LEETOWN, W.Va. — Emma Patterson was leading her market lamb McDreamy on a practice run Sunday afternoon in a scene that has been reprised in Jefferson County every year since 1953.
It was the first day of the 59th annual Jefferson County Fair at 2007 Old Leetown Pike. Patterson, 17, of Kearneysville, W.Va., is one of 275 exhibitors bringing their sheep, swine, beef and dairy cattle, horses, rabbits, poultry and a squiggly handful of guinea pigs to be judged this week.
“He’s a little hyper,” Patterson said of McDreamy, who was named after a character from television’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” She was trying to calm him down so he’d behave at the sheep-judging competition that begins at 10 a.m. today.
Patterson said she’s been taking 4-H animals to the fair for seven years.
“I used to bring cattle and horses, too, but now I just do sheep and pigs,” she said.
Gavin Creamer, 10, of Kearneysville, was keeping Sweet Baby Ray, his 7 1/2-month-old hog, company in the swine barn. He bought her at the Clarke County, Va., Fair this spring when she weighed just 40 pounds. On Sunday, Sweet Baby Ray sent the scale to 255 pounds, said Gavin, who showed his first hog at the fair last year.
The age range for 4-H and Future Farmers of America exhibitors is 9 to 21.
Creamer hopes Sweet Baby Ray will bring $4 a pound at the livestock auction Saturday. Whatever she brings, the money is going in the bank, Creamer said.
“I’m putting it away to buy a house and truck when I get older,” he said.
Fair President Robert Gruber said the fair started in 1953 on grounds at Charles Town Races. It moved to the former Shenandoah Downs next door before moving to its present 80-acre site on Old Leetown Road in 1975.
The fair’s only full-time employee is a year-round manager of the grounds, which are rented out to raise money for operating expenses.
Fair week depends on more than 1,000 volunteers, including Gruber, to organize and run the weeklong event.
Rabbit judge Jenea McGowan, 30, of Hedgesville, W.Va., handled and checked more than 70 rabbits Sunday morning before deciding which ones should get blue ribbons in a variety of categories.
McGowan said she started showing rabbits for 4-H projects at the Berkeley County Youth Fair when she was a girl. She still shows them and has about 20 at home.
She hopes one day that her 17-month-old son will take up the tradition.
She awarded the best-in-show ribbon for the juvenile class to a black-and-white Himalayan owned by Michael Burrows, 21. He was busy Sunday afternoon preparing his lamb for today’s judging, his mother said.
Burrows’ rabbit, with the nondescript name of Number 14, will compete in the American Rabbit Breeders Association’s national competition in Indianapolis in October.
At 21, this is Burrows’ last year as an FFA livestock exhibitor. He is a student at West Virginia University, where he is taking agricultural courses.
Gruber said a new feature this year is the monster truck, a vehicle capable of crushing a row of parked cars. It will strut its stuff Wednesday evening.
According to the brochure, this year’s fair is dedicated to the memory of F.B. “Mike” or “Bud” Wysong Jr., who died in April at the age of 80.
He was a fair volunteer for 57 years, headed the fair from 1966 to 2000, and was director emeritus until his death this year.
“Involved from the very beginning, Mike’s service began as a volunteer in 1953,” the brochure said.
If you go ...
The Jefferson County Fair at 2007 Old Leetown Pike continues through Saturday, For more details, go to http://jeffersoncountyfairwv.org. Look for coverage throughout the week in The Herald-Mail and at www.herald-mail.com.
Franklin County Fair
The 2011 Franklin County (Pa.) Fair begins today with an all-night ride special, a tractor pull at 7 p.m. and the fair queen contest beginning at 8 p.m. For more details, go to www.franklincountyfair.org. Look for coverage throughout the week in The Herald-Mail and at www.herald-mail.com.