Fair-goers flock to contests

Friday, July 22, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:34 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

With noses vibrating from their heavy breathing, they stretched out next to frozen water bottles, ice packs and plastic bags filled with ice cubes until the show began.

Unlike the preening and performing animals in other contests, the competitors at the Boone County Fair’s Rabbit Show didn’t do much. Fair-goers bathed and stroked their soft fur underneath a hot tin roof.

Meanwhile, kids in jeans, boots and cowboy hats led their orphan calves at the Junior Bucket Calf Show while Miss Boone County, Erin Bagby, stood by in the sawdust wearing her high heels.

All the while, the Mule Kickers of Fulton prepared themselves for clogging on the asphalt drive.

“The weather’s perfect,” Patricia Dodd, the Mule Kickers leader, shouted over a microphone to the crowd.

The Mule Kickers are a group of about 20 people that get together to “stomp” every Wednesday night in the Boy Scouts’ cabin in Fulton.

Just past the fair’s entrance, they twirl and tap in unison, clad in black and white pinafores, puffy sleeves and bright banana-yellow ruffled skirts atop voluminous white petticoats. Their buckled white shoes clickity-clack in rhythm.

“You can’t watch the cloggers without smiling. I love their outfits,” Linda Dietzel of Columbia said. “There are not too many things today that you can do that are good, clean Christian fun.”

Patricia Dodd, a Mule Kicking instructor from Huntsville, discovered clogging through a friend 25 years ago. According to Dodd, their dances are rooted in the hills of Appalachia.

Bill Vaughn of Columbia, who admitted he used to square dance a little himself, said he enjoyed the dancers’ enthusiasm.

“It’s too hot for it though,” he said.

In the air-conditioned Multipurpose Building, little girls paraded by parents who dressed them in brightly colored summer outfits and put ribbons in their hair, march in front of a panel of three judges.

About 200 people crowded the room for the annual Girl’s Baby Contest. Grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers — whole families were on hand.

The 93 contestants were carried up in groups of 10 and danced or stood or smiled. Children’s music played as a small black machine filled the air with bubbles and the judges tallied their votes.

“There’s no contest here,” said Debbie George, the event manager.

Yet most parents seemed sure of whose baby was best.

“Just like she said, it’s a show not a contest,” said Jackie Thieman of Columbia, grandmother to four-month-old contestant Elizabeth. “I already told her she’s the most beautiful one here.”

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