Each year, one week rolls around that is full of late nights, early mornings, and great memories - fair week. Having grown up in Highlands County my entire life, I have spent many years enjoying the typical rides and fair food. However, since my eighth-grade year, when I began showing livestock, my perspective on this annual event has changed entirely.
For someone showing livestock, whether it be a rabbit, chicken, pig, steer, or heifer, the first step in the week is check-in and weigh-in. For those who show small animals, check-in is during the afternoon. For those who show large animals, our weigh-in begins bright and early at 5:30 a.m. Considering I like to be one of the first in line, this usually means a wake up time of about 3:30 a.m. to get my animal loaded up. Showing livestock is a process that takes an extreme amount of time, and weigh-in allows the idea that fair week has finally arrived to set in.
After weigh-in, the following steps are different for each animal. As I am showing a heifer this year, shortly after weigh-in I will go through sifting. Sifting is a process in which calves are walked to ensure that they are safe enough to show. After sifting, we have the rest of the day to decompress before show the next day.
The rabbit show is the first show of the week, on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. The next is the market swine show, which is Sunday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. I compete in the commercial heifer show on Monday, Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. The market steer show follows on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. The very last show of the week is the poultry show, Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. Clearly, fair week is a very busy week for FFA and 4-H members.
After all of the shows have been completed, the most nerve-wracking night of the week arrives - auction night. On Thursday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m., the pigs, steers and heifers will be auctioned off. Showing livestock can be a costly endeavor, so auction night is full of exhibitors hoping to make a profit from their projects.
If you were to ask any member what the worst part of fair week is, I can guarantee their answer would be record books. Record books are intended for students to maintain records of their project throughout the year. However, most students end up scrambling to finish them the night before they are due. I have found myself guilty of this on more than one occasion.
FFA and 4-H members also have the opportunity to submit projects to be judged and displayed at fair booths. Projects range from essays, to photographs, to metal and woodworking projects. One of my favorite parts of the fair each year is walking through the pavilion and looking over all of the members' hard work.
Whether you come to the Highlands County Fair to ride rides, stuff yourself with fried foods, watch a livestock show, or walk through the project booths, it's always a good time. As fair week is fast approaching, I look back on the success I have had with my project this year. Raising a heifer for the first time has certainly been an experience, and one that I am sad to see come to a close. I cannot wait to see what memories this year's fair has in store.