Bernadette Snyder of rural Preston, who brings her animals and runs the petting zoo at the Fillmore County Fair, suffered the loss of a chinchilla during the extreme hot and humid conditions last week. It occurred while others were taking care of the animals. Snyder had to take it easy after suffering heat stress Monday and going to the hospital in Cresco, where she was given two IVs of fluid. She had to let others take over duties of the 4-H entry day at the rabbit barn on Tuesday. However, she returned to the fair later in the week. (Republican-Leader photo by Lisa Brainard)  <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
Bernadette Snyder of rural Preston, who brings her animals and runs the petting zoo at the Fillmore County Fair, suffered the loss of a chinchilla during the extreme hot and humid conditions last week. It occurred while others were taking care of the animals. Snyder had to take it easy after suffering heat stress Monday and going to the hospital in Cresco, where she was given two IVs of fluid. She had to let others take over duties of the 4-H entry day at the rabbit barn on Tuesday. However, she returned to the fair later in the week. (Republican-Leader photo by Lisa Brainard)

At the Fillmore County Fair, 4-H members and their animals got beat by the heat last week.

With temperatures 90 degrees and higher, thick humidity in the air and water the animals weren't used to and often chose to avoid, from the first day everyone knew it was going to be a tough year at the fair - not with the competition from the other 4-H members, but with the hot and humid weather.

In an attempt to beat the heat the fair board put multiple fans in every barn and had them running at all times. Kids that were showing animals of any kind would wet them down constantly to keep them cooled off.

"My cattle are close to the door, so they can get the breeze to cool them off, but they are still panting really hard," said Melanie Woods. She's president of the Bloomfield Cloverleaf 4-H Club this year, and had cattle and sheep at the fair.

"I take all of them out to water them down and cool them off, but I'm not the only one. Both of the washing areas are always full. You have to stand in line sometimes and wait for a spot to open up so you can get in there with the animals," Melanie explained.

The fair itself looked slow as far as visitors. The midway did not see many people at the games and rides rarely operated during the day. The visitors you did see had water bottles or smoothies in their hands. A majority of them were in the bingo area just to sit in the shade.

Horse barn

In the horse barn, things looked the same. Large fans were in every aisle and the riders refused to work out their horses.

One girl, who didn't want her name shared, talked about the issues they were having.

"One family didn't even bring their horses down here because of the heat. I have one here and some other animals in the barns. It's hard running back and forth trying to make sure they are all OK," she said.

The "city water" - which apparently tastes different from well water on a farm - also caused some issues.

"The animals won't drink the water here. That's the scary part. They never have liked the water here. My parents run all the way home and back again at least four times a day, bringing water in for them. The horse barn isn't as bad as the other barns, though. Here they have open walls and large fans as well. They are still really hot, but not like the cattle barn, I don't think.

"We were told not to work out the horses very much. To only work them out really early in the morning or late at night. Also, to unsaddle as soon as possible after each show and give them fresh water right away."

Soon after this she rushed to another barn, where another of her animals at the fair was having heat-related issues.

Cattle barn

In the large cattle barn there were many shows held each day. The judges worked very fast this year, not wanting to keep the kids and their animals too long with the heat and the stress.

Virtually each animal that was shown was panting. Loud noise and crowds on hand didn't help the situation. The owners leading the animals looked like they had just come out of the shower. Their faces were damp; their hair wet. They had a hard time controlling their animals because the lead ropes kept slipping out of their hands.

Rabbit barn

The rabbit barn, however, seemed to be the worst building where animals were housed. It seemed everyone was running around in a panic, with bottles of ice and packets of Jell-O. There was a small tub on the floor filled with water where some people were dunking and holding a small rabbit.

Donna Conlan was handling the rabbit barn project in the temporary absence of Bernadette Snyder, who had been taken from her home to the hospital in Cresco due to heat stress. She received two IVs of fluid.

Conlan explained what was going on in the rabbit barn.

"We have a freezer full of ice bottles. We've got one here, another one in the other shed and a person in town here also has a freezer for us full of ice bottles. The heat is too much and even with that many ice bottles we still can't keep up. We've had five rabbits get heat stroke already. Many more are showing signs of it."

She pointed to the tub on the floor, saying it was there for the rabbits that were having heat stroke or were starting to get it.

"We dip in their feet and bellies and rub cool water on them. The Jell-O is put in the water for them because the animals here won't drink the water. The Jell-O puts a better taste to it and the rabbits will drink it.

"As for the ice bottles they are the most important. We put the bottles in the cages so the rabbits can snuggle up to them when they get hot. It keeps them a lot cooler, but even with all the ice bottles we have, we still can't keep a bottle in each cage and we have so many rabbits this year on top of it."

Distracted, Conlan moved on to help with another rabbit.

Checking back a few days later to see how the rabbits fared brought bad news. A young girl's rabbit died the day after a storm occurred at night.

"I feel so bad," Conlan said. "It got heat stroke really bad. The storm made it scared on top of it. We tried to revive it, but..."

She shook her head. Along with many others, next year Conlan will be hoping for more temperate weather for both humans and the animals they care for at the fair.