The worst heat wave in 23 years enveloped county fairs unfortunate enough to be underway last week. It's usually hot at county fair time, with at least a couple days in the 90's, but every day in the 90's and one at 100 plus high humidity turned fair week into a low-attendance, miserable proposition for many 4-H'ers last week. In spite of it, most of the 4-H'ers still found ways to make it cool.
At the Tippecanoe County Fair, reports were that hogs suffered early. So a local company which specializes in refrigeration supplied equipment to cool down the barn for the latter half of the fair. Officials also ran water across the barn roof at times to help cool down the metal roof.
In Johnson County, the extreme heat caused Fair Board superintendents to make some unusual but courageous decisions. First, they allowed all non-auction livestock to go home Wednesday night, one day earlier than normal. Logic was two -fold- getting a lot of animal body heat out of the barn would help those that had to stay behind, and with shows over, kids tend to be kids, and tend to pay less attention to their animals, when the animals could still overheat.
Second, in an unprecedented move, the swine committee decided that in the face of 100 degree plus heat indexes, even at midnight, they would allow the 4-H swine members selling animals, some 150 strong, to sell an invisible pig!
"The kids will go through the ring in order, and the bidders can bid as usual," says Ed Pruitt, a hog producer who assists with the hog show there. Some 338 head were shown on Wednesday of last week.
The grand champion was still allowed to take his pig through the ring. The decision wasn't to rob anyone of a moment of glory, but instead to protect the animals and try to prevent death losses. Animals stayed in their original pens until the sale concluded, and then all those going to market were moved at once onto a truck.
The other fear was that one or more pigs might stress out and go down in the sale ring. As one person remarked, "that's the last thing we need is for a picture of a hog down and dying in the auction ring with PETA and Humane Society of the United States just waiting to pounce on such things as animal abuse.
Hats off to the folks in Johnson County for some innovative decisions that reflect common sense.