WELLINGTON — It was a race no one was anxious to win.
That’s how Friday’s Junior Fair Fowl Race played out at the Lorain County Fair, as roughly a dozen feathered competitors were nudged, scooted and carried over an agility course.
Ava Zietlow, 12, a home-schooled girl from Wellington who came in third with Peck, her white silkie hen, talked about the contest as she brought Peck, fellow silkie Cookie and a third bird a tin of water to drink before the race.
“None of them do it exactly the same,” Ava said as she demonstrated the hand movements she uses to guide her birds through the course, which includes inverted feed bowls, a coiled green hose, two sticks and a ladder-like contraption the birds are expected to navigate.
“If they’re slow, it’s kind of hard,” Ava said. “They wander off but don’t go too far.”
A year ago, Ava came in second with Baby Cakes, another hen.
Race announcer and Junior Fair fowl department chairwoman Christine Balint, who also is this year’s Junior Fair Queen, signaled each contestant’s start with the words “Exhibitor, are you ready?” She then turned to a fellow Junior Fair member and asked “Timer, are you ready?”
In turn, hens, pullets and bantams negotiated their way around the course with lots of help from their owners.
Most entrants appeared to be reluctant participants and downright disinterested in the proceedings, with some wandering off course as they clucked and tried to zip outside the string marking the boundaries of the course.
This clearly tickled the crowd but did little to assist the birds’ harried humans.
Cries of “let’s cheer them on” and “you’re halfway there” spurred fowl and human alike.
Ava was typical of several contestants who basically held Peck in her hands as the duo wove their way through feed bowls before she scooted the small bird over the blue finish line affixed to the floor of the Junior Fair building.
All started out trying to guide or nudge their birds, but some, like eventual winner Madeline Ott, gave up and simply carried their fowl around the course.
A home-schooled 16-year-old from Vermilion, Madeline won with an 8-month-old bantam partridge wyandotte named Margot in a time of 26.2 seconds.
“My mom will be so proud of me,” Madeline said.
Connor Fitzgerald placed second.