By Carollann Scott
The warmth of summer still lingers in the last few weeks of August, but at the close of the summer comes preparation for school, closed-toed shoes and the lights, food and show that come with the Antelope Valley Fair, which is only days away.
While the concert artists may be tuning their guitars or planning flights to Lancaster and the carnival rides are being set up and polished, there are noteworthy preparations being made aside from the hired entertainment. In between the Ferris Wheel and the Kiddy Rides and past the snow cone stand sit three buildings that have an aura about them that may include dust, strange noises, and an unfamiliar smell.
These three barns will be buzzing with young people of the Antelope Valley caring for and tending to their livestock that they have watched grow for the past six to eight months. As fair guests file through the aisles of the barns, they plug their noses at the sight of pigs, laugh at the sound of goats, cannot seem to understand there is a difference in lambs and goats and run in fear when the steers are moved. The animals and barns are there for their viewing pleasure but the true reason these kids showcase their animals in tight-quartered pens and crowd-swarmed barns is for the annual Antelope Valley Fair Junior Livestock Show.
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While some kids are shopping for their best back-to-school outfits and the newest school supplies, I and my fellow competitors spend our whole summer in preparation for the last two weeks of August. For the past 12 years of my life, I have joined this end-of-summer ritual and showed dogs, chickens, lambs and pigs and entered welded projects, decorated cakes, and table settings to be judged at my hometown fair. This year I will be taking a pig to fair and to give a better understanding of the cute little pig sleeping in the shavings, I will tell you his story.
Michael was born in January and although he still quite young, he has tripled in size since I bought him and is nearing 250 pounds. He is fed a very specialized high protein diet and is given as much food as he can possibly eat in order to let him reach his full potential weight. Although his diet is key to his success in the show, his favorite snacks are Oreos, which I feed him and use as a training aid.
I began the training process a few weeks ago and although he is often stubborn and refuses to walk, he will soon walk in front of me as I guide his direction by waving a stick in front of his eye to signal the turn as well as maintain a steady, slow pace. I also bathe Michael at least once a week and will begin to moisturize his skin and hooves a couple times a week. I diligently prepare Michael for show because, just like any sport or contest, it is of a very competitive nature. This year marks my tenth year taking a pig to Lancaster for the fair and this is the final year that I qualify for the age limit so it is my last chance to win the esteemed title of Grand Champion Swine.
By the day of show, Michael and I will have a unique bond that lets him find comfort in my presence and willingness to obey my instructions. At the show, Michael will be judged for his muscle quality, soundness and overall presentation. If you stop by the fair on August 22, you will find much commotion as the pig barn is filled with 4-H, FFA and Grange members, their leaders, families and anxious supporters as the pigs are bathed one last time, fed another meal or two, and dressed with sprays and creams that make them shine and look like superstars.
The nerves and butterflies will keep me and the other show competitors short of breath and excitedly waiting for our class. When the classes begin, the judge will pick his favorites and the winners of each class will move on for the Grand and Reserve Champion to be chosen before the end of the day.
As a fair guest, you can come see all kinds of animals in the barns and shows in the R. Rex Parris Show Arena daily throughout the duration of the fair. The pigs, lambs, goats, and steers will be there from August 19-26. You can find Michael in the Acton Arrowheads 4-H section of the pig barn.
Come see Michael and his friends at the Antelope Valley Fair! This year’s fair theme is All Ag-cess and since livestock is a vital part of agriculture, you would be missing out if you didn’t come see the centerpiece of the All Ag-cess Antelope Valley Fair.