Giving birth in a classroom may seem like something only a medical student would witness. But visitors to the L.A. County Fair get a front row seat to births daily in one of the world’s largest classrooms: the five-acre FairView Farms and the Big Red BarnÒ. FairView Farms is presented by McDonald’s.
The annual Fair, which runs from Sept. 5 – 28, boasts its creative way of presenting education in the form of entertainment and attention grabbing attractions. Hands down the birthing process tops the list. An animal birth always draws standing-room-only audiences into the incognito classroom. So much that part of the pre-Fair planning includes carefully timed pregnancies for farm animals destined for stardom.
The results: there’s at least one animal born daily during the 18-day run. Last year 75 animals were born during the Fair. “At the very least, a chick will hatch,” said Jill Roman, the Fair’s Attractions and Competitions Supervisor.
In the Little Red Hen Chicken Coop and Hatchery one can witness life beginning for baby chicks every day. As the Fair progresses, the display gradually fills up with chicks from 1 day old to 24 days old. But no matter what animal it is, the audience is captive and a guarantee, with reports of more than 700 Fair guests observing the miracle of birth in one standing. According to Roman that’s the idea. “Once you get their attention, they will stand and watch something like this for three or more hours. And we have experts on hand telling Fairguests what is going on the whole time and answering their questions.”
Each species has its own maternity “ward” and adjacent pasture named accordingly: Thummer’s Sow Pasture and Maternity Barn for the piglets, Lily’s Sheep Pasture and Maternity Barn for the lambs, Billy Goat’s Gruff Goat Pasture and Maternity Barn for the kids (baby goats) and Daisy’s Cow Pasture and Maternity Barn for the calves. In the Mommy and Me exhibit in Thummer’s Entertainment Barn farm animal mothers and their babies of varying breeds, species and ages are shown in a more playful and interactive setting.
Orphaned pigs, calves, goats and lambs are not forgotten and get equal time in the spotlight in Gabriella’s Bottle Baby Nursery where they are bottle fed several times a day, also a popular “show” for city slickers.
Aside from the facts of life education, the public gets a glimpse on other important facets about agriculture and livestock including dispelling some myths. “A little girl told her teacher she thought chocolate milk comes from brown cows.” Roman said. “So we have experts at the Fair on many subjects to help set the record straight on some of these common beliefs.”
One of the main ways children are enlightened is through the free FairKids Discovery Club Field Trip Program, in which nearly 100,000 students, teachers and chaperones from 500 schools representing more than 70 school districts in Southern California attend the Fair each year. Whether one attends as a field trip or as an individual family outing, the platform for learning is the same: fun education.
To keep the interest in learning alive, new and fresh ideas for drawing attention to these important industries are introduced each year to the Fair curriculum. Enter in this year’s Polka Dot World of Animals, which features sheep, goats, rabbits, dogs, ducks, cattle and a pony named “Chocolate Chip” who have some form of a polka dot color pattern on the wool, fur, hair, feathers or hide.
Other debut attractions include a display of California Mustangs, which were highly regarded for their role in the development of California in the late 1800s. Some of the horses in the exhibit are purebred descendants of the horses that escaped the early Spanish explorers to America and have been cared for by the Bureau of Land Management and adopted by the public. This exhibit also includes a display of various types of vehicles, saddles and gear that would have been used when the Mustang was king and queen of the prairie.
A new feature in the Big Red Barn® is the “Farmers in Unusual Fields” exhibit which shows Fairguests unique agricultural and livestock habitats such as the wetlands, foothills, grasslands and deserts. Unsuspecting animals that live on farms and help the farmers will be disclosed in “Farmers Little Helpers,” a new interactive show in the Big Red Barn featuring alligators, frogs, crawdads and other unusual critters.