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Long-running club goes ba-a-ack to fair


Blooming Livestock and Rabbits to show sheep, goats and bunnies

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: MICA ANNIS - Left to right: Maddi Gross, Kathleen Barto and Natalie Allie of the Blooming Livestock and Rabbits 4-H Club will show their lambs at the Washington County Fair starting Thursday.Among the major events of 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, Arlo Guthrie first performed “Alice’s Restaurant,” The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” was the number one Billboard song ... and the Blooming Livestock 4-H Club held its first meeting with five members on Chuck Colgrove's farm in Blooming, an unincorporated community just south of Cornelius.

It's now the oldest 4-H club in Washington County.

“We’re celebrating 45 years and ongoing,” 14-year-old club member Natalie Allie said last week.

Blooming Livestock is also one of the most successful clubs around. Natalie, for example, was the Washington County Master Showman at last year’s county fair, and another member won the junior title.

Co-led by 70-year-old Peggy Harris of Cornelius and Linda Price of Tualatin, Blooming Livestock has 17 members who raise lambs and goats — and another 20-some that raise rabbits.

Three of Harris's own children went through the club back when Greg Johnson and Al Muhly were leading it, she said.

Club members love raising and showing their animals, but 4-H is more than that, according to Natalie, a Cornelius resident who joined the club about five years ago.

“It’s a dedication. It teaches you a lot of life lessons,” she said, including “discipline and social skills.”

“You learn leadership, and you have a great connection with your community,” said Maddi Gross, who attends St. Matthew Catholic School in Hillsboro.

With the Washington County Fair quickly approaching, preparations are in full swing at Harris’s manure-scented barn, a large but surprisingly quiet space — due to its well-fed, contented sheep — with sunlight coming through an open wall at one end.

For the past several days, club members have been clipping, washing and leading around their animals. Today, Wednesday, they move the lambs to the fairgrounds.

Once that happens, their schedule gets busier, with multiple shows starting Thursday, as well as a dance and even a costume party near the end.

The costume party is always a highlight, said Harris, because club members dress up themselves and their animals. This year, everyone gets to wear masks of a different kind of animal. Humans can become chickens. Sheep can become pigs. Spectators get to vote for their favorite costumes.

“It’s really humorous,” said Harris, who remembers dressing the animals in bridal wear the year Princess Diana and Prince Charles married (and more recently for William and Kate).

Humor is part of the fair experience and club members find it in unusual places. One time, Natalie recalled, a mischievous group stuck dollar bills into cow pies as a practical joke, then watched as various fairgoers noticed the money and stopped to dig it out.

But there is definitely a serious side to raising livestock.

At Harris’s barn last Friday, for example, one of Kathleen Barto’s lambs had a medical problem and needed to be put down. After briefly escaping, the lamb was lured back by the call of its mother and eventually it "went to lamb heaven," Harris said.

Kathleen, an Aloha resident, said she gets “close — but not too close” to her sheep so she won't be too upset by their deaths.

Many of the animals — especially the males — are sold for meat at the fair. The livestock sales are important, said Maddi, who loves getting money for her lambs.

Buyers tend to be generous, said Harris, adding that most of the club members do the same thing with their money: "Every cent they earn goes into their college fund."

The day after the fair ends, the club will hold a party at Harris's farm to celebrate its 45th anniversary.

Jill Rehkopf Smith contributed to this story.