POCAHONTAS - Jocelyn Keller, 16, a member of the Garfield Gleaners 4-H Club, had her hands unexpectedly full for few minutes Saturday at the Pocahontas County Fair when an open cage door inspired several of her bantam leghorn chickens to make a run for it.
None of them got very far. Quick reflexes saved the day.
It was a good thing too, since the poultry judging was about an hour away - an event she'd been getting ready for over the course of several days.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Jocelyn Keller, 16, of the Garfield Gleaners 4-H Club, retrieves one of her chickens Saturday morning at the Pocahontas County Fair after it made a run for freedom.
"I started three days ago," she said. "We washed them."
While the birds didn't like it at first, she said they settled down when they figured out the water was nice and cool.
"They liked their bath then," she said.
She said that after their initial soaking, she used borax and a vinegar rinse to finish them up. To keep them fresh for the show, all the bedding and debris was cleaned out of the chicken room.
Her last step in preparing: "I put baby oil on their combs and feet," she said.
While Keller has several other non-animal exhibits at the fair - including a State Fair qualifying poster board - she said she enjoys the animals the best and likes to help out her friends with theirs.
So are the three chickens at the fair destined to become part of a future dinner?
"No, no, no," she said, quite firmly.
Shelagh Masingale, 11, of Rolfe, got her first introduction to swine at this year's fair as she helped her cousin, Seth Blade, 11, with his Pork Challenge pig.
"I learned they're hard to work with," she said.
For Blade, who got to work with the animal at its owner's farm as part of the Pork Challenge program, the worst of the learning curve was behind him.
He didn't mind another common complaint with hogs.
"I don't mind the smell," he said.
His work paid off; the animal was grand champion.
"I like the trophy and the ribbons," he said.
Brady Janssen, of Gilmore City and a member of the Guys and Gals of Grant 4-H Club, got an unexpected challenge when his crossbred steer decided it wanted to go in a different direction than the one Jansson had decided on in the show arena.
"It surprised me a little bit," he said.
Janssen had a lot of work to do to get his animal ready. He said steers have to be washed twice a day, clipped and combed, stalls cleaned and be given plenty of fresh water.
"I get a some help from Dad," he said.
He said he enjoys seeing all the other animals and the, "cool exhibits."
In spite of the jumpy steer, Janssen did well. He earned a champion ribbon.
Of course, no fair in the state of Iowa is complete without a queen and no town should be without one either. Hannah Goedert, 17, does the honors for the Pocahontas County Fair, Abigail Minkler, 7, is the Little Miss Pocahontas.
Their job at the cattle and other shows includes presenting ribbons, trophies and plaques to the winners.
So how many do they hand out?
"Probably 13," said Minkler.
Goedert had a higher estimate.
"It's probably closer to 50," she said.
Minkler also enjoyed another honor. She got to present ribbons to some special people.
"My cousin Tyler," she said. "Hailey (another cousin) too."
While Goedert didn't get to hand any ribbons to relatives, she did say she knew many of the winners from school.
One guest at the fair Saturday arrived without his usual attire. Charles Weatherwax, of Pocahontas, is well-known for his white hair and beard - yes, he portrays Santa Claus during the holiday season.
"The kids all think I'm from the North Pole and vacation in Pocahontas," he said. "We don't have this at the pole, so I that's why I attended today.
Unfortunately, there were no reindeer entered in the fair.