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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

family FFAIR A

Above: Sue McCoury shears Crystal, an Angora goat, with help from Amanda, 13, and her brother Tyler, 11. The McCourys will enter about 70 animals in the fair, including the goats and Amanda's ferrett, PJ.
 (Jed Conklin photos/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Kara Hansen Staff writer

IGHT CREEPS across a dark and clouded sky early on a placid Wednesday morning. The nutty, damp smell of hay pervades the air as a family, undaunted by a few lightening bolts streaming toward the ground, feeds a pen of about 40 goats.

It’s shortly after 7 a.m. on a summer morning, a time when many children are asleep at home, savoring their final days of a hiatus from school. But 13-year-old Amanda McCoury has already fed her goats, dogs and llamas, and is wrangling in some baby pygmy goats to train for the 2004 Spokane County Interstate Fair.

She lifts one and arranges its spindly legs squarely beneath its body, nudging its hind hooves apart and straightening its posture. Although the kids are not even one month old and stagger across the pen, their bodies teetering on tiny, wobbly legs, McCoury is teaching them to walk and respond to a collar.

The goats have posed a last minute challenge for McCoury, says her mother, Sue.

“They’re not very old, but you have to be able to lead them like they’re adults,” she said.

“It takes a lot of work and a lot of time,” McCoury said of preparing for the fair. “You have to work with your animals every day. If you don’t practice, they forget everything.”

And goats, dogs and llamas aren’t McCoury’s only entries. She will also bring one chinchilla, two ferrets, two cats and a crowd of rabbits to this year’s fair, plus she will compete in cooking, costuming and fashion.

The fair also offers baking, horticulture and craft demonstrations for youth, not to mention endless amusements ranging from traditional fare to extreme sports and live entertainment. Fourteen varieties of animals will compete in the barns at the 53rd annual fair, themed “Flock to the Fair, See Ewe There!”

The All Alaskan Racing Pigs will burst from their pens four times each day, hustling toward the finish line with snouts raised and stumpy legs pumping. The pig races are a popular “audience participation” event, said Dolly Hughes, the fair’s director. Several people will be selected from the crowd to lift the gates for swine contenders, “owning” the pigs until the end of the race, she said.

Children can get a ride on a llama or a jaunt on a train. Those with energy to burn can try their legs at a pedal tractor contest, struggling up a hill on a tricycle with weights dragging behind. Others can scurry up a rock climbing wall or spring into the air on quad-jumps. And carnival rides offer fun for the whole family.

Motorcycles will soar through the air, their riders flipping and twisting in extreme stunts at the grandstand Friday and Saturday. Hughes said an interactive sports arena will premier the same weekend with skate ramps, a 30-by-60 pool for boating and safety instructors on hand to supervise. A demolition derby will wrap up the weekend’s extreme sports on Sunday.

Live entertainment, arts and crafts, various demonstrations and many types of food offer families a break from the action.

Families can sit back to watch jugglers, clowns and magicians on the Familyville stage or enjoy music from country singer Gary Allan and ‘80s rock group Night Ranger on the grandstand. Celebrity hopefuls will belt their hearts out on todayin the first-ever Spokane Idol competition, and local high school bands will cap off the festivities with a big-band finale on Sunday.

Fairgoer Stacy Carlson, 14, who enters fair exhibits in arts and crafts, marigolds and baking, says she enjoys watching live acts and perusing arts and crafts booths, but she always looks forward to Chinese food at the fair.

“I don’t get any of it during the year except when my sister comes home sometimes,” she said. “It’s just a treat we usually have at the fair.”

Fairgoers can also sample caramel apples, elephant ears, candy, hot dogs, salads and salmon wraps, in addition to countless other food options.

Youth 4-H’ers will demonstrate sewing and cooking in the fair’s arts and crafts section. Live barn exhibits will be accompanied by papier-mâché counterparts, the results of 3,000 packets of recycled newspapers and educational materials previously distributed to children at local businesses.

More than 200,000 people are expected to attend this year’s celebration. While many of the fairgoers will be newcomers, many more attend year after year. McCoury, who has competed in fairs for seven years and has won numerous awards, says her participation in 4-H Club activities and fairs extends beyond her parents to her grandparents.

“My mom was a 4-H leader, so we’ve always gone to fairs, and my dad was in 4-H and my grandma was in 4-H, too,” she said.

“It’s kind of in the blood,” her mother agreed. “We grew up doing this stuff, so it doesn’t seem like a whole lot to us. It’s kind of just what we do.”