The Fair is a relatively judgmental place.
It’s full of projects that need to be ranked and ordered, ribbons and trophies that need to be awarded, and participants and viewers who want to know how things came out. All of that starts with judging. I realize we’re not supposed to judge anything here in the modern United States, where we are inundated with special snowflakes who demand the right to overrule those who oppose them simply by virtue of being special and then get annoyed when the general vapidness of that position is pointed out to them, but it’s hard to have a Fair without it. Or much of a world.
There was still a pile of judging for us to get through when I left off last time.
One of those piles was Tabitha’s art projects, which were judged on Monday. Tabitha loves art, and she’s got talent, which is a nice combination. Unfortunately she also inherited my procrastination gene and my tendency to focus on the projects that are most personally rewarding at the expense of the ones that seem tedious. What this meant was that Sackars and her acrylic painting were done in fairly good order and in plenty of time. Her multi-media project and her marker project, well, they came in by the deadline and that’s all we’re going to say about that.
She did well. I didn’t get a chance to photograph the projects before they went off to judging. I had to go find them hanging on the wall in what is, in more civilized weather, the curling building. So the photos are at an odd angle that doesn’t do them much justice. But they’re good work.
The acrylic painting got a blue ribbon.
As did the marker project.
The multimedia project came in with a red, which isn’t bad for the time invested.
Nice work, Tabitha!
The other pile of the week’s judging was Lauren’s animals – both rabbits and poultry.
Rabbits are always judged on the second day of the fair, which turned out to be a hot and humid day but a clear one. It’s a pretty straightforward process. The morning is devoted to showmanship – the kids bring up their rabbits to the judging table and go through a prescribed routine outlining the parts of the rabbit, breed standards, strengths and weaknesses of the rabbit, and general knowledge, and the judge asks further questions. As far as the judging goes its one of the few things that the kids can control entirely, since it doesn’t actually rely very much on the quality of your rabbit. This is a good thing when your rabbit gets stressed out the day before judging and emits a copious quantity of, um, serious yuck that gets all over her fur and needs to be cleaned quickly. The Fair teaches you all sorts of lessons, really.
Lauren is now in the Junior class, which means she her showmanship starts right about lunchtime.
She gathered up Maybelline and walked across the grass to the judging table outside of the rabbit barn and went into her routine. The judge – one who has been here before and who is good with both kids and rabbits, so we like her – listened and asked questions that I couldn’t hear because it’s the Fair and the Fair is nothing if not noisy and my hearing isn’t great in the best of times.
Maybelline was not impressed with this process, it must be said. Particularly the flipping up side down part of it. This is how Lauren ended up with some fancy and rather impressive scars on her jaw. But she soldiered on nonetheless, and the judge was duly impressed.
Junior Showmanship Champ!
Once showmanship was over there was a short break for the afternoon, and then it was time for The Judging Of The Rabbits.
Rabbit judging is a process that begins at 5pm and ends sometime in November, particularly if you have one of the breeds that gets put at the end of the list. It’s better than it had been in previous years, at least – it used to run until the heat death of the universe – but you are best advised to eat something ahead of time.
The Rabbit Barn is next to the Stock Pavilion where the judging takes place. As a parent, my job is to sit in the Stock Pavilion and be Out Of The Way. I can do that. Lauren’s job is to be ready when called, bring the rabbit in, set her down on the table, and let the judge do his thing.
This particular judge is another one who takes his time and tries to teach the kids things as he goes, which is good. He liked Maybelline but found a few things that needed improvement so he gave her a red ribbon. The judge physically moves people to the left or right depending on where he ranks them, and Lauren ended up precisely at the cut-off between red and blue. We’ve been saying that Maybelline got a Top Red, which isn’t a real honor but we like it anyway.
Wednesday was poultry judging.
Where rabbit judging is an orderly if lengthy process, poultry judging is barely managed chaos and moves along snappily. Showmanship and animal judging happen at the same time, and it is up to the kids to squeeze in an appearance in front of the showmanship judge whenever they can do so in between birds. Given the schedule and the weather, it took Lauren four tries to make that happen, but she eventually did and got a blue ribbon for it. The judge asked a lot of questions – he’s one of those people who loves his subject and loves to talk about it – and he apparently liked her answers.
The actual judging of the birds was more complicated than usual this year.
The way it works is that they set up a double row of cages outside of the Poultry Barn with some benches in front for the spectators. More spectators bring their own chairs for behind the benches, and more still stand in back of those. The ringmaster, for lack of a better word, calls each class of birds – and sometimes more than one, if the classes are small – and the kids go bring their birds out from inside the barn, wait until the previous class clears off, and then puts their birds in the outside cages. The judge does the whole class at once – a process that takes anywhere from three to twenty minutes, depending on the size of the class and how much the judge wants to discuss it with us – and then the kids gather up their birds, pick up their ribbons, and go back inside to wait for their next class.
Because each kid can bring in up to eight birds.
Lauren’s first bird to be called was Mocha, a yearling hen that she had exhibited last year. She is a sweet bird and a good layer, but was a bit ragged from the attentions of one of our roosters and isn’t the egg-laying machine that some of the other breeds in this class are, so she came out with a red.
There was then a long gap for Lauren, during which the turkey judging happened.
Turkeys are judged in place, because nobody wants to drag a 35lb bird around. There were a lot more turkeys overall this year, and a whole lot more bronzes – last year there were eight; this year there were 36. The judge and his assistant go by class – bronze hens, bronze toms, white hens, white toms – and pull each bird out in turn and examine it before putting it back.
With Momo sadly missing, Lauren had only Edmonton III to be judged.
She chose the name Edmonton III because she thought it sounded posh. We’re not sure who the first two were, and to be honest the first thing I think of when I hear the word Edmonton is ice hockey, so I’m not sure how posh it really is, but there you have it. I also tend to call him Ed, which is about as far from posh as you can get. But if you just listen to the sound of it – Edmonton the third – it really does have a nice ring.
Out of 21 bronze toms, Edmonton placed 4th, which meant he earned a Top Blue ribbon.
Then it was back to the chickens. Lauren’s next category was bantams, and her Blue Rosecomb Bantam hen Whitney picked up Lauren’s second red ribbon of the day.
And then the storms hit.
We could see the black clouds building in the west all morning, and as the bantam classes were finishing up it became clear that this was as far as we’d get outside. So once the last bantams were taken back to their cages the judges decreed that everything had to move inside to the Poultry Barn. Because this is a 4H project there were plenty of spectator volunteers, and within fifteen minutes there was a functional double row of cages, some benches, and a whole raft of chairs set up and we could proceed.
Except that the Poultry Barn is not really a barn. It is 50 yards of corrugated metal and ridiculousness, and in a torrential downpour lasting more than an hour it sounds like you’re standing in a steel drum. Very difficult to hear, in other words. But we soldiered on, and everything wrapped up nicely.
Lauren had four more birds to be judged by this point, and they went smoothly.
Ellen, the Dominique hen got a red to show to her sister Oprah, back in our own barn.
Terrance, the Dominique rooster also got red.
Sonic, the Hamburg rooster also got red, but this was another Top Red situation since the judge wanted to give her a blue but was only allowed two blue ribbons for that category and there were three birds. Poor Sonic.
And finally, Mickie, the Hamburg hen got got a blue, which was a nice way to end the judging.
It was a very red day that way. As I am in the middle of reading the Game of Thrones series, I confess that the use of the phrase “a red [noun]” does make me a bit apprehensive these days, but so it goes. It was a very good day for poultry judging, and Lauren did well.
The poultry barn is a lot quieter now, and the chickens are slowly recovering from all the fuss and bother. Chickens are simple creatures and like their routines.
I like that about chickens.