Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2013

SALISBURY — An event like a county fair can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.
A milestone. A competition. A chance to try something new.
With an almost-full moon and almost perfect “jacket weather,” the second night of the Rowan County Fair drew a moderate crowd for a lot of different attractions.
Johnny Love, fair manager, estimated total attendance for the first two days at about 7,000.
Tuesday’s fair featured the beef cattle show, with entrants from across the state.
Several participants said the competition there is as strong as at any county fair in North Carolina.
As yearling heifers were led into the judging ring, the building was filled with the sound of mooing.
In the adjacent barn was a scene that cattle farmer Alton Holshouser called “a cow beauty parlor.”
Fans, blowdryers, combs, brushes and special nontoxic hairspray were all being wielded by neatly-dressed contestants.
The trick to winning a beef cattle competition is making sure the cow has the right “confirmation,” or all the traits of the breed.
The cattle and their handlers are judged twice, once on breeding and the other on showmanship.
Holshouser said his son, Karl, has been showing cattle since the early 1990s.
Today, Holshouser said, there are somewhat fewer competitors at the Rowan fair, but still “pretty good for a county fair.”
Not far off, Karl worked hard to get his cattle ready for showing.
On the other side of the barn, students from Bandys High School in Catawba County relaxed after their competition.
Mackensie Hatley, a junior at Bandys High, won first prize in showmanship for showing her Simmental cow – a breed that originated in Switzerland.
“It’s a really good experience … a good chance to learn responsibility,” Hatley said.
She and her classmates Mariah Duncan and Lexie Chandler said they never really knew one another until last year, when they started showing cattle together on the Bandys FFA livestock team.
“And now, I can’t get rid of them!” Hatley joked.
Nearby, a group of pharmacy students were enjoying what was, for some, their first visit to a county fair.
The five young women said they’re doing their residency at the Hefner VA Medical Center.
They took some time out from the midway to pet a Brahman cow, a Percheron horse and other animals at the Lazy 5 Ranch tent.
Then it was time to sample a chocolate-drizzled bacon funnel cake.
“I never knew bacon could taste so good,” said Gina Winchester, a pharmacy student from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Marissa Ragonesi, a native of Maine and student from the University of New England, said she was impressed by the food, as well as by the overall experience.
Others said they had visited state fairs and the Dixie Classic fair, but being at a local fair was a different kind of rodeo.
Rodeo riding was what Devon McNeil found at the fair, though he didn’t expect it.
McNeil, 14, and sister Dasmin, 17, both took turns on a mechanical bull at the fairgrounds.
“They saw that, and she said, ‘I want to ride!’” said their father, Willie McNeil.
“You got your wish, I fell on my head,” said Devon, with a grin.
Inside the exhibit halls, local Order of Elks reps passed out information on charitable activities, local politicians handed out candy and vendors offered everything from cold drinks to new lawn mowers.
Out on the midway, carnival barkers coaxed people to pop balloons, fire pellet guns or hit targets for prizes.
It may seem like just another day at the fair to grown-ups, but for at least one boy, it was a “first.”
Landon Clark turned 4 on Tuesday. His mother, Amy, said he had been to the fair before, but this was the first time he was old enough to ride any rides.
As the “Monster Truck” kiddie ride revved its engines, and the glittery vehicles started around the track, Landon grinned the whole time.
“We’re dying laughing, just watching him having fun,” said Brett Clark, Landon’s dad.
And, most likely, memories that will stay with Landon long after.
The Rowan County Fair continues through Saturday.
Full information is available at a new website,
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.