Farm Olympics bring out the competitors

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Monday, September 1, 2014

ELKHORN--Some of the area's largest forearms were on display Monday at the Walworth County Fair.

Attached to those forearms was a blue-ribbon assortment of biceps, triceps and deltoids.

The event? The first Walworth County Fair Farmer Olympics.

“We're always looking for something different,” said Becky Merwin, Walworth County Fair Board director. “That's what keeps people coming back.”

Well, it certainly was different.

The olympics were an expansion of the bale-throwing contest that is traditionally held the Monday of the fair.  Along with tossing a straw or hay bale, participants also competed in a bucket brigade--Quick! The barn's on fire!-- a round-bale rolling contest and a bouncy horse race.

As organizers got everything ready, entrants went through their warm-up routines. For the under-12 set, this consisted of standing in groups and giggling nervously. For the older folks, it consisted of facetious stretching.

As grownup Jennie Bunger entered the ring for the bouncy horse race, somebody shouted, “Don't pick the one with the broken leg.”

Bouncy horses have no legs.  This cuts down on the cost of hoof care but makes them more difficult to control. Most riders resorted to waddling through the course with the giant, inflatable blue horse being dragged between their legs. 

Bunger was doing fine until part of her horse caught on an electrical cord and she went over the top of the creature and landed upside down.

If you're training for next year's Farmer Olympics, here's a tip: Wait, no, we don't have a tip. There is no easy way to ride an inflatable horse.

Katie Gillette, 8, won the straw bale throw in her age class.  She threw a scaled-down model of a straw bale more than 15 feet.  This was probably small stuff for a girl who, earlier in the fair, had the winning fall Ayrshire calf in the open division. She also won the Little Britches Showmanship competition

While the kids threw smaller bales, the grownups threw full-sized hay or straw bales. Because hay is much denser, hay bales weigh significantly more.

For most, the technique involved grabbing the twine, spinning around like a discus thrower and then letting it go. This generates the momentum needed to carry the bale a long way, said Laura Lauderdale, one of the organizers.

Mike Lois used the “one-handed, double spin” technique to throw a hay bale 46.1 feet, winning the adult contest in the men's division.

It also helps to have field experience.

Patty Lauderdale threw a bale 26 feet. Patty and Gene Lauderdale have a farm near Elkhorn that has been in their family for more than 100 years. They milk 150 Holsteins and grow about 400 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and other bale-able crops.

Tip for non-farmers: You will never, ever, ever see a farmer on an actual farm spin around in a circle before throwing a bale. Or anything else for that matter.

The bucket brigade consisted of moving water from one large barrel to another. It was timed and based on the amount of water you managed to transport.

Tony Valadez's bulky arm muscles were sticking out of a t-shirt with the torso of a woman in a bikini on the front and back. The bikini was pink, but Valadez's dignity didn't suffer until he had to run back and forth with two, very small buckets of water.

He lost to a lanky young man wearing traditional attire.

Tip for potential competitors: Clothes might make the man, but they won't always make that man a winner.

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