EDITOR'S COLUMN: Barn animals make fair

If you’re new to the island and have kids, I highly recommend you attend Island County Fair this weekend and see the barnyard animals.

The animals are the best part of the fair, despite the bright lights of the carnival and entertainment at Midway Stage. Those things we can find most summer weekends, but it’s seldom these days that we can get the kids up close and personal with animals.

What do kids in the 21st century know about animals? Mostly that they come packaged in pieces and go from supermarket to refrigerator to dining room table. If it wasn’t for Island County Fair, my now-grown kids would still think that animals come shrink-wrapped in hairless hunks.

Animals in the supermarket cooler have absolutely no personality. Farm kids are lucky they get to know cows, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens, but let’s face it — there aren’t many farm kids left. Farm animals provide some of the best childhood memories for those of us who were lucky enough to be raised with them. I personally have fond memories of a pig name Julia, a goat named Bee-bop, a cow named Bonnie and a steer named Sagard, among others. It gives a kid a different perspective on life if he knows from whom his morning glass of milk came, or can pin a name on the Sunday roast and remember that it used to be a big, friendly creature that loved to be scratched behind the ears. As for its unfortunate fate, well, that’s what it was cut out for.

At friendly little Island County Fair, kids can meet all the animals older generations used to take for granted. Scratch a cow, pet a bunny, get pecked at by a chicken, hear a pig snort, watch a turkey strut — all better experiences that playing anything produced by Sony or Nintendo. Sometimes a goat will nibble a passing kid’s T-shirt, which is always an exciting experience.

After meeting all the soft, loveable animals, it’s a good idea to take the kids to the reality check called the 4-H Livestock Sale, which this year will be held Saturday at noon. Auctioneer Dale Sherman will sell off all the livestock raised by 4-H kids that are ready for market. Explain what that means: To the slaughter house, the meat cutter and wrapper, then to the freezer and the dining room table. The Livestock Sale completes the circle of life in a way that kids can understand, and gives them more understanding and respect for the next hamburger or sausage patty they eat.

The rest of the fair is fun, too, so don’t let the kids miss the carnival, entertainment and fast food. But the best memories will be made in the animal barns, on top of the hill.

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