Annual event, delayed by fire, runs through weekend
By Marcy Stamper
It’s easy to imagine why a pig — which can easily gain three or four pounds a day at 6 months of age — would not be thrilled about being on a diet.
But some kids who’ve been raising pigs and other livestock all summer now have to monitor the animals’ weights because the Okanogan County Fair was postponed while the fairgrounds were still in use as a fire camp. Needless to say, the animals just keep growing.
“They’re taking them on walks, running them around the pen. They’re a bit cranky,” said Suellen White, leader of the Methow Valley Cascaders 4-H Club.
To compensate for the additional growth, fair livestock managers increased the upper weight limits and also reduced the low end, since animals that were evacuated may have lost weight from the stress, said White.
The 68th-annual fair is Thursday (Sept. 24) through Sunday (Sept. 27). Most events are still happening at the same time as published in the fair book, but you can find the latest updates on the fair’s website at okanogancounty.org/fair. Call (509) 422-1621 for more information.
Pigs on rations
There are 17 kids from the Methow Valley taking pigs to the fair this year and, while some of the animals are well within the range, others are getting rationed feed. The pig being raised by White’s 8-year-old granddaughter Emma White already weighed 325 pounds two weeks ago, five pounds above the cut-off, said White.
“I hope they’re on the Weight Watcher plan — to make it on the scale,” said Emily Buzzard, the 4-H project leader for rabbits. Buzzard’s family also raises purebred Berkshire pigs on Benson Creek. “There are so many factors that go into it — it’s more complicated than throwing food in to the bin and saying, ‘grow,’” she said.
Having a pig, steer or sheep outside the weight range doesn’t mean kids can’t show their animal at the fair, since there are special under- and over-weight classes. Kids get to show their animals in the ring and can get premium money for them. The main difference is that they won’t be able to sell them through the fair’s market sale, said White.
The weight range is selected primarily to produce desirable sizes of pork chops and other cuts. The flavor and texture will be just as good for a pig out of the weight class. This is finish fat that the butcher would trim anyway, said Buzzard. “They’re just losing that extra jiggle that isn’t necessarily needed,” she said.
Other Methow Valley kids will be showing rabbits, poultry and goats at the fair. Buzzard’s 5-year-old son, Bayne, is taking his Nigerian dwarf goat, Noodle.
Methow Valley residents will also be displaying their talents in other arenas. Linette Grayum is entering a dress she knitted from unspun Icelandic wool. “Working with the unspun yarn was a new exercise for me — it was really fun,” said Grayum, who plans to make a jacket this winter from the leftover yarn.
Unspun wool poses challenges since it splits and tears easily, but it is incredibly warm and more resistant to rain and wind than spun yarn, said Grayum. As soon as she finished the dress last winter, she put it on and went out for a ski as snow was falling. “I got pretty warm pretty fast,” she said.
Grayum has been knitting since she was a child, but has taken on more ambitious projects in recent years, designing her own patterns and making lacy shawls, one of which she will show at the fair.
“It’s really relaxing and therapeutic,” said Grayum. “I always take a small project when I’m backpacking — like a hat — to work on while sitting on a crag. It’s an addiction for me.”
Most events unchanged
The date change had little effect on fair vendors and entertainers, according to a spokesperson for the fair. Three music acts — The Wicks, Jessica Lynne, and Sam Platts and The Kootenai Three — had to cancel, but others have added extra performances.
Several local favorites were also able to join the line-up, including the Company Band, Rust on the Rails, and Olivia De La Cruz. Other bands include Hippies on Vacation and Lace & Lead. Storyteller Dayton Edmonds will also be on hand.
The date change has freed up the schedule of the Wool Busters’ “legendary longhorns.” Look for two of these gentle bovines as they ride them around the fair for photo ops.
The fair — being run by a restructured committee this year — is also adding a new Head and Horns department for taxidermy exhibits.
There’s also a bigger truck-and-tractor pull this year, plus the well-loved “low-rider” (Dachshund) races, which alternate with horse races on Saturday.
Other regular highlights include L-bow the Clown; floriculture; a best-dressed rabbit contest; quilts; and pickles, jams and baked goods. Look for displays of poise from animals large and small in the rabbit agility contest and a performance by dancing horses.
Kids can compete in a pole climb sponsored by the Okanogan County Public Utility District. Other competitions include pie-, corn- and watermelon-eating.
The later fair date may have some impact on students, who are now two weeks into the school year and athletic season, said White, a former superintendent in the Methow Valley and Odessa school districts. “We might have to have a little homework tent for the kids,” she said.