The poultry and rabbit barn at the Grant County Fairgrounds is in the process of being new and improved for the Grant County Fair in August.
The barn is undergoing a near-total renovation that is spearheaded by Mike and Sarah Blume. There will be new cages, a wider walkway and a freshly-painted brighter interior, among other repairs.
The renovation is financed by donations from businesses and citizens, and the donations are matched up to $4,000 by the Grant County Livestock Facility Trust. The Livestock Trust money being used is the revenue from the fairground concession stands in the livestock pavilion. Donations are still welcome, and can be sent to the 4-H leaders at the UW-Extension office.
The need for improvements came into focus last year, when several people commented on the old, rusty chicken cages, some with doors that were hard to open. Mike Blume hopes to get 150 new cages that will hold 300 chickens, more than double last year’s capacity. This is the largest cost, as buying new cages will be about $4,000 total. Another improvement is that all new cages will be the same size, a more efficient use of space.
Moreover, new painted stands will go underneath the cages for support and aesthetics, something Mike Blume is excited about. “Getting a nice, bright, shiny cage on top of nice, white stands will really brighten it up,” he said. “I think it’ll make everybody feel better when they walk in.”
Blume also needs to make sure the ground is level for walking and handicap accessibility, and plans to widen the walking area for easier maneuvering. The barn doors will also be put on roller tracks so they slide open on the outside of the barn, instead of swinging in, which takes up more room.
This Saturday and Sunday, students in the poultry and rabbit 4-H program will help renovate the barn and get it as close to completed as possible. The finishing touches will be done, if need be, before the fair on August 18. “One way or another, we’re gonna make it happen for this fair,” Mike Blume said.
The barn renovation coincides with in increase in participation in the poultry and rabbit program. There are more students in more 4-H classes this year, therefore more animals. There will also be more trophies at the fair this year. “I know it ain’t all about winning, it’s about the experience, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot more fun to win and take a little something home with you,” Mike Blume said.
The majority of kids involved in the program are middle-schoolers, a good sign since most of them will continue in 4-H for several more years. The barn renovations may not be the reason more kids are joining, but it doesn’t hurt. “All the kids that we’ve talked to, the parents we’ve talked to are awful excited about seeing how much we’re gonna improve,” Mike Blume said. “It’s got to be done to make them appreciate what we’re doing and get them more involved.”
Along with being nicer and brighter, the poultry and rabbit barn will also be the most diverse at the fair. There will be about 50 different varieties of chickens, along with various types of rabbits as well. “You can go into any other barn at the fair and not see as many different varieties of animals as you can when you walk into the chicken house,” Mike Blume said.
As a show of gratitude, Sarah Blume is making a plaque that will be permanently displayed in the barn with all of the donor names on it.