Preparing and showing cows at the Clinton County Fair is a full-time, 24-hour-a-day job during fair week.
Competitors arrive at the fairgrounds Monday night and literally move in for the whole week. Two rows of cots share space in the cattle barn with two rows of dairy cattle. The low rumble of ceiling fans competes with the sounds of the cattle, both day and night.
“We’ve got cots set up from one end to the other,” said Wanda Emerich of Mooers.
“Sometimes it’s hard to sleep at night, especially show nights because there are people clipping their cows and getting ready for show the next day,” said Abby Leggett, 15, from West Chazy.
Participants have access to a kitchen and take turns cooking for the 25 to 30 people living in the barn for the week. Shower facilities are also available in the barn, but people need to stagger their shower times to guarantee enough hot water.
For Emerich, who has been participating in the 4-H dairy competition since 1983, living alongside the cows has become second nature.
“When you bring in a herd of cattle, some of the cattle don’t transition as well into the fair life,” Emerich said. “There’s a calming sound from the fans.”
Participants prepare their cows for various shows throughout the week and are tasked with keeping them clean and presentable throughout the day for people passing through the barn.
“It’s tiring, very busy. It’s a fun week though,” said Adrianna Couture, from Chazy. “ Show days are probably the best days, seeing how your animal does. The best part is the competition.”
Adrianna is spending her 12th and final year at the fair. In the fall, the 18-year-old will be attending SUNY Canton for veterinary technician management.
While nights in the barn can be far from restful, the days start at around 5:00 a.m. with chores and preparation for the upcoming day. The whole experience, according to Kathy Russell from Chazy, helps to build the children into better people.
“I had three children go through here, and I really liked what 4-H did for them. It gave them responsibility; when you come here and you have to get up at 5 and get your animal ready,” she said.
Russell is in her 22nd year of participating and living at the fair.
But during a whole week spent at the county fairgrounds, there are a lot of ways to spend time outside the dairy barn.
“I like to walk around, see the various attractions,” she said. “I like going to the concerts, that kind of stuff. I went to Hunter Hayes, that was not bad.”
One attraction garnering a fair deal of attention is a thrill ride new to the fair this year. Sandwiched between the Rock-N-Roll Fun House and the Amazing Headless Lady in the far corner of the fairgrounds sits an imposing ride reaching into the sky with two arms like a double-bladed windmill. A steady stream of onlookers shook their heads in disbelief as they watched those daring enough to allow themselves to be hurdled into space in an arching, tumbling circle.
“It’s a fun ride. It’s way better than any of the other rides,” said Casey LeClair, 17, from Plattsburgh.
Fourteen-year-old Mariya Kalarash of Plattsburgh agreed.
“It’s pretty much the funnest ride here. It wasn’t scary after a while,” she said after exiting the ride for the sixth time.
The fair concludes today with the ever-popular Demolition Derby. The first round begins at 1 p.m.