They play in the mud, toss horseshoes

HUMBOLDT – There was a muddy mess Saturday morning at the Humboldt County Fair.

Most people would, of course, try to avoid it.

Those who were participating in the Mud Volleyball Tournament, not only don’t avoid it, they embrace it, wear it, find bits of it dried in their ears and for Bri Berte, of Humboldt, even manage to get a bit of it in her contacts.

“It was unanticipated,” Berte said of the tiny bit of grit.

Berte, who played in high school, has been on every volleyball surface from a polished gym floor to the soupy mud, she said it offers some unique challenges.

“There’s rocks, dirt and glass in there,” she said. “You can’t jump as high.”

She hoped her team, dubbed Kiss My Ace, would make it to number one.

“We got the best of the worst people,” Berte joked.

The team they were up against, the Mud Dawgs, are a force to be dealt with. Joel Harklau, of Humboldt, a member of the Dawgs proudly wearing the official team T-shirt, said they’ve been reigning champs for the past three years.

One of the secrets to his success is a pair of lucky socks that may once have been white – maybe.

“I’ll wash and reuse them,” he said as he shook bits of dirt off of them. “They’re my good luck socks.”

While it also involves a dirt surface, the participants in the Horseshoe Tournament were managing to stay dry and clean.

Merle Ayres, of Humboldt, has only been playing for about three months. He began when he encountered a horseshoe pit in a local park that had grass growing in it.

“Nobody was using them,” Ayres said. “I went and bought a set of horseshoes and started playing.”

Troy Wood, of Hardy, was a participant with a little more experience.

“I’ve been playing on and off since I was kid,” he said.

Both were able to confirm the often-heard saying that close only counts with hand grenades and horseshoes; a shoe within one length of the pin is worth one point.

Wood does have an addition to the saying though.

“And dancing,” he joked.

Kaitlyn Daisy, the Humboldt County Fair Queen and Marshall Bormann, 5, this year’s Little Mister Humboldt, were being kept busy Saturday morning handing out trophies and ribbons at the 4-H/FFA Swine Show.

While he did get a crown to go with his title, Bormann opted not to wear it.

“It weighs heavy on his head,” Daisy said.

Bormann was enjoying the show but was having a few minor problems with the swine.

“They try to lick me and step on my feet,” Bormann said.

In the cattle barn, Allison Whaley, of Eagle Grove, and her son, Quinn Whaley, 8, were playing a game of cards to pass the time until daughter Shea Whaley showed her heifer, Stella.

Stella didn’t get in on the game.

“Her job is to stand tied up for three and half hours,” Allison Whaley said.

The family still has a working farm to maintain even though they’re spending much of their time at the fair, which leaves little time for things like sleep, which is taken when it can be.

“He took a nap in the bed of the pickup yesterday,” she said.

Allison Whaley was in 4-H herself. She said that participation can provide valuable lessons and that it teaches responsibility, pride and the value of hard work. It also helps with unity.

“We work as a family,” Whaley said. “Everyone gets involved.”

A day at the fair isn’t all work though. There’s plenty of time for the 4-H participants to have fun. All you need are a few five-gallon buckets and a yard hydrant.

Kaitlyn Larson, 16, of Humboldt, a member of the HDC Clovers 4-H Club, managed to soak up several tossed buckets of pretty cold water.

“I’m cool now,” she said, while creating a small puddle where she was standing. “My shoes are nice and soaked.”

Mitch Kampen, 15, of Humboldt, a member of the West Grove Hustlers 4-H Club, said the water fights usually break out every year somewhere near the beef barn. Perhaps it’s because there are plenty of buckets, or maybe because the yard hydrant and hose are there.

He got soaked too and came to the fair mostly prepared for that.

“You’ve always got to bring a spare set of clothes,” he said.

He did leave one thing off the list though:?”I didn’t bring a towel.”

Other events Saturday included the Skid Loader Rodeo, the Pella Wildlife Show, the 4-H Pet Show and Chuckwagon Races in the grandstand.