Ag Fest petting zoo expands to fill livestock pavilion

Jan Jackson/For the Capital Press Going over every last detail of Ag Fest's biggest petting zoo to date are, from left, Austin Brill, Cascade High School FFA Adviser Becky Bates, Collin Brill and Ag Fest Petting Zoo Chair Craig Anderson.

TURNER, Ore. — An estimated 20,000 people will visit Nosey’s Neighborhood Petting Zoo during this year’s Oregon Ag Fest.

At the petting zoo, visitors will see and learn more about the species and breeds of farm animals than ever before offered.

The petting zoo, popular with children and adults alike, has expanded this year thanks to Cascade High School FFA seniors Austin and Collin Brill, Cascade FFA adviser Becky Bates and Ag Fest board member and petting zoo chairman Craig Anderson.

The annual event takes place April 23-24 at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.

“I’ve been teaching at Cascade High School for 10 years and our FFA has taken the lead on the petting zoo every year since I’ve been here,” Bates said. “Austin and Collin Brill led their fellow FFA chapter members and a host of other members from neighboring schools in putting it together and we’ve exceeded our expectations. It is definitely going to be the best petting zoo yet.”

The twin brothers have worked their way up to being principals in the planning process. They also breed and raise market and show pigs, which they will bring to the event.

“We focused on expanding the variety of animals this year and we are pleased with our success,” Collin said.

Growers are will bring bottle lambs, kid goats, rabbits, cow-calf pairs, “and we have meat, milk and fiber animals to show and explain their differences,” he said.

Visitors will also see Hereford, milking short horns, Simmental, Jersey, brown Swiss and Holstein cattle as well Duroc, Yorkshire and Hampshire/Yorkshire-cross pigs.

The sheep breeds will include Montadale, Hampshire, Suffolk, Southdown and blackface crosses rather than the less common ones raised just for fiber.

“In addition to all the people it takes to set up and take down pens, lay down and refresh straw and keep it all policed throughout the two days, we will have FFA students in official dress at every pen ready to help with the petting process, tell people what they are seeing and answer questions,” he said.

The Advanced Agriculture students have written all the information that goes on the pen signs, and other classes have made displays that will be placed around the pavilion, he said.

In addition to the petting zoo, about 25 hands-on activities will be available, plus pony rides, toy tractor races, farm equipment displays, a craft and garden display and family entertainment.

A ranch breakfast will be served 8:30–10:30 a.m. Saturday only, The cost is $6 each; children under 3 years old are free. Proceeds benefit 4-H youth programs.

Anderson, the retired Chemeketa Community College Dean of Agriculture Science, lamented that he would miss this year’s event.

“I’ve been volunteering for Ag Fest every year since 1994, but this year the Hereford Conference in Uruguay is happening at the same time,” Craig said. “I’m looking forward to attending the conference but at the same time it kills me to miss it. In my opinion, Ag Fest is one of the most important events we have.

“My only consolation is, that I’m leaving it in good hands,” he said.

Asked if they had any advice for attending Ag Fest, Austin Brill said, “Wear comfortable shoes, wash your hands at the washing stations before and after you pet the animals and come early because once you get here you will want to stay all day.”

Oregon Ag Fest

When: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23, and 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday, April 24

Where: Oregon State Fairgrounds

Online: www.oragfest.com

Admission: Children 12 and under are free; $9 for ages 13 and up

Parking: Free

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