GREEN COVE SPRINGS | It took less than 5 minutes for Brantley Gillard to start having fun Sunday at the Clay County Agricultural Fair.
The 18-month-old Middleburg boy made friends with a big, brown bunny held by its owner in the rabbit section of the small animal barn.
“He got to pet a rabbit for the first time. It’s his first bunny,” Jason Gillard said proudly of his son, who looked with eyes wide at the rows of rabbits, chickens, turkeys and geese raised to show during the fair.
Brantley has a puppy at home, but now he might be getting a bunny, said his mom, Emily Gillard.
Sunday was Family Day at the 28th annual fair, which continues through Saturday, at the county fairgrounds, 2497 Florida 16 west of Green Cove Springs.
To Brantley’s obvious delight, his parents pushed him in his stroller through the barn aisles so he could see the farm animals close up. After meeting the bunny, which left their son smiling broadly, they took him to see a brightly colored rooster.
“We pretty much come every year,” Jason Gillard said.
“The animals. They’re the best part,” Emily Gillard said almost simultaneously with her husband.
The small animal and livestock barns were the family’s first stop. The midway nearby beckoned with its glittering rides, game booths and food vendors offering everything from traditional fair fare — corn dogs, funnel cakes and cotton candy — to more diverse vittles including seafood, steak sandwiches and fried rice.
The fair boasts top-notch entertainment including concerts by Thomas Rhett on Wednesday, The Swon Brothers on Friday and Kellie Pickler on Saturday. All concerts are at 8 p.m. at the main stage in the Cattlemen’s Arena.
Citing circumstances beyond his control, Ronnie Milsap canceled his appearance, which had been set for 8 p.m. Thursday. Diamond Rio, however, will fill that slot. All reserved seating purchased for the Ronnie Milsap concert will be honored for the Diamond Rio concert, fair officials said.
“We come every year to see the exhibits by the 4-H and FFA [Future Farmers of America] kids. They work so hard to raise their animals and get them ready to show. It’s great to see,” said Don Ricker of Jacksonville after he and his wife, Shirley, paused to admire Sweetness and her month-old calf, Baby 8, dozing peacefully in their stall in the livestock barn.
Raised by Wyatt Andrews, a 16-year-old sophomore at Middleburg High School, Sweetness was named Grand Champion Heifer Cow in the 4H/FFA Youth Show held Saturday night.
Sweetness is a 32-month-old Angus Beefmaster cross, while her calf, Baby 8, is an Angus Beefmaster and Limousin cross. Andrews has been showing animals at the fair since he was in third grade. He started out showing pigs, but said he switched to showing cows and steers because they are more challenging. Sweetness is Andrews’ first grand champion cow.
“Cows, you have to work a long time with to get them used to it. You are working all year with them, every day. Feed them, walk them, and working with the show stick to get them used to it,” said Andrews, who plans a career as a large-animal veterinarian, and also wants to start his own herd of cattle.
Andrews said many of his friends also show animals at the fair.
“It’s fun,” Andrews replied when asked what he enjoys most about it.
More information about the fair is available online at claycountyfair.org.
Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075