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Practically perfect poultry at the fair

Kyle Phillips cleans up after his chickens because, once a year, they clean up for him.

Four first-place ribbons, two best-of-show awards … even their eggs were reeling in prizes on Thursday. Kyle’s practically perfect poultry were among the big winners in the 4-H Club Junior Livestock Competition at the El Dorado County Fair.

“Showing the chickens at the fair is fun, but I just like playing with them and taking care of them,” said Kyle, 9, from Pleasant Valley. He’s been in the Southside 4-H Club for three years, and has about 22 chickens at home that he raises for competition at poultry shows.



“The 4-H program is very valuable,” said Kyle’s mom, Peggy Phillips. “It takes a lot of time and commitment to groom, feed and clean up after animals, and that teaches him responsibility. There are also a lot of demonstration, public speaking and leadership skills to learn when you’re involved in 4-H. It really builds self-esteem.”

And chickens come in many more varieties than one might think. Kyle’s two birds – a Buff Brahma and a Blue Cream Dutch – were just a small sampling of the many exotic types of poultry on hand at the fair.



But the animals that still command the most attention at the fair are the pigs. Don’t ask why – that’s just the way it’s always been at county fairs, going back 130 years to the first such events in El Dorado County.

One big winning porker on Thursday was Sierra, a first-place winner in the Class 13 Market Hog Heavyweight Division, owned by Krystle Ward, 14, and her brother Forrest, 12, of Diamond Springs.

Forrest earned the duty of showing Sierra in the ring – a large pen containing about a dozen pigs, which are guided around by their owners by tapping them lightly with short sticks.

A pig exhibition is an exercise in organized chaos, but somehow the judges sort things out.

“It’s really hard to figure out what’s going on over there (in the livestock area) if you’re not somehow involved,” said fair publicist Susan Clark. “But it’s a staple of the fair; a connection to the past. You’ll find that 4-H is a family activity. Sometimes you will discover that many generations of a family were involved in showing animals at the fair.”

It’s true, while typical fair attractions have changed over the years (Junior table setting? Computer software?), there is still no more durable attraction at the fair than the opportunity to pet the goats and sheep, or get up close to a cow.

Or, to ride a camel …

“I see a lot of people turn the corner and get this very surprised look when they see two camels here,” said Richard Kenniston, a native of Shady Grove, Oregon, who travels the fair circuit offering camel rides fore the children.

“My wife, Madyline, used to train animals for Circus Vargas, and also worked at the San Diego Zoo,” Kenniston said. “We acquired three camels and started K&K Camel Rides. We travel all over, and have done very well with it. In a couple years I’m going to move to Laughlin, Nevada and retire … just spend my days gambling and feeding the camels.”

It will be a life of leisure for some animals at the county fair, but what about the less-exotic varieties? Will the chickens become, as they say, guests for dinner?

“I’m keeping mine as pets,” said Phillips, who then pointed to another chicken cage about 10 feet away. “Now, those ones over there are for eating.”

CUTLINE:

Kyle Phillips, 9, of Pleasant Valley shows off his prize chicken, a “Buff Brahma” which he raised. The hen won four first-place ribbons at the El Dorado County Fair.

BREAKOUT:

Today

Hours: Noon-midnight

* El Dorado Rose Pageant 7 p.m.

* Wine tasting 7 p.m.

* “Raised on Radio” concert 9 p.m.

Saturday

Hours: 10 a.m.-midnight

* Junior Livestock Auction 9 a.m.

* Wheelbarrow races 7:30 p.m.

* “Classic All-Stars” concert 8 p.m.

* Haybucking 8:30 p.m.

* Susan Rosen, hypnotist 6, 8 & 10 p.m.

* Wagon Train parade and festivities

Sunday

Hours: 10 a.m.-midnight

Sourdough bake-off 2 p.m.

Beer tasting 5 p.m.

Spinners jamboree 6 p.m.

“The Nelsons” concert 8 p.m.

Susan Rosen, hypnotist 6, 8 & 10 p.m.

Information: (530) 621-5860


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