Sauk Centre–The Stearns County Fair is billed as the “Five funnest days of summer.”

For those who participate in the fair it occupies more time than that. Two or three months before the fair, sometimes sooner, work with the animals, including cleaning and grooming for showing, begins. But that is only part of the commitment.

“When I get home from the fair this year, I will start getting ready for next year,” said Spencer Van Beck, Pelican Peak 4-H Club member. “You kind of think about it all year.”

Van Beck brought eight animals to the fair this year--four rabbits, three goats and a beef heifer. The heifer was something new for him.

“This is my last year of 4-H. I wanted to show cattle before I was out. Fortunately, I could lease a beef heifer,” he said. 

According to Sara Budde, of the Extension Office, (and a Melrose Area High School graduate) there were over 500 animals registered to compete in 4-H contests this year.

Abbie Harren, also a Pelican Peak club member, brought pigs, chickens, rabbits and cattle for show, but she had one primary interest.

“I love showing cattle,” she said. “I love getting cattle ready. I love cattle shows.”

For her, and other 4-H’ers, the five days of fair are not just a part of their summer schedule. Those five days are their life.

“We camp here all week long,” she said. “It’s like a mini-summer working vacation.”

And they are kept busy before, during and after showing their animals.

“There is something to do every day,” said Van Beck. “It keeps you busy.”

During the fair animals must be fed, watered and have their living quarters cleaned out. Animals are prepared for showings in contests they are entered in.

The first stop to all is getting animals and other projects registered.  Meghan Pundsack, Pelican Peak, who brought rabbits, goats and pigs pointed out the importance of the first day.

“You have to get the animals registered,” she said placing a rabbit in a cage. “If you don’t they can’t compete.”

The 4-H contest is only one of the venues at the fair that have animals or items being brought in for registration. There are also FFA (open to FFA members) and Open Class (open to anyone) contests. FFA and Open Class also have agriculture and horticultural classes. There are also craft and artist contests in the 4-H and Open Class and various art contests that have to be registered for competition or exhibit.

Whether caring for a colony of rabbits, a flock of sheep, a half dozen goats or just one cow, it’s a yearlong time and commitment effort to working with that animal.

“It takes a lot of time,” said Van Beck. “But it’s worth it.”