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Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

Last week we had a few days that felt like summer with temperatures close to 90 degrees around Los Alamos and a little warmer in Santa Ynez. That did not last long as the fog rolled back in with early morning drizzle, helping to cool things down.

Still a very tough year for mildew in our vineyards. I can’t recall when we had such a mild July temperature wise.

Great weather for the Santa Barbara County Fair, which ran July 10-14. Much easier on the animals, especially the pigs that began arriving at the Fairgrounds on July 7. I know the rabbits also appreciated the cooler weather this year.

A few changes at this year’s Fair included moving the lamb sale to Friday so the large-livestock sale does not end so late on Saturday night. The livestock auction at the Santa Barbra County Fair is one of the largest in the state, and it takes many volunteers to make it the success that it is.

Our kids, Kathleen and Clayton, both showed their lambs as part of Vineyard 4-H. Clayton’s lamb won reserve grand champion in his market class. His sister’s lamb was not too cooperative in the ring during the market class and she finished behind her brother.

Attendance and sales at the 128th Santa Barbara County Fair jumped by six percent over last year according estimates released by Santa Maria Fairpark officials on Monday afternoon. Though final results are not expected until later this week, Fairpark CEO Richard Persons said this year's event — which was bolstered by new attractions and performances — drew strong crowds throughout the five-day run.

It’s all good. Last year Kathleen’s meat-pen chickens were grand champions, so they both have banners hanging in their rooms. Kathleen’s name is also posted with the rest of the grand champions from years past near the auction barn.

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Both kids did well selling their lambs during the auction on Friday, thanks to the generosity of local buyers. I am always impressed on how our community comes out to support local youth. It is a true reminder of what a great community we are a part of.

I spent most of Fair week going back and forth from work to the Fairgrounds. I coordinated with my wife Karen to meet up so we could watch the kids show their lambs. The kids were there all week, leaving home early in the morning to feed their lambs at 7 a.m. Before leaving home, they fed their horses and chickens, and most mornings made their lunches and a light breakfast before heading out around 6:30 every day. I think this was the first year they drove themselves into the Fair. Mom and I appreciated that.

Our Vineyard 4-H lamb group is a pretty tight-knit group with many of the kids in their third or fourth year in the project. They are like a small family helping each other out when needed. I think many of the 4-H, Grange and FFA groups enjoy the same bond. It’s great to watch the older kids helping the younger first-year kids with their lambs.

It is hard for me to believe, but this was our daughter Kathleen’s last year in a 4-H project. How can my little girl be too old? She is coming back to help as an assistant leader next year.

I hope you all had a chance to come out to this year’s County Fair and enjoy the great shows and exhibits. If not, we will see you there next year.

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Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara county Farm Bureau, and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com

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