the animal barns at the fairgrounds, Grant, who is a member of the McCartyville Producers 4-H Club, and Morgan, Zachary and Drew, who all belong to Scissors to Sheep 4-H, patiently awaited the judging and sales of their animals scheduled for later in the week. This is Grant’s first year to show hogs. He has also exhibited a cedar chest in the woodworking show, an item he will take to the state fair.
Morgan has taken lambs to the county fair for seven years.
“This is the first year I haven’t taken anything else. Last year I took in a clothing project,” she said.
Zachary has gone to the fair for five years and usually also shows poultry. Because birds were banned this year, he has only goats to care for. He admitted to being disappointed, but not having chickens there means “there’s more time to enjoy the fair.” he said. His boars had earned a fifth-place ribbon.
Drew’s rabbits didn’t qualify for ribbons. In his fourth year at the fair, he said the biggest difference in 2015 was that the tent where the rabbits are housed wasn’t as crowded as in the past — or as noisy — because there were no chickens in it, too.
Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.