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Contestants Gear Up for County Fair

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It looks like a busy week for Marie Hagman of Thousand Oaks.

The 53-year-old school cafeteria manager plans to bend her head over that bothersome sampler she began the day of the Northridge earthquake. She won’t stop cross-stitching until she finishes it Saturday.

Because if, after all that work on one little piece of linen, she fails to make the weekend entry deadline for this year’s Ventura County Fair, her family’s just going to kill her.

“I got busy watching those stupid O. J. hearings and I got off by one hole and now I’ve got to take off the whole border,” she groused, pulling up the sampler’s intricately cross-stitched border, one small green thread at a time.

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Canning and cooking, gluing and sewing, framing and prepping, residents all over Ventura County are readying their prized entries for one of Southern California’s smallest and most old-fashioned county fairs.

The 1994 Ventura County Fair will begin in less than two weeks--on Aug. 17--and will run until Aug. 28. But the effort to organize and submit entries is already well under way, from Simi Valley to Ojai.

A ways up California 33, on a dusty ranch in a neighborhood called Foster Park, 10-year-old Ashley Allred and her sister Amy, 9, are feverishly turning apples into jelly. That’s when they are not curdling milk into cheese, or meticulously positioning flowers in their 4-H club’s floriculture exhibit.

But their favorite entries are their dairy goats. “Goats have the personality of their owner,” said Amy, petting the brown nose of her nanny, Mobile Missy. “My goat knows how to open the gate, and she likes to eat candy.”

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Amy explained that she, too, likes to eat candy and, like Mobile Missy, she is smart.

Every day, Amy and her sister feed and milk their goats, plus dozens of others belonging to their grandmother. In the afternoons, they’ll run through training exercises with those they will show at the fair.

Goats are some of the most popular livestock for residents who live in semi-rural areas, such as those skirting the cities of Ventura County, said Rose Hayden-Smith, the 4-H youth development adviser for the county.

Many contestants are not raising cattle and pigs anymore, she said, “because of zoning (regulations) and the cost of keeping them. Goats you can have in an area where you couldn’t have a steer.”

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Still, the fair’s large livestock competition is booming.

The adult category--which only accepts sheep and goats because hardly anyone submits other types of animals--overflowed with entrants this year and officials had to turn away 125 would-be competitors. As a result, there will only be 1,010 breeding animals shown in the adult division, said Craig Fosdick, the fair’s assistant superintendent of large livestock.

Children and teen-agers have entered 403 animals in the youth division, which includes livestock destined to be auctioned at the fair for slaughter, Fosdick said.

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All the large livestock competitions have already passed their entry deadlines, but most other fair divisions are only beginning to log entries. Some, such as the baking competition, where each entry must be fresh, will accept items up to the contests’ opening moments.

That leaves Fillmore resident Rose Zellmer, 35, plenty of time to ponder what goodies she’ll submit for scrutiny this year.

“I want to enter a ton of stuff but I have to think to myself, ‘How many can I do in my schedule?’ ” said Zellmer, who is a professional seamstress and cake decorator, and the mother of four small children. “I like to cook, and I guess that’s half the battle.”

Zellmer entered a batch of scones last year at her neighbor’s urging and won first place. “That kind of shocked me,” she said.

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This year, she thinks that she’ll go for a carrot cake recipe that brought her sister first place in a high school competition years ago, and a plate full of buttermilk brownies that “will melt in your mouth.”

Of course, a few organized folks are already finished with their entries and submitted them Tuesday, the first of two days that the east county fair satellite office was open at the sheriff’s station. The office will also be open Saturday.

The Anderson girls--Erica, 11, and Alyssa, 10, of Thousand Oaks--submitted eight entries between them, including a mounted picture of their golden retriever, Tahoe, for the junior photography competition and thick school reports with glossy covers for one of various writing competitions.

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Alyssa turned in her favorite poem, which she typed herself, one index finger at a time, and mounted on colored cardboard. It’s called “Imagine the mammal that’s bigger than a camel!”

“Imagine being the only mammal that’s bigger than a giant camel!” Alyssa wrote in the poem that won a school competition. “Imagine eating 200 pounds a day / Like barley, oats and real green hay!”

Alyssa and Erica’s mother, Sharon, 42, said she insisted that her daughters do all the work on their projects themselves.

“I think that kids need to know that there are places out there that’s fun for them,” she said, “and where their work pays off.”

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FYI

The 1994 Ventura County Fair runs from Aug. 17 to 28. The large livestock competitions are already closed but most contests are just beginning to accept entries. For information, call the Fairgrounds at 648-3376.


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