Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Calf births another first at county fair

Increased crowds witness the new and enjoy the old at annual August event

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Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hessel
Gingersnap and her new calf, Gingerbread, who was born in the new Birthing Center at the Montgomery County fair Aug. 11.
More than 218, 000 people — several thousand more than last year — attended this year’s county fair, meeting organizers’ expectations.

‘‘We had a really great week,” said Marty Svrcek, executive director of the Montgomery County Agricultural Center Inc., which hosts fair. ‘‘The weather really cooperated.” The fair concluded Saturday.

Fair officials continued to work with Montgomery County Police to identify problematic behavior, including gang signs and clothing and aggressive behavior by fairgoers, Svrcek said.

Preliminary data shows trespass citations decreased from 53 last year to 48 this year, while fair attendance increased by 4,000 people, said Lucille Baur, a county police spokeswoman.

‘‘Our community needs to understand that we don’t want gangs at the fair,” Svrcek said.

Not for the faint of heart

Fairgoers enjoyed a number of new highlights this year, such as a high-wire motorcycle act, sport-fishing competition and added carnival rides.

On Aug. 11, 13 and 14 an estimated 150 to 200 visitors gathered in the fair’s brand-new Milking Parlor and Birthing Center in Old MacDonald’s Barn to watch a cow give birth.

‘‘My father raised a lot of cattle, but I had never participated in anything like that before,” said Rawligh Sybrant, 63, of Olney. ‘‘I was about 20 feet away.”

‘‘Most people had never seen it before,” said Beth Smith, a fair official who recalled ‘‘lots of cheers” as newborn calves made their way into the world.

Smith wore a wireless microphone and fielded questions from the crowd as three cows, owned by Clarksburg farmer Bruce Connelly, gave birth.

‘‘As different things were happening, I could explain to the crowd what was going on, what to look for, what to expect, what the vet [was] doing,” she said.

On Aug. 11, Smith relayed events as Dr. Patrick Skipton, a Damascus veterinarian, and two assistants helped a jersey heifer named Gingersnap, birth a nutmeg-colored calf called Gingerbread.

Cows can give birth lying down or standing up, said Smith. Gingersnap did the latter, as a rapt crowd watched from behind.

‘‘When a calf is born, you’re going to see front hooves, and then you’re going to see its nose,” Smith said. ‘‘That’s ideal.”

Gingersnap, a first-time mother, required some extra tugs from Skipton.

‘‘When they have difficulties, a veterinarian or the farmer will put ‘chains,’ or something to hold those hooves, to pull,” Smith said. ‘‘So that when Mom has a contraction, he can provide some resistance.”

No stranger to calving season, fair chairman Gene Walker was thrilled to see a video of the birth played around-the-clock on the barn’s six 17-inch televisions.

‘‘The crowd was cheering when the calf came out, and I thought that was really neat,” said the 62-year-old Damascus farmer. ‘‘That’s what closes the relationship a little bit between the farmer and the city-dweller.”

Next year, fairgoers may see swine farrow and goats kid, Smith said.

‘‘It’s been a big hit, I’ll tell you what,” said Walker. ‘‘It’s a real education fact-of-life that a lot of mothers today like to explain to their child,” he said. ‘‘They always wonder where babies come from.”