If not for the occasional breezes that mercifully wafted through the animal barns and show tent, exhibitors at Adams County Fairfest may not have been able to keep their cool during the rabbit and hog shows Wednesday morning at the fairgrounds.
With the National Weather Service issuing an excessive heat warning of 100-plus temperatures for Wednesday through Friday, exhibitors seemed well prepared to deal with the extreme temperatures, making a concerted effort to hydrate both themselves and their animals as mercury readings climbed to the mid-80s by late morning.
While a few 4-H participants held their animals in front of industrial-sized fans strategically located throughout the barn, most tried to limit contact with them in an effort to avoid adding their own body heat to the already stressful conditions brought on by rising temperatures.
“I don’t need to have a rabbit fry tonight. If you’re not showing, put them away for the day,” rabbit superintendent Rickie Crandell told competitors seconds after announcing round winners in the competition show tent.
A familiar face in the role for more than a decade, Crandell said she was impressed by how well those competing were dealing with the heat.
“The kids are showing a lot of respect and doing very well,” she said. “The parents are sitting out there, I’ve got them doing quiz bowl things and everybody is learning some stuff. It’s a pretty good day so far.”
As suffocating as the lingering humidity was, it was still cooler than most had anticipated, though the forecast going forward figures to present its fair share of challenges the rest of the week. Keeping the heat at bay will be job one as exhibitors look to keep themselves and their animals from heat stoke and illness, Crandell said.
“You know, there’s a breeze, so it hasn’t been ungodly, but you’re shifting and the sun shifts, and where the sun is hitting, it’s got a little toast to it,” she said. “First off, I tell them don’t handle the animals a lot if you can avoid it. You don’t want to be wrapped in a fur coat on a day like today; they don’t want to be wrapped in you.
“Make sure if you can to get a frozen water bottle put in the pen and give them fresh water a couple times a day so it’s nice and cool and refreshing and they want to drink it. If you’ve got fans, put a fan on them. That’s all we can do.”
Adams County Rural Rancher Barrett McIntyre, 11, of Hastings and his older sister, Gracey, 12, tag-teamed to stay on schedule as they penned their rabbits between shows. Having earned blue ribbons with his two rabbits, Peanut Butter, a standard rex, and Storm, a black mini rex, he was all too glad to help his sister put her rabbit back in its pen as she readied for her next event.
“There was a heat advisory, but today is actually not that bad,” he said. “There’s a breeze out there and we have fans running, so it cools off the animals.”
Realizing he hadn’t had anything to drink for a spell, Barrett said he imagined temperatures will be far less forgiving when he breaks out his goats at the afternoon show Saturday.
“You do forget to drink water sometimes when you’re showing your animals,” he said.
Feeling the heat, Gracey was already in hydration mode as she sipped from her water bottle between shows. Her morning included showing two Lionhead rabbits, Mocha and Lil’ Tif, and Holland Lop, Fred.
“It’s really hot out, and it’s not very good for the animals, especially since the barn is always open,” she said. “Air can move in and out of here, but it’s still just so hot.
“It should be an enclosed building with air conditioning because the heat isn’t good for them. It makes them nervous, and they get worked up and they’ll bite you or the judge. And that’s not good for a ribbon.”
Mocha did both, biting Gracey and the judge during her showing. Neither was seriously hurt.
“That was not good,” she said.
In spite of the incident, Mocha still earned a purple ribbon, while Lil’ Tif was chosen as a finalist for best of breed. Fred garnered red.
Gracey’s cooling regimen included usage of spray bottles and ice bottles. Arriving at 6:30 a.m. to brush and prepare the animals for show also helped to beat the heat.
“We usually bring this humongous green water bottle and have the big fans, so if we need them, we can always bring in more,” she said. “I always bring shorts and a T-shirt and sandals, so if I’m not doing anything I can just change into that instead of jeans and boots.”
She’ll show four chickens and a goat on Friday, then two more goats on Saturday. The importance of keeping the goats hydrated can’t be overstated, Gracey said.
“They’re shaved so they don’t really have as much hair, so we don’t really have to worry about them as much as the rabbits, but we still give them lots of water,” she said. “Because of the heat wave we had a few weekends ago we actually had three goats die (at the Rural Ranchers barn). One of them was my best friend’s goat. She was really sad.”
Kimberly Crandell, 17, of Juniata has been showing rabbits and chickens at the fair for three years representing Rural Ranchers. She said the extreme heat was making it difficult to get her animals ready for show.
“If we get them out too much they’ll get heat stress,” she said. “You can’t keep them close to your body or else they get hot. We put frozen water bottles in the cages to keep them cool.”
Despite the challenges, she said her three chickens and two rabbits seemed up for the challenge. Her purebred Lionhead rabbit, Gray, had already captured a blue ribbon that morning.
“It’s been fun,” she said.
She’ll look to keep the ribbons coming when she shows sheep Thursday.
Corvin Burbach, 16, of Hastings was among helpers on hand to support fellow Rural Rancher participants. He will show sheep on Thursday and cows on Friday.
Having had five sisters precede him in fair competition, he said he feels well prepared to keep the family tradition going.
“I’ve always been here, even when I was younger,” Corvin said. “You learn more every year with the different animals and how they behave.”
He expects the heat to work in his favor Friday when he shows cows. The sheep could be a different story, however.
“The animals will be be behaved better because they won’t have energy,” he said. “The sheep keep their heads down when it’s hot so you have to take them up more in the arena because you want them to have a good posture.”
With clipboard in hand, Tom Johnson of Hastings was poised to assume his role of supportive parent as he hustled to keep his son, Taidyn, 12, on task to show a pair of rabbits. He downplayed the heat, suggesting it had been easily manageable to that point.
“It’s not too bad today,” he said. “You do the normal ice bottles and fans. You drink more water and find the shade.”
He’ll have plenty of water in tow when Taidyn returns on Saturday for the goat show.
“Just have to make sure the animals have plenty of water,” Johnson said. “They pretty much take care of themselves.”