- January 20, 2021
People might not be able to recognize Cason Dooley, a Myakka City Elementary School fourth grader, when he enters the arena at the Manatee County Fair.
He’s planning to dress as a bag of Oreo cookies to match his heifer, Sarah, who will be dressed as a glass of milk for the costume contest.
“My heifer is black and white, so it’s like milk with Oreos in it,” Dooley said with a smile.
Dooley, along with other Myakka City Elementary students, will be showing animals or plants at the Manatee County Fair, which is open Jan. 13-23 at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto. At least seven Myakka City Elementary School students will be participating in the fair for the first time this year.
Every morning, the new barn at Myakka City Elementary is filled with students caring for their chickens, pigs, plants and more.
Layla Lockhart, a fourth grader, will come to the barn and feed her chicken, Rocket, before spending time training her and showing her love.
“She’s really cute,” Lockhart said of her chicken. “It’s cute when she puts her head all the way behind her neck.”
Lockhart held Rocket in her hands and waited for fourth grader Heather Stewart to count down from three and start a timer. When Stewart finished her countdown, Lockhart placed Rocket on a table and watched to see if she would move. Rocket stood still for about 30 seconds before taking a step.
Rocket’s record for standing still is a minute and 15 seconds.
Lockhart has been training Rocket to stand still for as long as possible so the fair judges will be able to view her from different angles.
This year is the first time Lockhart will be participating in the Manatee County Fair.
“I chose to show a chicken because it’s probably the easiest animal for my first year,” Lockhart said. “Training is going really well. She doesn’t get distracted much. She’s been sweet, and she doesn’t do any harm. It’s easy to take care of her.”
Bryson Ruth, a fifth grader, is nervous but excited to show the schools’ 4-H chapter pig, Wilbur, at the fair.
Ruth has never cared for a pig before or participated in the fair. He said it’s been overwhelming trying to learn how to care for Wilbur and train the pink and black pig to walk calmly so he can impress the judges. Many times Ruth would hear Wilbur screaming because he wants food.
A few times Ruth has had to chase Wilbur around the barn in the morning or after school.
“One time when he was running away from me, he took a turn so sharp that he almost fell over,” Ruth said.
Over time, Wilbur has calmed and started to listen to Ruth.
Ruth said Wilbur is smart, so smart in fact that Wilbur has to be tied up because he’s figured out how to push the lock up and down until it opens the wash rack while Ruth tries to clean him.
Fourth grader Mya Stewart is used to caring for horses at home, so when she decided to take on a rabbit as a project for the fair, she had to make some adjustments.
She had to learn about what hay would be best for her rabbit, Barry Manilow, how often she feeds him and gives him water and simply just caring for a smaller animal. She's had to put Barry Manilow on a diet because he was gaining too much weight.
Mya Stewart loves being able to share all she's learned with her friends and is excited to show Barry Manilow at the fair.
"It's fun to get to do something else and learn something new," Mya Stewart said.
Although Lily Lockhart is an eighth grader at R. Dan Nolan Middle School, she goes to Myakka City Elementary every morning to care for her chicken, Betty.
“When I first started to work with Becky, she was more scared of me,” Lily Lockhart said. “She ran whenever I would try to pick her up, but now I think being around all the kids here at the barn and coming here in the morning, she’s gotten more used to people. It’s easier to pick her up.”
Lily Lockhart has wanted to participate in the 4-H and FFA portion of the fair since she was 8 years old and saw her friends showing animals and plants, but it wasn’t until this year that she had the time in her schedule to sign up. With her younger sisters Grace and Layla Lockhart being members of Myakka City Elementary’s 4-H chapter, it was easy for her to get involved as well.
Besides showing Becky at the fair, Lily Lockhart also has two gold dust croton plants and a black magic ti plant to show at the fair.
“For the winter, it’s been hard to keep the plants alive,” Lily Lockhart said. “You just have to work through it.”
Lily Lockhart goes to the barn every morning to take care of Becky and checks the pH levels, waters and checks for bugs on her plants every three to four days or when she has time as she’s walking by them at home.
Dooley cares for his chickens and heifer, Sarah, at home but still comes to the barn every day to help other students with their projects using his experience from participating in last year’s fair.
“I feel like it’s really good that I can help out because since there’s stuff they don’t know, I can team them,” Dooley said.
Dooley has learned to train his chickens so they are calm around other people after being disqualified at a competition because his chicken bit a judge.
Dooley will show his heifer and chickens at the fair this year. His heifer, Sarah, can be sweet but also stubborn, he said.
“Sometimes she would just sit there, and one time it took four people just to get her to move one step,” Dooley said. “One time she fell asleep in the middle of me walking her.”