At the 2018 Warren County Fair, 15-year-old Dawn Sherman laughs about how her goat, Winston, loves to nibble. Dawn has been raising animals for the Warren County Fair since she was 9. She is one of many local youths who put in months of work before livestock shows at the Fair each year.

At the center of the Warren County Fairgrounds each year, young people bring farm animals of all sizes to show during a week of livestock competitions. Livestock shows at the Fair this year begin on July 2.

Rabbits, goats, pigs, cattle and more fill the livestock pavilion, with a regular stream of visitors and exhibitors working as the Fair bustles around them. During the livestock shows, it can sometimes be a stark and surprising contrast to see a group of young people leading 1,000-pound animals into the show area. Livestock coordinator Franci Schwartz says that’s only possible because of the work the kids in 4-H and FFA programs do every day for months leading up to the Fair.

Depending on the animals, it can take six to eight months of training to get them ready to behave themselves for an audience and a judge, Schwartz said. The cattle, which can weigh as much as five to 10 grown men, are a particular challenge for their young handlers.

“That is a child who has spent hours and hours in a pen or pasture with that animal before ever bringing it to the Fair. They’ve pretty much lived with it, at least since school is out,” Schwartz elaborated. “I think they deserve a lot of credit.”

There were almost 170 exhibitors registered for the shows as of this week, Schwartz said.

Raising the animals provides the children and teens with a chance to learn about the dedication and responsibility it takes to manage the livestock and work toward a long-term objective. It can be eye-opening for people who don’t have that experience, Schwartz said. Sometimes it’s a hard life lesson when things don’t go right or something bad happens to the animal.

But farm families and newcomers to the area have been finding value in the livestock shows for many years, with some families on their third generation or more of participants.

“That means a lot to me, that we’re passing this down, that it’s a family thing,” Schwartz commented. “Parents see their children gaining from it, then they grow and want to pass it on to their own kids.”

For anyone who isn’t as involved in the world of livestock, there are a few more entertaining events that the kids and animals are involved in.

On Friday, July 5, there is an animal costume contest, which previously has featured outfits such as a goat dressed as a painter, or a turkey sheriff walking its inmate handler around the pavilion. And on Saturday, there will be a goat kissing event, with the unfortunate smoocher being determined by a fundraising competition throughout Fair Week.

And anytime anyone is at the Fair, Schwartz said they should feel free to stop at the livestock pavilion to talk with the young exhibitors there and ask them about their animals.

“They’re always tickled to talk about what they’re doing.”

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