Fowl judge Tim Bowels talks to one contestant about his chicken.
Stuffed birds will serve as stand-ins for the real deal this year at the Lorain County Fair amid fears of the avian flu.
Kids who normally show live birds for their 4-H projects will still get that chance Aug. 24, only with detailed taxidermy or model specimens provided by the Junior Fair Board.
That body voted last Thursday in favor of a proposal to still have a skill-a-thon, showmanship, and type judging (by breed), as well as poster projects in the bird barn.
“It’s really hard not to have birds there,” said Junior Fair fowl chair Mikayla Fortney. “We were really trying to involve everything we normally do without the birds.”
Each 4-H member will be required to participate in the skill-a-thon on July 18 and showmanship Aug. 24.
Fortney said the board decided on taxidermy and model birds to make it feel as close as possible to the experience of showing a real bird.
Exhibitors who planned to show a market or self-determined bird — pheasant, quail, and peacocks — cannot participate in type judging but 4-H’ers showing the other birds will have to submit one picture by email for judging prior to the fair.
The winner of each type class will be announced after showmanship on Aug. 24.
No one will be allowed to sell market birds at the fair (there will be no fair auction for fowl) and each 4-H member will have to find a buyer to purchase their project.
The fowl barn may not have any live animals inside this year, but it will be filled with poster projects and information on birds.
The 4-H’ers are expected to make posters with pictures, information, fun facts, and what was learned by raising birds.
Fortney said each 4-H club and FFA chapter that has members taking a fowl project will create a large display for inside the barn that focuses on nutrition, the avian influenza, egg production, meat cuts, housing, and the various types of birds.
“People are going to learn more from the posters,” she said. “It’s going to inform more people on the animals.”
Each exhibitor will still be required to participate in barn duty and answer visitor questions about the birds or poster projects.
Fortney said it’s important to still have a fowl show because there are kids showing for their first time and others in their senior year.
“It’s not about selling your animal or bringing your animal to the fair. It’s about learning about your animal,” she said. “This is a year-round project. It’s important for them to show their stuff and learn something.”
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.