The week before fair always poses two huge questions in my house: What did we forget and how bad do we need it?
During the week of preparation preceding the county fair, my family and I put together a list of everything we need during fair week, and no matter how hard we try, every year, we manage to misplace the list before next year. Every year, we start our “new” list that we have made for the past 10 years of the fair essentials: Hair brushes, ponytails, deodorant, hair spray, bobby pins and much more.
Now, this list also entails essentials for the livestock we take, as well. The livestock portion of the list is just as lengthy if not longer than the human side. Shavings, soap, brushes, feeders, water buckets, feed and whips can all be found on the top (and less often forgotten) part of the list.
Now, because every year my family makes a new list, you can imagine something will be forgotten. I ask myself the same question every day, “What did I forget?”
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The majority of the time, I think of some small item that I never end up using throughout fair week. This poses the question, “How bad do we need it?” If the item is something that my family will use on a daily basis, then I put the item in the pile that is to be taken to the fair. If the item is something that my family will only use occasionally throughout the week, then I ask my dad if he recommends taking that item. If he says yes, then I put it in the pile, but if he says no, then I put it wherever I found it and go back to thinking of what else I forgot. Now, on the rare occasion that I find something we will rarely ever use during fair week (like band-aids, hand sanitizer or water bottles), then I totally disregard that item and don’t even bother asking my dad if it’s worth taking. This process of gathering and sorting through fair essentials can take anywhere from all week to three days. It just depends on how motivated I am.
Gathering fair essentials and making our list is just one portion of the week leading into fair week. I also have to prepare the livestock that I am taking to the fair, which means I get to do my favorite part of raising livestock — shaving pigs. Shaving pigs is always an experience for me because no matter how tame your pig is, it can always be a hassle when shaving. Many pigs don’t like the feeling of the clipper guard on their skin or how close I am to them when shaving or maybe the pig is just hot and doesn’t want to deal with me at the moment, and I understand all of that.
That’s why when shaving pigs, I always make sure to work with the pig and not against them. This causes less stress on the animal and on me, too. Sometimes, if a pig is being utterly irritable (like Chuck was this year), I simply skip them for the time being and hope they’re in a better mood by the time I am done shaving my other pigs. When I am done shaving all the other pigs, I’ll go back to the ones who were being a tad bit moody, and I’ll finish shaving them.
When shaving, I always start with the body because it is the easiest. The majority of the time, the pig gets tired and will lay down halfway through shaving, and this makes my job much easier. Once the body is completely shaved, I attempt to shave the face. When I shave the face, I only shave the long whiskers along the forehead and along the mouth. This gives the pig more show appeal.
Many times, the pig will try to eat the cord from the clippers, the clippers themselves, my hand, my shoes or anything else in sight. This makes my job of shaving the face much harder because the pig is trying to bite my hand off. My family has learned a few tricks to keep the pig as still as possible when shaving faces: Putting a boot through the slats of the gate to allow the pig to chew on, hold a marshmallow between your fingers and let the pig chew on (but not eat) it or just don’t shave faces.
Preparing the trailer is another huge part of preparation. Cleaning out and stocking the trailer is something crucial to thrive during fair week. If my trailer isn’t clean, then the pigs could get sick, and the last thing anyone wants during fair week is a sick pig. Stocking the trailer occurs after the trailer is cleaned and my family has gathered everything needed for fair week. Moving everything from the storage area to the trailer can be eventful because the place my family stores all the livestock show essentials is a bit larger than the tack room of our trailer, so loading everything can be quite eventful. In the end, somehow my family manages to pack everything we need into the trailer.
Preparation for fair week can be a huge part in thriving during fair week. Not having to drive back and forth to my house five times every day to pick up something I forgot makes my fair week a lot less stressful. Fair week is a lot like running a race. If you don’t prepare for the race by hydrating and stretching, then running the race will be extremely difficult, and you likely won’t do well. If I don’t prepare for fair week by gathering fair essentials and shaving pigs, then fair week will be incredibly difficult and stressful.
During fair week, I always make sure I drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen so I stay hydrated and don’t burn as easily. This also makes fair week much more enjoyable, so please everyone, make sure to drink water and if you plan on spending the day at the fair, pack some sunscreen.