A fair mom


A sweet, brotherly text from Peter last Sunday afternoon prompted the title of my column. He was referring to all the time and energy the Elroy Fair took up over the course of five days and texted me, “You did a nice job as a first-time fair mom. Some may call you a fair mom; I’d say exceptional.” 

It was truly my first time being an involved fair mom. The past few years, I was not exactly in a place where I wanted to extend my limited energy toward something else, and Dad had the reins. 

This year, when it was time to get the piglets from our dear hoof trimmer/hog raiser, Dad was in Australia, so I sent the boys to fetch their pigs and readied a pen at the farm. Dane laid claim to Bert the first time he saw him, certain he was a champion porker. Ira and Oliver decided their love for showing pigs was in fact not love but something more akin to loathing. This left Ernie all washed up and walking ready with no date for the fair. Enter Stella into the piggy picture. One of my favorite things about Stella is her genuine willingness to try anything. She enthusiastically added showing a pig at the fair to her list of accomplishments. 

The temperature climbed, the work doubled, and the excitement was near boiling over last week as we prepared Bert, Ernie and ourselves for the fair. I entered my sewing projects and a bouquet of fresh flowers. To be quite honest, I was just as excited as an adult as I remember being as a youngster. Cora entered a drawing of a cow in the show ring being watched by a full crowd, and Henry entered a small collection of his favorite Ertl toys. 

For the pig show Friday morning, the mercury was already creeping up by 9 a.m. Stella and Ernie did a fabulous job for their first time walking in the ring. If she had nerves, she didn’t show them. She made sure to not get between Ernie and the judge. With her long-legged strides, Stella kept up to him when that four-legged sprinter decided to speed up. If you had been there watching the show, you would have thought Ernie knew exactly when his time was up. As the judge placed the pair fifth in the class, Ernie turned around and dove under the gate and left the ring. Watching a 244-pound pig scurry under a gate is a sight to behold. Stella found the proper opening and made it out in time to regain control of him. 

Dane and Bert were in the next class of barrows, as Bert weighed 277 pounds. They did an excellent job in the ring. Bert did not even pause too much to attempt to eat anything bizarre. (He had been known to chomp on a rock or two.) They were a perfect match – Dane being so calm and attentive and Bert walking like he knew this was his time to shine. The judge placed them first in their class. When they had to come back out against all the other barrows, Bert wowed the judge yet again, and Dane smiled and shook his hand in appreciation and amazement. After the top gilt was named, Bert was cajoled back to the arena, this time competing against his sister. His sister and Landon DeWitt received grand champion placement, while Bert and Dane graciously accepted second place. Having the reserve grand champion market hog was exciting for Dane, and he was so thrilled to see Landon win with his pig. 

Bert and Ernie were not done yet. Brynn (Stella’s younger sister) and Cora walked them for the pee-wee showmanship class. They answered questions from the judge and grinned from ear to ear as they were handed their trophies, thus securing at least two more pig showers for the future. 

On our trips to and from Elroy in the van, Cora was watching “Charlotte’s Web.” As if being at the Elroy Fair wasn’t enough to put me over the edge with feelings, listening to that sealed the deal. Cora was so perturbed that we didn’t give Bert and Ernie buttermilk baths before their show that I had to promise her we would try that with our next pigs.

The auction on Saturday evening of the fair is something you have to experience to understand. The sheer loveliness of a business buying two champion roaster chickens for over $400 is best felt in real life. Watching Stella bring Ernie in and be on high alert, lest he make a break for it again, and grin for her first fair auction picture filled my cup of joy. Then when Dane strode in with Bert, my cup officially ran over. The crowd cheered and hooted, and Dane smiled in his humble, unassuming way as he was shocked at the price Bert was bringing. There may have been a few of us who got some wayward sawdust in our eyes causing them to tear up. 

Between Henry’s, Cora’s and my entries, we got all the colors. Stella is all in for next year. Her grandparents never thought they would see the day one of their grandkids would show a pig but have resigned themselves to thinking this may not be a one-off type of event. 

A special thank you to everyone who works nonstop to make the Elroy Fair such a wonderful place to show at and attend. The words the judge wrote on Cora’s entry tag for her drawing hit me in a way that was likely not intended. 

“Good job of filling up the whole page!” 

I’ve decided this is a great motto for a way to live life. We only get one page. We should do a good job of filling it up as bright and beautiful as we choose to. Dane and Stella both wholeheartedly said that even if they wouldn’t have placed at all, it would have been well worth the work. Lastly, to all the exceptional fair moms out there, you are amazing.  

Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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