Sunday, July 19, 2015

Stuffed birds replace poultry at state fair

There's still plenty to remind the residents of Sherburne County, Minnesota, of the traditional county fair. But the stuffed toy chickens and ducks in the poultry barn cages are a reminder of the changes brought by avian flu. Sue Oelke remembers the reaction when members first learned their project birds would be banned from the fair this summer.

"Oh, lots of sad faces, 'My chickens, I can't bring my chickens in.'" Oelke, who is in charge of the poultry exhibit at the Sherburne County Fair, was determined project participants would still get a fair experience. So several cages contain member's stuffed chickens, ducks and turkeys to represent the birds that couldn't come to the fair.

Last year, chickens alone filled more than half a barn at the Sherburne County fair, more than 200 cages. Oelke says it was important "to symbolise that they still have a presence here at the fair." The state Board of Animal Health announced the ban on live bird shows back in March, an effort to halt the spread of avian flu.

YouTube link.

Jim Hermel, vice president of the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs, says many fairs are trying to come up with substitute activities to keep poultry project members involved in their fairs, "by making up different types of educational displays." Hermel is confident the poultry bans will not hurt county fair attendance. In Sherburne County, poultry judges will evaluate pictures and video of poultry, with stuffed toy birds serving as stand-ins for the handling part of the judging.

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