Cute animals and even cuter children: it is a combination the Missouri State Fair has been known for for 113 years.
For most of the Fair’s history, one location where both animals and children gather is the Children’s Barnyard.
Originally, the barnyard was located in a tent on the Fairgrounds, but for more than five decades, it has been located in the “Red Barn,” where it is run by three area FFA Chapters.
“The Barnyard has two main purposes,” Crystal Hardy, Lincoln FFA advisor and one of the sponsors of the event, said. “The biggest is to educate and entertain the children and adults who come to see us.
“The second reason we are here is as a learning experience for our members who volunteer here,” Hardy added. “Most of our students aren’t exposed to the number and type of animals we have here.”
Forty-five students from Green Ridge, Warsaw, and Lincoln volunteer to work at the exhibits.
This year there are 20 different breeds of animals that the FFA Chapters are responsible for, including goats, pigs, sheep, chickens, cats and dogs.
This year a new breed to the Barnyard has arrived in the form of two Huarizos.
“A Huarizo is a cross between a llama and an alpaca, “Hardy said. “It’s been different working with them because we have never had anything like them before.
“Everything sticks to them,” Hardy added. “They are kind of like big Velcro balls. The problem is you can’t really brush them because we don’t want to pull their hair out.
Hardy went on to explain that the hair is where the value is in the Huarizo.
“Not that we sell any of the animals,” Hardy said. “We do let people adopt the kittens and puppies though.”
The other animals belong to individuals who are willing to loan them to the Barnyard for the Fair.
Many of the animals belong to the FFA members and Hardy has supplied several animals for this year’s Fair.
For the students the day begins at 8 a.m. when they exercise the large animals and deep clean the pens.
“After we work with the larger animals, we make sure they are fed,” Hardy said. “Then we start to take care of all of the smaller animals.
“The Barnyard is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and we always have work to do,” she added. “We are spot cleaning the pens throughout the day and are constantly checking on the condition of the animals and answering questions for visitors.”
“The best part of working here is the kids,” Morgan Hetrick, a senior at Green Ridge said. “I like to see the kid’s faces when they interact with the animals.”
Alyc Smith, a freshman at Green Ridge also liked working with the younger visitors but felt the experience would also be a good way to meet other FFA members.
“I’m a freshman,” Smith said. I really don’t know a lot of the members from other chapters, so I thought this would be a good way to meet them and have the chance to work with some different animals.”
Junior, Madison Billingsley, also from the Green Ridge chapter said that working with the animals and other people was what led her to volunteer.
“We don’t have any animals where I live, yet.” Billingsley said. “We are building fence right now and are in the process of buying some cows.
“Having the chance to get some hands on experience will help a lot,” Billingsley added. “Getting to work with the kids and the other members is also a lot of fun for all of us.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484