Chicks dig them and this family digs chicks, too.
The Downings, Corree and Dan, are the superintendents of the poultry barn at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds. They, along with their boys, Dave, 16, and Dustin, 14, spend countless hours fixing the hen house at the fairgrounds.
They became superintendents about five years ago, and since then, have improved the barn, teaming along the way with rabbit and cavy (guinea pig) superintendent Mary Pederson.
Most recently, the Downings raised funds by auctioning a turkey for about $780. That money helped the industrious family purchase concrete from Bayview Redi Mix at cost, and then with help from South Sound Pumping, the concrete was poured Thursday, July 21. With donations from Elma Feed Company, Home Depot, Ace, House Brothers and others, the rabbit and poultry barn has a fresh look and a new concrete floor.
All of the Downings are involved in 4-H, and some of the family is involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA).
Corree Downing said when she was a little girl, she had a memorable experience milking a cow at the Yakima County Fair. She wants other families to create memories at this year’s Grays Harbor County Fair, and she said that’s why she works so hard.
Downing teaches kids about the proper way to care for poultry and how to show the birds at the fair. She and Pederson have offered clinicsto 4-H participants on the health of animals, proper handling and learning more about the animal’s breed.
Fair time is a stressful time for the family, not only because of their usual duties in maintaining the barn, but because they also anxiously watch their 4-H kids show and auction their animals.
“We’re all sweating and waiting, but we try not to stress the kids out,” Dan Downing said. Corree Downing added that the fairgoers, the audience of family and friends and the watchful gaze of the judge is a lot for kids to handle.
But, Dan Downing said, the kids come through.
“They learn so much from year to year. It’s cool to see how much they grow and change within a year,” Downing said.
When they first took over, the poulty barn only had a few child participants, Downing said. Now, there are about 65 children showing turkeys and chickens.
Corree Downing said she felt gratified when the older kids came back (from showing the larger animals like pigs, sheep and cows) to help mentor the younger children. The youngest participants are five to six years old, and the oldest are 18.
Look for the Downings at the Grays Harbor County Fair, Aug. 10-14, at the rabbit/poultry Barn. Dan, especially, will be hard to miss as he will be waddling around dressed as a 6-foot turkey.