I was not well traveled as a child. Between the cows and the remoteness of our patch of earth in rural Minnesota, the annual trip to Fargo was a big deal, our intermiten trip to St. Paul even a bigger deal, the occasional trips with school activities and functions were even a larger ordeal.
After my first experience at the Minnesota State Fair after my senior year in high school, I prepared for my second experience at the Great Minnesota Get Together.
Serving as a Minnesota FFA State Officer had a lot of requirements, camps, conferences, training sessions – both ones that we were participates in and those that we led. Part of it too was interacting with the public and working with Agricultural Literacy.
The Minnesota State Fair was the perfect place to do that.
The Minnesota FFA had been running the FFA Children’s Barnyard for decades, and the State FFA Officers were an integral part in that process. In conjuction with high school volunteers from around the state, we would help to run the barnyard (feeding, cleaning, and making sure things were neat and tidy), helping with the livestock shows (announcing, handing out ribbons, and looking like we knew what we were doing), interacting with the public (visiting with people around the judging rings, holding animals and letting people pet them in our arms), as well as special events (helping the Bee Queen make honey ice cream, officiating at the pedal tractor pull, participating in the “celebrity cow milking contests).
In short, we were busy.
To the general public, it looked like a well organized machine. In reality, it was usually a panicked frenzy of high school and college aged kids flirting with one disaster after another.
To the few adults in charge, it required a great deal of crisis management.
It is also important to point out that this was a different time and a different era. The barn yard of today is fully equipped with veterinarians and adult staff….years ago, that wasn’t quite the case.
Some of the incidents we were merely innocent bystanders in. There was the group of animal rights protesters that stood on a back wall of the Children’s Barnyard and sang “animal freedom songs” trying to entice us to let the animals go free. We stood in shocked silence as they attacked our industry. The crowd in the petting zoo listened…then applauded…and went right back to petting the animals…thinking that the protesters were yet another form of entertainment we had provided.
Then there was the sheep that had the explosive diarrhea. We stood in the staff area, trying to decide if we should call the vet and what could possibly be causing the problem…but knowing that we needed to do something (the six foot stream had hit a very proper ladies high heels and she was not happy). As we were discussing, one of the high school volunteers popped their head in and said, “Hey, we are almost out of lamb starter.”
Situation solved. Lamb starter to a mamma sheep is equal to the runs.