10-Day Run of Fun
Kiwanis Coweta Fair opens tonight
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Amy Goddard has never been a big fan of the midway at the Coweta County Fair.
She likes the lights and the food, of course, but the exhibits are her favorite.
"Whether they are the animal exhibits in the ag barn or the craft and food exhibits in the exhibit hall. Because every single one of those exhibits — someone put their time into it," Goddard said.
"I really love walking through the exhibit hall and walking around the ag barn," she said. "I think about how much time and care they put into that, to see how much work people put into all their different exhibits and how gorgeous they turned out."
Goddard, a high school senior and Coweta County 4-H member, has been showing animals for years. She competes in "showmanship," which focuses not on the breed quality of an animal but the training and behavior of the animal.
Goddard and her rabbit, Bonnie, won the rabbit showmanship show when Goddard was in the eighth grade, and in the 10th grade she also competed in horse showmanship with her mare, Goldie. Goddard won first place that year in the Showmanship Sweepstakes, which includes a showmanship competition for multiple animals: horse, dairy heifer, rabbit, goat and chicken. Last year, she "mastered" in the showmanship sweepstakes. Once you reach master level, you can no longer compete.
In the Showmanship Sweepstakes, "you can’t use your own animal," Goddard said. Instead, you use someone else's, or one that the 4-H animal clubs offers. This year, Goddard will be bringing Goldie for the other competitors to show. Showmanship is different for different animals. You might wonder — how in the world do you train a rabbit?
Goddard and her brother have raised their rabbits since the animals were three weeks old. A lot of rabbit showmanship focuses on the owner's knowledge of the animal. "You are showing off an animal, and you are proud of how the animal has been raised, because you have raised it, and you are proud of how well the animal has been trained," she said. "You want to show the judge you are capable and the animal is capable."
The rabbits have to be trained to sit still during the competition. "You sit your rabbit up in a little fluffy ball," Goddard said. "You're sitting them on a table, loose, where they can jump off. You have to train your rabbit to sit by you and behave, and to depend on you. Because a rabbit gets terrified when they are in a large area with people.”
To ready a rabbit for the show, "they are supposed to be introduced to crowds of people," she said. "You have to teach them the loud noise and all the people are not going to hurt them."
Horse showmanship is different, and the judges don't ask questions. "It is all about the movement of the animal," she said.
"Different kinds of showmanship mean different things for different animals. It is difficult to master all of them because they are so different and the animals react so differently."
And most competitors aren't very familiar with most of the animals.
"I'm rare in that I show two different kinds of animals,” Goddard said. Most only show one.
"It's a really cool opportunity because you have to go and be mentored by other people to learn how to do the different animals," she said. Her friend Bishop Watts taught her how to show poultry and goats, and Pam Brinton taught her how to show dairy heifers.
Goddard thinks competing and showing at the fair is great because of all the work people put into it. "I really like it when I see the younger kids come through there, where they are obsessing over how adorable the bunnies are," she said.
At this year's Coweta County Fair, Goddard will be working at the 4-H food booth, and she's also been helping with the Veterinary Science Student Organization’s educational display. Goddard, who wants to be a veterinarian, is assistant leader of the organization.
Goddard wants to be a large animal vet. She hopes to move to Telfair County, where her mother grew up, to practice. There's a shortage of large animal vets in that area.
It was through the influence of Vet Club leader Emilee Brinton that Goddard decided to become a large animal vet, she says.
Goddard's family moved to Coweta from Gwinnett County when she was 9. She was crazy about horses but not interested in 4-H.
Her mother had been involved in 4-H, and knew it would be a good opportunity for Goddard to be around horses. When Goddard went to her first Horse and Pony Club meeting, she didn't like it.
"I said 'I'm never going back there again.' My mother said, 'Oh yes you are, you just need to try it for three or four meetings.'" Goddard made friends, got into the horse judging team, and got involved in other aspects of 4-H. A few years later, Horse and Pony Club Leader Angela Dennis helped her get Goldie.
"And the rest is history," Goddard said.