Alyssa Guillen, Highland FFA spends her downtime sleeping with her steer. The two placed first in Pen of Three with two other Highland FFA steers. This year is her first year showing cattle. (Photo by Audrey Hill)

By Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Audrey Hill
Audrey Hill, Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Between September 22nd and October 3rd of 2021 thousands of Kern County residents and fair goers alike walked through the gates of the Kern County Fair once again. After its year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s fair was back and better than ever. 

Being back at the fair was like being thrown into a flashback of “pre-blip.” Like reliving a memory of a younger Kern County Fair. The bustling crowds without face masks, scrambling kids dressed in all white with boots and buckles, folks gathered around enjoying the indoor food, drink and art contests. Everything looked back to normal, aside from the new and improved hand washing stations, bigger cleaning crews, lots of hand sanitizer, and of course those two days solely used for cleaning all facilities on September 27th and 28th. However you enjoy the fair, whether it be on the roller coasters, trying for the biggest plushie, delving into the delicious food, or anything and everything else the KFC offers, this year you could enjoy yourself again.

The “show days” of the 2021 KCF looked incredibly familiar. The animal numbers, although about half of what was seen in 2019, never failed to impress, and the competitive spirit of the showmen, the parents and also the animals never faltered. If there was any common theme this year among all the show barns, it is that this show stock community wants to be out here, doing what they love. Not a second in the day passed that wheelbarrows full of straw wasn’t zooming by, that lanes weren’t swept, and that smiles weren’t ear to ear. During shows the stands were overflowing with parents, grandparents and everyone else supporting their dedicated students all while showmen were focused on the judges, thankful that they weren’t cameras this year. 

Cavy Champions seen in the Parade of Champions, many of whom hold multiple banners. From left to right, Brent Loyd, Reserve Best In Show Rabbit; Isabelle McAvoy, Best In Show Rabbit; Zoe Pelishek, Reserve Grand Champion Single Fryer; Kaylee Becker, Grand Champion Single Fryer; Rebecca Peet, Reserve Grand Champion Rabbit Meat Pen (Audrey Hill)

Like the previous and likely many shows to come, this year’s livestock judges did not fail to comment on their appreciation for Kern County’s fair stock and showmanship quality. I heard the phrases “nationally ranked” and “world renowned” multiple times, just as I had many other years. Although it may be tempting to think the quality of this year’s show stock lends to more experienced showman, I spoke with many first-year showmen who won many significant titles. This speaks to how profoundly hard the Kern show stock community works for their world ranking title, and that even newcomers can achieve their goals. 

Mckinnzie Dominguez, Frontier FFA poses with her duroc below his winning banner that reads “FFA Champion Duroc Market Hog” (Photo by Audrey Hill)

Mckinnzie Dominguez from Frontier FFA states that 2021 is her first year showing pigs and she’s excited to do it again next year. She had two pigs this year and her duroc won FFA Champion Duroc Market Hog. Ms. Dominguez took them both across the auction block and earned back the money she had spent, stating that it will be hard to walk them up there and leave without them, especially her duroc. This process is hard on these showmen but also a sense of pride for many. It’s a pill that sums up the farm-to-table process that happens before every meal, and it is very hard to swallow for the young showmen who spend the year raising these animals. 

One thing is for certain, everyone who made it to the 2021 Kern County Fair wanted to be there. Back in July 2021, the fair Board could have called to wait out the lingering pandemic another year. Instead, however, they made the unanimous vote to follow through and have a fair, whatever it took. The Board set the stage with their dedication and unsurprisingly the residents of Kern County and accompanied surrounding counties met them with the same. Thank you to the Kern County Fair Board for a wonderful 2021 fair; we are excited for next year.