Ethel flaunted her loins Friday night at the Arizona State Fair. In a dusty arena, she struggled to stand still as a judge felt her back, sides and loins. Ethel, an East Valley goat, was vying to win the Best Middle Weight Meat category of the Boer goats competition.
As Ethel posed and the judge prodded, thousands flooded through the fairground gates for the first night of the fair. Bass beats bumped from the bowels of fair rides, white Ferris wheel lights lit the sky and the smell of hot sugar and sizzling grease tempted parents and children alike.
At one food stand, Steve and Traci Henderson of east Mesa juggled money and drinks as their three daughters and two foreign exchange students noshed on corn dogs, fry bread and nachos.
“Only in America do you see people walk around and eat chicken with their hands,” said Swedish student Clara Kjellman, 16. She marveled at the size of the fair and the number of people. As she peered around her, a fairgoer in a wheelchair struggled to carve his way between an idling group of teens and the families awaiting their stick-food.
The Hendersons’ next stop was the Ferris wheel, but they considered deep-fried Twinkies a “must” before the end of the night.
Most fairgoers were focused on ready-to-eat food. But 7-year-old Kayla Lonchar and 8-year-old Samantha Ollendick, both of Chandler, walked their goats into the Agricultural Center’s arena for showing. Kayla and Samantha steadied and turned their goats as the judge ascertained which goats she thought would yield the most meat. Goat competition superintendent Eva Norton said this process of judging is called “confirmation.”
Ribbons and money go to the winners. A third-grader at CTA Freedom school in Gilbert, Samantha said this is her second year of showing goats at the fair. She thought Ethel might win second.
Kayla said she’s been showing goats for three years. She and her brother, Justin, 12, compete at the state fair and the Maricopa County Fair each year.
Friday night, Kayla said she wasn’t necessarily hoping to win the competition — but she couldn’t wait to eat some funnel cake.