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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Barnyard animals and personalities at the Northeast Florida fair

The short drive to Callahan from Amelia Island is well worth it for a genuine county fair experience. My friend Lori and I escaped for an afternoon that took us worlds away in a short span of time. We wanted to see the animals.

Lori practicing milking on a dummy cow.

Our destination was the barns at the Northeast Florida fair in Callahan. Two barns were filled with cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and rabbits. We lazily walked through, talking to the animals and their owners and keepers. We arrived before the midway and exhibits were open and that tantalizing smell of corndogs and cotton candy from the other side of the fairgrounds was completely overshadowed by the smell of hay, feed, shampoo, and animals. We loved it.

lamb shearing

When we first arrived, there were a few tense minutes when an escaped Brahman, thankfully a smallish one, was doing its best to stay clear of the half dozen people attempting to apprehend it. In the end, the humans won, and it was returned to its spot in the barn. Later, one of the exhibitors told us that, while it was entertaining for us, an escaped animal can be a danger to itself and others.

Eight-year-old Cayden was keeping her unruly steer in check while her other was well behaved. She was gutsy and determined and that testy bovine didn’t get away with a thing. We met a young man with the Yulee High School Goat/Lamb Show Team who raised a male goat. He proudly introduced us as it nuzzled him affectionately while he brushed it gently. It was a sweet moment and another reminder that animals attract and give back love.

There were many mentions of ribbons won, and we saw several on display. But it was apparent the students weren’t doing it all for the ribbons.

Some of the chickens may have been models for early Muppets characters. Their wild colors and funny feathered caps captured our attention. We stayed clear of their beaks

There were bovines of many colors and shapes. The Brahmans were enormous and shaped like mountain ranges. Other cows were blonds, redheads, jet blacks, brown and white, and black and white. Their eyelashes were long, and their eyes were soulful. The high school senior owner of the lovely brown and white cow told us she plans to become a vet.

The goats were playful, the piglets were passed out in milk comas, and the sheep called to one another while the cows mooed. The horses were quiet and elegant.

We had interesting conversations with the student exhibitors and many parents. It was a pleasure to meet them and feel just a little bit connected to their special world of hard work, love, community, and achievements.

On the way home we stopped at Callahan Barbeque and saw some of the parents and exhibitors we’d seen earlier. You can’t beat fried chicken, BBQ, fried chicken livers, and fried okra as a perfect end to an afternoon spent with barnyard animals and their people.

The Northeast Florida Fair in Callahan is open through Sunday (check website for daily hours

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Oct 23, 2023

This was fun to read and I enjoyed the photos. It reminded me of days spent at the Minnesota State Fair. I would like to attend a small one like yours.


Oct 20, 2023

Great article! I loved seeing the barn yard animals!

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