While many people are attracted to the Kern County Fair for its food, concerts and rides, livestock remains a major focus of the event for many.
On Saturday morning, hundreds of Kern County students were preparing the animals they’ve worked with for months to be showed off this weekend in their bid to get them sold. The students are participating in the fair as part of their school Future Farmers of America or 4-H programs.
One such student was junior Madison Dallas from Frontier High School. While she has been in her school’s FFA program since she was a freshmen, this is her first experience showing an animal at the fair.
“I really wanted that experience. I wanted to know what it is like,” she said. “A lot of my friends encouraged me to do it. I’m a very competitive person, so I felt like I could do well.”
Dallas is showing her 6-month-old pig named Carnitas on Sunday. She has been working with him all summer, spending about four hours a day trying to get him trained and building him up to a proper weight.
“All summer I didn’t do much except take care of him,” she said. “I wanted to name him something that reminded me that I shouldn’t get too attached, but it didn’t work. I’m pretty attached to him. He’s a really good pig. I like him a lot.”
Dallas said the experience of working with Carnitas has been a challenging one, especially in terms of trying to get him to do what she him to do. She said he likes to explore, which makes it difficult for her to get him to where she needs to go sometimes.
Getting him to be the proper weight for showing has also been difficult, she said.
“It’s been a rude awakening, to be honest, but I’ve been handling it,” she said. “It’s been pretty fun overall, but it’s also pretty stressful.”
Despite the challenges, Dallas said she plans to show an animal at next year’s fair.
“I really like having that responsibility,” she said.
Bakersfield High School junior Selma Alvarez has been showing pigs since she was a freshmen. While she has typically shown one pig each year, this year she’s showing two and initially had been planning to show three. One pig got sick and wasn’t able to go to the fair.
“Last year, my pig didn’t make weight, so this year I’m trying to make up the profit I lost for that pig,” she said.
Alvarez said taking care of several pigs at once has been a big challenge that has required her to use all the skills and experience she’s gathered over the past few years.
“Getting to know your pig is a challenge, knowing how they work, knowing how you can show them,” she said. “You want to be able to bond with your pig, but not bond so much where you have a strong connection and you can’t disconnect when you sell them.”
Alvarez said all of the long hours and hard work is paid off when you are successful in getting the animals sold.
Golden Valley High School freshman Zachary Chambers jumped right into the fray by preparing a lamb as well as two chickens for this year’s fair.
“It’s been really awesome,” he said. “It’s opened my eyes to the opportunities that the farm life has given us. You get to see the different aspects of having an animal, what it’s like to take care of them.”
Chambers said he he has particularly enjoyed working with his lamb, which he named Biggie in honor of the rapper The Notorious B.I.G.
“We get along pretty well. We were head-butting each other earlier,” he said. “He likes to be playful sometimes. One time I was walking him and he tried to flip, landed on his back and started squirming around like a worm.”
Chambers, who was getting a last-minute respite with Biggie on Saturday before having to show him on Sunday, said trying to keep Biggie the proper weight has been the biggest challenge in preparing him for the fair.
“Sheeps tend to eat a lot,” he said. “They will eat anything.”
As if on cue, Biggie immediately began chewing on the lock to his pen.
Regardless of where Biggie eventually ends up, Chambers said he has enjoyed getting to take care of him.
“The biggest experience I would take home is having been able to know him and being able to raise him,” he said. “Not very many people can say ‘Hey, I raised a lamb.’ It’s been very educational.”
Chambers said he will likely continue to show animals at the fair for the rest of his time at Golden Valley High.