To say the opening day of the Kandiyohi County Fair was a hot one would be an understatement.
As temperatures crept toward 90 degrees and humidity clung to the air like a blanket, some people at the fairgrounds may have entertained serious thoughts of diving straight into the nearby lake. The animals, however, seemed to fare better, according to their owners.
In extreme heat and humidity, livestock owners have to be more careful of how often they wash, feed and water their animals. All afternoon, owners were going out of their way to make sure the livestock were comfortable.
"The most important thing is to make sure they get enough water," said Jordan Gatewood, 15, of Willmar. He has four cows at the fair this year, three for 4-H and one for FFA. "At home, we let them out in the pasture when it gets hot, but you can't do that here.
They don't seem to be too miserable right now, though."
Jordan plans to give his cows water three times a day and constantly check up on them to make sure they don't get overheated.
Brielle Hauge, 16, will also give her five cows plenty of attention over the next week. In addition to giving them lots of water, she also feeds them beet pulp, which is a mixture of feed and water. Because the water at the fairgrounds contains chlorine, she said, the cows sometimes refuse to drink it.
"That's the hard thing about the fair," Hauge said. "They're not used to the water with chlorine. The beet pulp smell helps disguise the chlorine."
Hauge had planned on bringing six cows to the fair, but one got sick recently from the heat and had to stay home. That's why she's being extra careful this week to make sure her cows, especially the younger ones, stay cool.
"I worry most about my calf," she said. Her calf, Charlie, was only born two months ago. "She can get sick more easily, because she's not as strong yet as the other cows."
Twins Kirsten and Seth Tebben, 14, of Kerkhoven, spent the afternoon getting their five lambs ready to show in the evening. Before they transported the lambs to the fairgrounds, the siblings washed and sheared them - not only to make them ready to show, but also to keep them cool.
"When we shear them, it really helps," Seth said. "We also try to let them lie down and relax."
The twins have been showing their lambs for four years as part of 4-H and FFA, and they say the heat has never really been an issue for the animals. It's just part of the fair experience.
"It's always hot here," Seth said.
Although the animals seemed to be doing fine, fairgoers had to find ways to fight the humidity. Smoothies, ice cream and snow cones helped many stay cool, and carnival ride operators kept reminding passersby to "drink plenty of water."
Most took the advice to heart. One of the more popular stands in the exhibition building was the EcoWater Systems of Willmar and Redwood Falls, which handed out cups of cold water and free mini bottles of water.
Joe Cook, a sales and service representative for EcoWater Systems, estimated 150 people stopped by the stand in the first couple of hours of the fair. He said he brought 12 cases of water for the day but may need to bring more the rest of the week, since temperatures look to remain in the mid- to high 80s.
"I'm guessing we'll go through 30 cases easily," Cook said. "We're always pretty popular when it gets hot."