By Laura Brown

Triplicate Staff Writer

Crowds of people gathered yesterday for the opening of the Del Norte County Fair. With a clip of the gold-painted shears, board member, Fawn Morris cut the ribbon and the fair was officially open.

Wide-eyed children clutched tightly to the horses on the carousel ride. Crying babies cruised by in strollers pushed by mothers armed with cameras and carnival tickets.

Teen-agers with multi-colored hair clustered in groups and pushed each other to impress their friends. Families made picnic lunches of corn dogs and soda pop.

The pungent odor of fresh sawdust mixed with other barnyard smells permeated the livestock room where 4-H kids dressed in white shirts with numbers pinned on their backs and green ties led their pygmy goats for show. The champion showman will win a belt buckle.

How difficult are pygmy goats to show?

It depends if you have a seasoned goat or a bottle-fed spoiled brat, said Veronica Senior who recently turned 18 and has been involved for three years. If they are worked with a lot, they are easy to work with. Senior said the animals are judged on appearance, grooming, health, eye contact with the judge and overall exhibit.

The show dates for the fair are probably the biggest day of the year for 4-Hers, said Senior, who added that a lot of feeding, time, love and money goes into raising the animals.

Clean, silky pigs slept contently in the straw. In one bin a lanky 16-year-old Future Farmers of America member, Andrew Abernathy, rested with his head propped up against his 220 pound Yorkshire/Hampshire pig, Miss Piggy.

Im tired. They are really calm right now. They are being good, Abernathy said with a big grin. Im looking at around a dollar a pound, Abernathy said of the money he expects to make from auction.

Michelle Blakely stood, cleaning cutting shears with a cloth as her friends tried to coerce a large sheep onto the cutting platform.

Blakely breeds Suffolk sheep and raises them for meat. She also has raised two pigs for this years fair.

Im worried about my feeder pig because I know hes going to run.

What preparations are involved in showing pigs for the fair?

I give em a bath and you can shave em if you want. I use Ivory dish soap and it works really well because it loosens all the dirt and mud.

The first couple of years I cried really hard at auction because I got really attached to them. Ive learned not to anymore, said Blakely.

For people with interests outside of livestock rearing there is much more to see.

The Arts and Crafts room is hung wall-to-wall with local art work from young to old.

Home-baked goods, fresh vegetables and herbs, pottery, canned goods, photography, and quilts are some of the many exhibits people touring the fairgrounds can enjoy.

Jim Polly, Agriculture teacher from McKinleyville High School came to Del Norte County to judge the homegrown fruits and vegetables.

He said he is pleased with the increase in school gardens.

I encourage and commend teachers. He said he would like Del Norte to adopt an idea from Humboldt County called a Junior Vegetable Auction. We are now averaging $50 a plate for a plate of vegetables. A kid does not have to have expensive livestock to have a raised-bed garden, Polly said.

Polly said judging is done primarily on appearance. Well, what we look for is three key things, uniformity in size, shape and color, said Polly. He continued that judges look for the correct size of mature vegetables that you would find in a grocery store. The judges do not taste the items. You can usually tell by looking at it.

Harley Munger was there with his junior pottery group. Kids are doing great Im just along for the ride, said Munger.

I get to get muddy. Something I cant do at home, said Alicia Flowers, 15, who has been a potter for six months. She plans to put the money she raises toward driving school.

Margaret Munger, 82, a 52- year resident of Del Norte County, a veteran of past fairs, is back again this year.

Ive entered for 45 years. I have 20 things in this year, embroidery work and quilts, said Munger. Her handiworks include a red-and-white quilt with embroidered flowers.

Baked goods judge Audrey Souza was enjoying her job. But, she said, You dont take very much because by the end of the day youd be on a sugar high. Souza has been judging for nine years from Crescent City to Fresno. By night you dont want anything sweet to eat. Its a fun thing.

Hypnotist Bob Faith brought laughter from the audience as he persuaded volunteers to perform like Britney Spears, and hynotized movie-goers we asked to witness a horror movie, racy erotica, a sad flick and a comedy.

Penny Evers watched as her son, Billie, 12, became hypnotized on stage before a crowd.

I think hes great. We watched him a lot last year. Sometimes we ask, is he really doing it and then I see my own child doing something he wouldnt normally do in front of a large crowd. Weve seen a lot of hypnotists and hes the best.

Fair Board President Jim Woldvogel introduced the fair members and declared Del Nortes the best little fair in California.

He then awarded Kevin Hartwick and Morgana Brissenden with the Friends of the Fair awards. Ernie Silva walked up and collected his Blue Ribbon Award in cowboy hat and boots.