What a ride! Just like a mechanical bull: Get On, Turn On and HANG ON!
This past Saturday was Goat Day in NW Florida. It was our first experience with this annual festival put on by the local Rotary Club, and until the previous Monday, we had no idea that we would even be involved, so you can imagine what a week of preparation it was!
It all began over a year ago when a friend suggested we bring our goats to Goat Day. She said that the goats that were there the previous year were few and left much to be desired. She said it was very disappointing and thought that our goats would be a fabulous addition. Later, another friend mentioned that she too, had been to Goat Day and had to ask someone, "Where are the goats?" That year there were none. My understanding is, that for the past 20 years there has been a celebrated Goat Day Festival in Blountstown, Florida, but actual real-life goats have seldom been on display for this event. I put the idea on the back burner and left it there for quite some time.
This year, two weeks before Goat Day, I began to try to contact the Rotary Club to find out more information - yes, I had waited until the very last minute, as is typical, but eventually I had the scoop and we were invited to bring our flock and participate in the festivities. Having never attended this celebration before, I had no idea what to expect, so the day before the show Bob and I went to the fairgrounds to see where we would be located and how best to prepare. I had envisioned a few small pens crammed up against bandstand bleachers, as we had been told that we would be right next to the stage, so I was more than pleasantly surprised with what we found when we arrived. The setup was way beyond our expectations! The large, 40ft X 20ft tent was being set up, center-stage, giving us plenty of attention and shade throughout the day, and shortly thereafter a crew of workers came to build the goat pens to our specifications. We had them put together three pens: a large area for a petting zoo, and two smaller areas for the milking goats and the sale bucklings. Those were located at the back of the tent so that towards the front we could pass out samples of fresh, cold milk, delicious homemade chevre cheese and goat milk soap, a hobby I've just recently become enamored with.
The day before the show was a blur. Bob had already worked a 40 hour week outside of the farm, and now it was a race to build a portable, yet sturdy milking stand, shop for last minute necessary items, procure and load the horse trailer and pickup truck with all the necessary equipment: tables, chairs, feed troughs, hay, milking machine, buckets, hoses, power cords, tools (to complete unfinished jobs), display items, ice chests, food stuffs, etc. etc. We were up until 10:30 or so packing and preparing and were not finished when we finally called it a day and collapsed, exhausted. The next morning we were up at 2:30am to slug down a quick cup of coffee and finish loading last minute items and goats. Thankfully a good friend came to help and stayed throughout the day. Another friend joined us at the park, and I'm telling you, we couldn't have done it without them! The goats loaded relatively easily, we aired up the trailer tires and were on the road by 6:00.
This was the first time we'd ever taken our animals off the farm. It was our first public show and our first visit to Goat Day, so we had no idea what to expect. The doors opened at 8:00 and the crowds grew as the day progressed. It was a combination Goat Day and Pioneer Day with a small 4H show and Horse Drill Team exposition and lots of vendors! Unfortunately, we were kept so busy there was no time to walk about and see the rest of the park and exhibits. I saw only the inside of our tent. I would have liked to explore and take pictures of the different events. Next year we'll be better prepared.
I thank God for our helpers!
Crystal met us at the fairgrounds and immediately got to work setting up tables, filling feed bins, and doing anything else she could to help.
She was superb at greeting guests and offering samples of goat milk and cheese. Most of the visitors to our booth had never tasted either and were a bit hesitant to try, but a sweet smile and a little encouragement from Crystal, and most all walked away with a whole new outlook and appreciation for these delicious and wholesome foods!
Darby saved us and showed up at our house at 3:30 am to help load the truck and entice the goats into the trailer. We brought approx. 25 goats with us; a variety of Nubian and Saanen milk goats, 7 month old Nubian bucklings, and small Nigerian Pygmy Goats perfect for the petting zoo.
Once the vehicles were unloaded, the goats settled in their pens and the booth was set up she arranged a beautiful display of handmade goat milk soaps to sell. Several months ago Darby helped me to achieve a longstanding dream of learning to make soap. I had researched, read, and watched videos, but she gave me the hands-on confidence I needed to begin, and now it's become a passion of mine.
Darby stayed the whole day, meeting and greeting, and handling wonderfully a task I've found I'm not very gifted at - selling the soaps.
Bob was the entertainer (and builder, and brawn, and mastermind...) Two days before this affair he began building a heavy duty milking stand so that we could give milking demonstrations throughout the day. Once the trucks were unloaded, the goats were penned and we three girls were arranging everything, Bob set to work running electricity and hoses, and then finished the construction of the stand. It was definitely last minute, but perfect timing!
He held the major jobs of overseeing the children in the petting area, and setting up and administrating the milking game -
At 1:00 I gave a soapmaking demonstration. I cut the mixing time in half to hold interest so the soap was quite soupy and messy later during transport, but after a night in the fridge I was quite surprised to find that it turned out perfectly!
I also milked goats periodically. I was relieved to find that even with all the newness and commotion of the fair - with gospel music groups playing on the bandstand just behind us and a continual wave of people coming and going, not to mention a brand new milking stand that they'd never been up on, my milkers did just fine and jumped right up to be milked - and get their pelletized feed, which they love! I was also a little concerned that they might not be as anxious to be fed on the stand since they been offered handfuls of feed all day long.
Truly, that was the hit of the day - the petting zoo where children and parents could go in and interact with the goats. Bob was there to oversee and be sure no ears were pulled, no toes were stepped on, nor any of the goats terrorized by the little darlings. I think the goats enjoyed the attention and had as much fun as the kids did!
Goat Day ended at 4:00. It had been a beautiful, sunny, fall day - a complete success! We met lots of wonderful people, shared over 9 gallons of milk and many containers of cheese, sold a good amount of soap, passed out blog cards, and brought smiles to the faces of a multitude of children.
We gave it our all and we were whipped when it was over!
My only regret was not taking more pictures. There were a few things we'd do differently, but it was a great experience and now we'll be better prepared to do it up even bigger NEXT YEAR!
If you happened to be there this year I'd love to hear from you, and even if you didn't, we appreciate your comments, suggestions and ideas.