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Hernando County Fair

No cows but plenty of laughs

County officials and others get a little dirt - and goat milk - under their nails to kick off the county fair.

Published April 22, 2007

[Times photo: Lance Aram Rothstein]
County Commissioner Diane Rowden milks a goat during the celebrity milking contest at the Hernando County Fair in Brooksville on Friday.

BROOKSVILLE - The casual count first thing Friday evening was 26 people sitting in the stands in the livestock barn waiting for the celebrity milking contest at the Hernando County Fair. Which is another way of saying: A lot of y'all missed out big-time.

County Commissioner Diane Rowden had on a powder blue top and a pair of black wraparound shades. On the caked-dirt ground, Sheriff Richard Nugent's shoes were patent-leather black and had a super-shiny sheen, Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai was wearing open-toed sandals, and county Commissioner Rose Rocco's sneakers were very, very white. Which is another way of saying: Watching important people do ridiculous things sure is fun.

The celebrity milking contest is the annual kickoff to the fair. This year, though, the cows weren't cows. They were goats.

The milkees came from Floral City. They usually get milked by an 11-year-old girl named Lily Perez. Not this time. They looked nervous.

Rowden came over to the goat named Sassy and petted it.

"I like this one," she said.

"This one's got a lot of milk."

There's just something about the fair, isn't there?

Last Tuesday morning, this place south of town on U.S. 41 was a patch of grass and some gravel roads and walkways and small, old barns, just like it is most of the time all year long.

And then it wasn't.

All it took was three days, 160 workers and thousands of bolts, pins and wedges, and then it was ... this.

"It's a city, is what it is," said Don Deggeller, a well-known, second-generation carnival man, the president of Deggeller Attractions.

All boots and belt buckles and blinking neon lights.

Late Friday afternoon, before the people were let in, a man on a tractor with a cigarette in his mouth and a cowboy hat on his head was getting the dirt in the rodeo ring ready and soft, the horses and bulls looked like they were catching some winks, kids were putting hay bales in the animal pens out back and the plate-sized planks of meat were starting to smoke at Famous Gabby's.

It was 4:55.

Not quite 40 folks were waiting in line outside the chain-link front gate.

"Gettin' close," volunteer Nick Nicholson said.

Thirty seconds.

Holly Miranda, 8, a second-grader at Brooksville's Moton Elementary, started counting down: "30 ... 29 ... 28 ... "

Nicholson opened the gate.

In came Miranda, and her friend Liz Llop, who's 9 and in the third grade at Moton.

Milking contestants started coming in, too - Don Stewart, the warden at Hernando County Jail, and Jeff Webb, the Hernando editor of editorials for the St. Petersburg Times. Webb had a small green canister of something called Vermont-made Bag Balm.

"It's good for action on the teets," Webb said.

Inside the livestock barn, fair board president Nancy Moores had a microphone and announced the cast of characters: Rowden, Nugent, Nicolai, Rocco, Stewart, Webb, County Administrator Gary Kuhl, county Commissioner Dave Russell, Mike Duncan from Withlacoochee River Electric, Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek, School Board members Sandra Nicholson and Dianne Bonfield, Brooksville Fire Chief Tim Mosgrove, local singers Jenny Rimmer and Brian Chytka and others.

All of them milked.

There was laughing.

There was cheering.

There was banter.

Like this entertaining exchange:

"Don," said Nugent, the sheriff, to Stewart, the warden, "you've done this before."

"Once or twice," Stewart drawled.

"This'd be good therapy for the prisoners," Nugent offered.

No response from the warden.

Lessons were learned.

Pat Crowley, for instance, is more than just the executive director of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. She is also, it turns out, a delicate, methodical, quite gifted goat milker.

Michael Kruse can be reached at or 352 848-1434.

Fast Facts:


County Fair Youth and Livestock Show

When: Daily through April 29

Where: Hernando County Fairgrounds, 6436 Broad St., on the south side of Brooksville

Parking: $2 per carload. Enter on Oliver Street from U.S. 41 and park on the north side of the grounds. Once those spots are filled, parking will be across U.S. 41, and sheriff's deputies will provide escorts across the highway.

Admission: $5 for adults; $3 for kids 4-12; free for kids 3 and under.

Information: 796-4552 or on the Web at www.hernando




10 a.m. Poultry show/showmanship

1-9 p.m. Midway open ($18 unlimited ride armbands)

1-8 p.m. Baby animal barn

1-5 p.m. Nonprofit Day, Auditorium

2 p.m. AutoWay Ford IPRA Championship Rodeo ($12 adults, $5 kids 4-12, 3 and younger free; includes fair admission)

3 p.m. Ice cream-eating contest, Outside Stage

6 p.m. Swine show

7 p.m. Strawberry shortcake-eating contest, Outside Stage

Comedy bird safari, three shows

[Last modified April 28, 2007, 09:29:36]

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