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Kids find summer home at Youth Fair

August 05, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Although it marks one of the last hurrahs of summer, kids in Berkeley County find themselves looking forward to that first week in August that marks the beginning of the county's annual Youth Fair.

"Basically it's the best thing about summer," said Ashley Lentz, 12, who attends Musselman Middle School.

Sure, stalls must be cleaned, animals need to be fed and the days can sometimes be long and hot. But other adventures await those who spend their days, and sometimes nights, at the fair.

Angela Thompson, 11, went to see one of the carnival attractions - billed as a giant alligator captured in the Florida Everglades - even though the peek at the gator came with a catch.

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"You have to spend a dollar," Angela said. She expected to shell out a couple more bucks to see "The Smaller Horse" and "Pokey, World's Largest Hog." Signs boast that both are "ALIVE!"

Angela, who is showing a 27-year-old black pony named Whinnie, and Ashley, who has a sheep, were two of many youngsters hanging out at the barns Wednesday afternoon.

In the goat barn, Joseph Collis, 13, was building a house using a deck of cards. He and his brother have two market goats, two rocket projects, two hobby/Lego projects and two lawn mower projects at the fair.

Every morning, Joseph and his brother arrive at the fair at 9 or 9:30. Joseph said he cleans the goats' pens, walks them and gives them food and water.

"Then we usually just hang out until about lunchtime," said Joseph. After lunch, the boys help out for a few hours in a concession stand until about 3 p.m.

The goats then become a priority again, when their pens are cleaned and they are given water if needed.

"Then we either leave and go home or stay for the evening activities," Joseph said.

On Tuesday night he stayed for a truck pull and said he might catch the rodeo tonight.

Joseph, who is home-schooled, is participating in his first Youth Fair. He said he enjoys "meeting new kinds of people and playing games."

Card games are especially popular. "Something you can fit in your pocket," he said.

Like those who do not have animals at the fair, Joseph also went to the carnival. "Sometimes we'll walk there and maybe get a funnel cake," he said. And a candy apple is a must every year.

Maddie Campbell is exhibiting three golden Seabrights at the fair. The chickens are just for show since they lay small eggs.

"It's pretty fun. I think it's a good opportunity for younger kids to come see the different animals," said Maddie, 10, who will attend Musselman Middle School this fall.

When Maddie gets bored, which happens "once in a while," she said she strolls to another barn where she has a horse.

In the sheep barn, a group of girls had gathered in a stall. The animals seemed oblivious to their presence.

Ashley was sitting on the railing, applying some makeup to Amber Malatt, 12, who will be a seventh-grader this fall at Martinsburg South Middle School.

Amber, who has a rabbit at the fair, said she'll "go find someone to talk with. Or throw water on them like we did." A good dousing is appreciated when the temperature gauge is pushing 90 degrees or higher, she said.

Angela, meanwhile, starts her days by giving Whinnie two flakes of hay in the morning, walking him and trotting him. She checks his water, cleans his stall and spreads around the bedding "cause he likes to dig to get the grass underneath," she said.

Boredom is not in Angela's vocabulary.

"I usually like to walk around here and see my friends and go see their animals," she said.

Whinnie was to be the recipient of a bath since Angela is showing him this morning in showmanship classes. It makes for a long day.

"I'm really hot. I've been here all day," Angela said. "And I'm going to be here all night 'til the fair closes."

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