Agriculture front and center

Annual Ag Expo showcases animals and their keepers, amid a week of family activities

Annual Ag Expo showcases animals and their keepers, amid a week of family activities

July 29, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Her name is Lola. She is a showgirl.

The spring-yearling Holstein heifer will not be wearing yellow feathers in her hair, but she's going to the show - the 24th annual Washington County Ag Expo, which begins today at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on the Sharpsburg Pike south of Hagerstown.

At Ag Expo, Washington County's answer to a county fair, there will be serious competition for several different animal species - horses, beef and dairy cattle, swine, goats, rabbits, sheep, poultry, cats, dogs and cavies - hamster-like critters. There also is competition in horticulture and the home arts - jams and jellies, pies and cakes, embroidery and sewing.

Members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) also will be judged in showmanship classes - how they have prepared and how they handle their animals in the show ring.


Allen "Whitey" Hess likes showmanship. "It's how good you are - not your animal."

Hess, 19, of Smithsburg, will be showing several animals, including Lola, who stood clean and quiet in a Boonsboro barn on a recent steamy summer morning. Hess has been traveling the 16 miles to a farm owned by family friends a few times a week for about a year - since he decided he wanted to show cattle.

Hess also will show Alabama, a spring yearling with the rich auburn coat of her breed, milking shorthorn; Isaac, a Brown Swiss dairy steer; pigs; goats; and rabbits.

Hess has been showing since 1998, and this will be his last Ag Expo as a 4-Her.

"There is no next year," he said. "I'm going to miss it terribly."

He received a $500 4-H Dairy Club scholarship last year, something that will be helpful as he begins his studies at Hagerstown Community College in the fall.

He said he's learned a lot from taking care of his animals.

"It's made me become a really responsible person," Hess said.

The responsibility of caring for her animals became huge last winter for 16-year-old Laura Forsythe. The mother of goat triplets - two males and one female - died during the blizzard in February. Laura fed the baby goats with a bottle in her family's basement.

The Forsythes sold the male goats - Boy 1 and Boy 2 - but the female, Gert, remains at the family's 75-acre Pinesburg farm.

Laura will show 15 goats - Alpine and recorded grade breeds. She's been showing since 1998 and will continue as long as she can.

"I don't want to stop," she said. "I just enjoy taking care of animals."

Laura likes the personalities of her goats. "Each one is different," she said.

There's a lot of hard work involved in Ag Expo - more than a weeklong sampling of year-round life on the farm.

But Ag Expo is not all work.

The 2004 Ag Expo Queen contest will take place Friday, July 30, and the winning contestant will represent Ag Expo during the coming year.

There are "Barnyard Olympics," a demolition derby, an antique car show, truck and tractor, garden tractor, antique tractor and pedal tractor pulls. There are milking, alpaca, embroidery, spinning and weaving demonstrations.

There's a petting farm, and children's activities may include churning butter and making ice-cream. Grown-ups will get a crack at churning ice cream at a contest on Monday, Aug. 2.

Also on Monday will be Babies on Parade and a Little Farmer & Little Farmerette contest. On Wednesday, Aug. 4, 4-H and FFA members and their animals will dress in coordinating or complimentary costumes in the Pretty Animal Parade.

Allen Hess is looking forward to Ag Expo - showing his animals and being with friends.

"I really love this," he said. "It's a week of fun."

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