On Saturday, the Delaware State Fair featured an animal menagerie of epic proportions. From stallions to tiny pygmy goats, many animals found themselves on display this weekend.


On first Saturday of the Delaware State Fair, animals large and small found themselves center stage in some of the first exhibitions and contests. Some competitions are a test of brute strength and endurance while others are a test of breeding and showmanship.

In the Quillen Arena, horse teams from across the state took turns towing an incrementally-increased weighted sled. Teams that are able to pull the sled at least 27.5 feet advance to the next round, where they’re asked to pull another sled weighing at least 500 pounds more.

At first, the sleds weigh 4,500 pounds and the horses seem ready to pull the sleds out of the arena and all the way home. A few rounds later, the weight nearly doubles for the heavy weight division, with the winner taking the top prize for successfully pulling 10,000 pounds.

“It’s amazing to see what these animals can do,” said Ruth Anne Maahs, a Georgetown resident who are watching the horse pull with her daughter and husband. “You can tell they are working together when you watch their legs. Look how they seem to move in unison.”

Across the fairgrounds, much smaller animals take their turn in a much smaller arena when the pygmy goats are brought out and examined. The handlers are a bit smaller, too: They’re all 19 years old or younger and are required to answer questions about the goat’s breeding, its age and its temperament. In several categories, the young handlers are also required to move the goats around, proving that they’ve been working with the animals and know the animal’s temperament.

“I started showing pygmy goats four years ago,” said Samantha Kirk, who lives on a working chicken farm in Laurel. “You have to be committed to it because you can’t do this with a week’s notice. I have to tend to my goats all year long, walking them and feeding them and learning everything I can about them.”

Later in the week, Kirk will show her market goat and her breed goat. The Delaware State Fair is the fifth exhibition she’s competed in this year. She has one more in August and then she’ll have to take several of the larger goats to market to sell.

“It’s just what happens,” she explained when asked if it would be hard to sell them after working with them and training them. “I’ve only had these a few months so it won’t be so bad. I haven’t had them very long. But, they have to go. They’ll be too old to compete anymore and we can’t keep them.”

Samantha’s mom said that the farm life was in her daughter’s blood and she was proud of the young girl’s accomplishments.

“Some of the other kids have been doing this since they were seven,” she said. “Sam just started a few years ago.”

The animal contests continue throughout the rest of the fair. Upcoming events include a poultry show on Monday, the“Sheep Fitting and Showmanship” contest on Tuesday, the “Dairy Goat Milking” contest on Wednesday in addition to a livestock auction on Thursday. For a complete listing of daily events and contests, visit the official Delaware State Fair website or download the free smartphone app available for androids and iPhones.