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A fair morning

Before the gates swing open, the carnival rides start spinning and the crowds arrive, the Island County Fair is already a very busy place.

Kids in 4-H aren’t like their citified peers, enjoying another summer morning in bed, perhaps making a cell phone call to a friend to plan a day at the mall or text-messaging a breakfast order to Mom in the kitchen. The 4-H’ers rise early and get to work, just like farmers have always done.

By 6:30 Thursday morning the horse arena was already filled with yawning riders flexing their horses’ muscles for the long day of judging and competition ahead.

In the horse barn, Brittany Loveng, 17, was braiding the tail on her horse, Lexie, in hopes that the fancy braid would earn an extra point or two from a judge. “It only takes 5 or 10 minutes,” said the well-practiced braider. Lexie had already had her morning shower and was contentedly nibbling on a square of hay. Loveng, a member of the Whidbey Lone Stars 4-H Club, is participating in her sixth fair, her second with Lexie.

Like the other 4-H kids, Loveng spent the night in the trailer area of the fairgrounds or in a tent in the campground. After tending to their animals many lined up at Sally Berry’s Weanie Wagon for a morning snack. Even horse snacks were available, 25 cents for a carrot and 50 cents for an apple.

Across the fairgrounds, Anna Skurdal, 16, had just finished washing her sheep, Vanilla, and was walking her around, trying to get the animal dry before the judging at 10. It was still three hours away, but it’s not easy to dry a sheep.

“They do have wool on them,” Skurdal, a 16-year-old Oak Harbor resident, pointed out.

Soon she was towel drying Vanilla, just to make sure every ounce of moisture was gone. She recounted the sad story of a prior fair when a sheep lost points just for having damp legs.

Walking around the end of a barn it sounded like a barbershop had opened early. But the furious clipping was coming from two Greenbank sisters, Katie Leese, 16, and Marina Leese, 13, who were tidying up the coats of two sheep, which they described as “natural colored Romneys.” They brought eight of their sheep to the fair and left five others at home. The girls were enjoying their eighth and seventh year, respectively, as fair entrants.

“We like it,” Marina said. “But only once a year.”

Meanwhile, in the cow barn, members of the Central Whidbey Cattlemen’s 4-H Club were shoveling cow residue and straw to start their day. Tommy Molitor, Matt Molitor and Maria Kidder worked up a sweat filling a wheelbarrow over and over again. “Definitely,” Kidder said when asked if they were having fun. “It’s the best part off our day.” There seemed to be a note of sarcasm in her voice.

Over at the goat barn, morning means milking. 4-H leader Linda Davenport escorted a covey of boys to the barn, buckets in hand, to anxious goats. Kevin Smith pulled up a stool behind Vera Wang and went to work, pulling udders and squeezing out the milk. It seemed an odd name for a goat, but Smith explained, “She’s named after the fashion designer because she has a very prissy attitude.”

Goat 4-H’ers seem to have a particularly creative time naming their animals. Quinn Broyles was milking Chorus, who is mother to a musical trio named Do, Re and Fa. They skipped Me, as it didn’t sound like a goat’s name.

By the time the Island County Fair gates opened and early arrivers started coming in, all of the animals were primed, primped and ready for another day of 4-H contests and greeting fairgoers in the various barns.

Animals are a big part of the fair, and without the early-rising and dedicated 4-H kids there probably wouldn’t be any. Stop by and say hello, they’re always ready to answer questions about their animals and show off their hard-earned ribbons.

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