Animals as entertainment
Waukesha County Fair stars can neigh, moo and squeal
Animal barns among the hot spots at the fair


July 21, 2016


Submitted photo

Mariah Richardson shows a dairy calf in the Showman of Showmanship contest at last year’s Waukesha County Fair.

WAUKESHA - When it comes to entertainment, bands like Foreigner or food like fried something on a stick might stand out at a county fair.

Catching people’s eye since forever have been the animals and their handlers.

The 2016 edition of the Waukesha County Fair is no different.

Julie Missall, 10, of Big Bend, expects to be peppered with the usual questions when she shows her lionhead rabbit Mindy, 4. The newly recognized breed has a lion-like mane and hers is torte, a kind of champagne color.

“They ask: ‘What is her name, how old she is, what color she is.’”

What draws people to Mindy?

“It’s like the fluffier they look the more people look,” Missall said at the rabbit hopping competition Monday at the Waukesha County Expo Center.

Julia Missall, 10, of Big Bend holds her lionhead named Mindy, 4, before competing in the Waukesha County Fair rabbit hopping competition Monday.



Rabbits seem to draw attention because of their variations.

They can be wooly like an angora or their ears can droop down rather than stand up like a mini lop. They can have blue eyes or brown eyes or pink eyes. Colors range a good chunk of the rainbow.

Never-ending questions

Rabbits are far from the only animals in the barn catching looks and raising questions.

Wanda Richardson, vice president of the Waukesha County Fair and livestock chairman, raises bore (meat) goats, Suffolk sheep and pigs. She and her children have heard them all.

“One of the funniest ones is: “‘Why does the sheep wear its blanket? Is the sheep cold?’ We get asked that question more times than you know.”

It’s not a metaphorical question about their wool. They wear blankets. Why?

“They wear the blankets to keep clean and keep away the flies. They’re not cold,” said Richardson, who lives in the Town of Ottawa.

The questions keep coming in a county that is a little more suburban and a little less country every day.

“‘Why do sheep or cows or any of the species wear an earring?’” It’s an identification of the animal,” Richardson explained.

Young, old and those in the middle filter in and out of the barns at the fair, which runs through Sunday.

“Everyone checks them out - all sizes, shapes and colors - the animals,” Richardson said.

“Whether it’s brown Swiss, and black and white Holstein, and the Angus, they're all different.The same with the goats. Some goats don’t have ears and some have long, floppy ears.

“They're like, ‘Look at this one!’ Or, ‘Come look at this one!’”

And seeing the animals in action is another thing.

“You show them with a cane. You drive a pig. You tap the right cheek to go left,” Richardson said.

While the rabbit hopping competition for the County Fair is done, there will be a demonstration at 1 p.m. Saturday. To get their ribbons, the rabbits do hurdles, high jump, long jump and an obstacle course (they like to hide in the tunnel).

“People love it,” said Wendy Norem of Waukesha, a rabbit exhibit volunteer whose children participate. “People will hop their rabbits at the humane society and people show up just to watch.”

Enduring animals

While people are endeared to the animals, animals sometimes endure people. That includes their handlers and owners.

Some of them are quite young.

The Little Britches showmanship takes place Saturday after the dairy judging in which youngsters show cattle. The sheep people dress up in costumes promoting their sheep. And the Little Squealers on Sunday is for kids 2 to 8 years old and the pigs. Richardson’s son, 5 at the time, showed a 279-pound pig last year.

“This hooks them in so they can show when they're older,” Richardson said.

One of the fair’s big attractions is the Showman of Showmanship Competition at 6 p.m. Saturday. Each of the older children shows a pig, a goat, a sheep, dairy and beef cattle, and a horse, straying from their strengths.

“So a goat girl will show a horse and they all show the horse  and the they go to the next ring,” Richardson said. “All the different barns all pull together.”

Her daughter, Mariah Richardson, 17, was crowned the Showman of Showman last year.

And while the star attractions might be shy or nervous with all the attention, Richardson said she thinks the animals get used to it.

“Every time you show an animal they have to get acclimated,” she said.