The Wide Appeal of the Goat Obstacle Course

8/24/2013 7:00 AM
By Andrew Jenner Virginia Correspondent

HARRISONBURG, Va. — In the livestock barns of the Rockingham County Fair, it’s usually not that hard to tell the serious livestock show crowd from the general civilian population, which comes for a quick spin through the place before returning to the food, flashing lights and fun on the midway.

If their clothes aren’t obviously out of place, their footwear usually is: flip-flops, shiny white tennis shoes, Crocs, etc.

And so, it was immediately apparent that the goat obstacle course, held on Thursday evening before the Old Crow Medicine Show, was a livestock event with crossover appeal. People wearing flip-flops (the same ones who generally leave the market goat show with a yawn after about a minute or so) gathered close around the ring, staked out spots in the bleachers, and, along with everyone else, had a roaring, laugh-out-loud good time enjoying the spectacle of the goat obstacle course race.

The basic rules were simple: get your goat from the start to the finish in as little time as possible. Along the way, each contestant led their goat through a green hula hoop, across the balance beam, around a few orange cones without knocking down the tennis balls balanced on top of each one, through the kiddie pool (filled with water) and finally, up onto the finishing platform. Penalty time was added for each error along the way.

Moments prior to the start, the race organizer, Brian Carpenter, threw in a final wrinkle. Every kid leading a goat through the course had to do so while hopping along in a sack.

Chaos reigned supreme and the crowd went bananas. The more uncooperative the goat, the more disastrous a contestant’s experience, the louder the audience laughed.

“The bag was the hardest part,” said Logan Davis, immediately after his attempt at the course with his goat, Edgar. Davis, a sixth-grader at Montevideo Middle School in McGaheysville, Va., had tons of fun despite the sack and despite the fact that he practically had to hoist his goat in the air to get it onto the finishing platform.

Hunter May, a seventh-grader at the same school, said she was having tons of fun, until the moment when trying to control a wayward goat with one hand while holding up the feed sack in the other combined to knock her off balance and send her splaying before the roaring crowd.

“I thought they would have trained their goats to be really efficient at getting through the obstacle course,” said spectator Isaac Beachy, who was having a blast watching the show. “But apparently it’s just how hard you can pull your goat.”

Whether by pulling his goat the hardest or by simply suffering the fewest mishaps along the way, Trent Diehl ended up winning the first place prize of $250. Dustin Greene finished second ($150) and Annika Holzer ($50) came in third. Sponsors of the event included The Mark-It, a Harrisonburg print and embroidery shop, and Northern Virginia development company, Glacier Development.

Carpenter, a fair board member who works in Harrisonburg for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, started the goat obstacle course at the Rockingham County Fair a few years ago after seeing a similar event at the state fair. In doing so, he hoped to provide a fun event for younger kids, particularly ones who may not have received the necessary instruction and assistance over the summer that would allow them to succeed in the traditional showmanship or market goat shows.

“It was something to encourage those younger kids to come out and keep the excitement up,” Carpenter said afterwards.

In doing so, the goat obstacle course has also encouraged a whole new segment of fairgoers to spend part of their evening in the livestock barns, keeping their excitement way, way up, too.

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