News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 5, 2014

Day at the fair

Ponies neigh, old tractors putt, floriculture blooms, needles embroider, as opening day nears

TERRE HAUTE — Though the Vigo County Fair officially opens today, Saturday was a busy day around the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds as open class exhibits were entered and judged and commercial vendors made final adjustments to their stands.

“There’s a lot of activity going on today,” fair board president Jennifer Cook said. “It takes a full year to make all this happen, and we’re already working on things for next year.”

The fair is an event for not only 4-H’ers entering projects, but it also has attractions for everyone from crafters to gardeners to antique fanciers to families.

Some exhibitors for today’s 4-H Horse and Pony Show had already arrived Saturday morning, and the family of 11-year-old Whitley Hunt was busy grooming its horses, as well as a goat and some ducks.

Whitley was busy combing tangles out of the tail of Pete, a 30-year-old halflinger mix, who is larger than a pony but shows in the pony class. He is a rescue horse that the Hunt family took in a couple of years ago after he was found half-starved and neglected.

Whitley said she plans to show Pete in the western pleasure and gaming classes today.

In the floriculture building, a variety of fresh cut flowers, arrangements and potted creations were being brought in.

Debbie Lazzell of Terre Haute had several entries, one being an exhibit of artemisia, the herb of the year, also known as sweet annie. Her creative display also included geraniums, dorotheanthus and Victoria Blue salvia.

“I like sweet annie and I like geraniums, so when I was going through the entry classes, I selected these,” Lazzell said of her box of plants. Nearby, she also entered a fairy garden, complete with tiny features, such as dragonfly stepping stones and a round mirror to represent a pond.

The Wabash Valley Antique Engine and Tractor Show runs all day today, with a parade of power set for noon, and rides and games starting at 1 p.m.

Among the antique engine exhibitors are Randy Buntain and Paul Stephens, who on Saturday were discussing some of the antique engines used decades ago on farms, before electric utilities had reached rural areas.

A Fairbanks Morse Engine steadily putted away as it has for more than 80 years. It is a vacuum pump used from 1931 to the early 1970s in a Kentucky oil field. A natural gas byproduct from the oil well was captured and used to run the engine, which in turn kept 14 oil wells producing for decades until newer technology stepped in.

“We get a load of small engines out of farms,” said Stephens of New Palestine, Ill., who said he enjoys the antique engine hobby.

The engines powered farm machinery and household appliances, and they were also used at sites such as municipal water works and feed mills.

Inside the exhibit hall, two 4-H clubs were setting up their “Can-struction” entries in the fair theme of “Go for the Green.”

The Northside Neighbors Club stacked hundreds of canned goods to create their Olympic-themed display. The Rabbit Club, partnering with the Ouabache Club, also chose the Olympics to illustrate a winning theme. They created Olympic rings out of canned goods, and stacked podiums for first, second and third places, with stuffed animals receiving the gold, silver and bronze medals. Of course, a rabbit was on the gold pedestal.

In the open class exhibit area, Paula Shanks was entering a rug hooking wallhanging of her cats in the needlecraft category.

It was her first time entering exhibits as an adult, she said, but she wanted to display the wallhanging of her cats, Misty and Maddie Sue, which took her about two months to make.

Linda Smith of the Burnett extension homemakers club brought five entries to the fair this year. She had an afghan, embroidered pillow, two baskets and salad dressing in the miscellaneous foods category.

Smith said the Burnett club is 83 years strong in Vigo County. It is one of 16 active clubs with the mission of strengthening families through continuing education, leadership development and volunteer community support.

Open class superintendent Ruth Ridener stayed busy entering exhibits on Saturday, and said she had no idea how many exhibits would be brought in.

“I’m pleased so far because with it being the Fourth of July weekend, I was worried about it, but so far we’ve been busy,” she said.

Last year, the open class had 926 exhibits entered, and in 2012 the exhibits were at 1,094. A few years ago, the exhibits numbered above 1,500. But some seasonal issues, such as the drought of 2011, tend to reduce the number of flower and garden entries received.

A new category this year, Ridener said, was decorated flip flops in the crafts area. Last year, genealogy was a new project.

“We try to keep up with new trends in crafting and needlework,” Ridener said.

Cook said an effort was made to get more family-friendly activities organized this year.

The free stage has a variety of entertainment each evening. A Kids Zone area opens from 4 to 6 p.m. in the outdoor pavilion, featuring activities such as miniature golf, a stickhorse rodeo, crafts, a pedal pull contest and a petting zoo.

“We tried to do a lot of things for families to come and have fun, and for it to be affordable,” Cook said.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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