At fair, goats remain a popular choice

Posted 7/23/19

You can count on seeing plenty of goats at this year’s Park County Fair.

While entries of other animals and items tend to ebb and flow, the number of goats shown at the fair has grown …

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At fair, goats remain a popular choice


You can count on seeing plenty of goats at this year’s Park County Fair.

While entries of other animals and items tend to ebb and flow, the number of goats shown at the fair has grown dramatically in recent years.

“It’s just insane,” said Sara Skalsky, a Park County Advisory Board member. “It’s our one part of the fair that has continued to increase every year. ... We’re down in other areas, but the goats have not dipped down at all.”

Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 38 percent jump in goats entered in the fair. And those numbers are holding steady, with local youth again planning to bring around 75 goats to this year’s event.

“Goats are becoming really what the youth are starting out with,” said Park County Events Administrator Audra Jewell. “The sheep numbers seem to be pretty heavy as well, but goats especially.”

In contrast, “we’re still seeing kind of a downward tick in the bigger animals,” Jewell said. That’s been a trend across the nation and a topic of conversation among all of Wyoming’s county fairs, she said.

“The beef numbers are just coming down,” Jewell said, “and I think it’s just the amount of time you put into that project as well as the expense.”

Skalsky said there’s several reasons why goats are really good for youth who are getting started in programs like FFA or 4-H.

“They’re smaller, they’re easier to handle and they’re just a lot more personable — and they’re a little more affordable,” she said.

That personality can also lead to more bonding between goats and the youth raising them, Skalsky said.

Trenton Kawano — who’s preparing to show nine or 10 goats at this year’s fair — didn’t really connect with horses when he tried working with them, but it’s been different with goats.

“I like their energy,” he said. Trenton noted how the animals “just want to play” when you enter their pen. During an interview last week, a baby Nigerian dairy goat proved his point by attempting to jump into the arms of a visiting Tribune reporter.

“Once you click with them, you can’t sell them,” added Aimee Kawano, Trenton’s aunt.

It was Jolyn Kawano, Trenton’s grandmother and Aimee’s mother, who first got the family interested in goats. Jolyn recalls a goat trying to follow her son onto the school bus one day — and another that would knock on the door of their rural Powell home with its head.

“She was a little ornery, but we loved her anyway,” Jolyn recalled.

Similarly, fair board member Skalsky remains fond of her roughly 30 goats, despite numerous escapes from their pens.

“Just as soon as you think you outsmart a goat … you don’t,” she said. “You want to feel dumb, go be around a goat, because it’s like, ‘Where’d you just get out of now?’”

Still, Skalsky generally sees that intelligence and curiosity as a plus, quipping that goats’ rising popularity is simply “because they’re awesome.”

For Jolyn Kawano, the animal’s appearance is part of the package, too.

“Look at their faces,” she said while pointing out different colors and markings. “I just love them. … They just love on you.”

As their popularity has surged across the country, goats have popped up in unexpected places. A 2014 “Goat Simulator” video game sold close to a million copies in mere months, establishments have begun offering goat yoga (that’s yoga alongside goats) while on a more practical level, goat meat and milk are in high demand in parts of the country.

U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys do indicate that, while the number of dairy goats is on the rise, American farmers and ranchers are actually raising fewer goats overall. As of Jan. 1, the USDA estimated there were 2.62 million goats spread across the country — down significantly from a peak of 3.02 million in mid-2008.

Regardless of what the national data says, the surge in Park County is real.

Joe Bridges, chairman of the Junior Livestock Sale Committee, said about 40 local youth sold goats at the fair last year. This year, sale organizers expect 61 kids will look to sell a goat they’ve raised.

“... That’s a huge increase,” Bridges said, adding, “It really is probably the hottest trend going on across the nation, and we’re seeing it within our county.”

With the number of goats stretching the fairgrounds’ facilities last year, county commissioners allowed fair leaders to amend their budget and spend up to $42,800 to upgrade the goat barn. The project involved swapping out old wooden goat pens for 76 new metal ones and replacing the barn’s uneven dirt floor with concrete.

As work wound down earlier this month, Park County Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Mike Garza said the project “turned out really well.”

“The goat numbers are way, way up,” he said, “so it should be a pretty substantial upgrade.”


(Tessa Baker contributed reporting.)