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Money can vanish as quickly as cotton candy at fair

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Fair week in Johnson County brings with it a list of decadent delights you’ve waited for all year.

The $1 Farm Bureau milkshakes, kabobs, pork tenderloin sandwiches, Chinese food, elephant ears and more cotton candy than anyone needs.

With the temptations comes the realization that money spends fast, 4-H’er Gavin Everett said. The 17-year-old Center Grove High School senior is showing pigs this year.

Everett was sitting at a card table outside one of the main livestock barns at the fairgrounds Wednesday, playing cards with fellow 4-H members Callie Johnson, a recent Center Grove graduate; her brother, Clayton Johnson, a Center Grove sophomore; and Holly Clark, also a recent graduate.

Clayton said dropping $65 a night wouldn’t be hard to do once you include the cost of unlimited-ride bracelets for the midway, a burger or two, and a (not so) healthy serving or two of the myriad junk food offerings.

The foursome spend a lot of time together this week as they show livestock and attempt to recoup some of the costs they incurred when they sell their animals at the end of the week.

The Johnsons are showing 18 sheep, and the cost to raise and exhibit livestock can get into the thousands of dollars, Callie Johnson said.

“You can’t beat fair week,” she said but added that it gets to be expensive — and unhealthy — but the fun is worth it.

The Johnsons get $10 each day from their parents. Callie Johnson said she can live on that some days, but her brother disagreed.

“He eats like a horse,” she said, ribbing her brother.

Clayton Johnson admitted the cost can get staggering.

Best friends Olivia Shaul, a Roncalli High School freshman, and Katelynn Alvey, an eighth-grader at Franklin Community Middle School, know it costs a lot to show pigs. In addition, the work of showing animals is a dawn-to-dusk process.

The youngsters are up by 6 a.m. to feed and water their hogs and call it a day at 11 p.m. or midnight, depending on how late they are at the midway or visiting with their friends.

Taking care of Barbie Q and Ken, Shaul’s pigs, takes hours. Normally, when July temperatures climb into the 90s, she sprays them with water and refills their water supply nearly hourly. They have to be fed and watered at least three times a day.

After she waters them, she has to make sure they’re clean and ready for the judges. She washes and brushes them and even gives them a treatment of Skin So Soft so they’re prettied up.

Aside from daily fair spending, the cost of showing animals is not small.

Pigs can cost $200 to $600 when her family buys them at 3 months old. The grooming supplies can run into the hundreds of dollars. Feed costs about $1,000 per year, and the Shauls try to buy good-quality feed for the health of the pigs.

“We wouldn’t give them (the kind of quality of food) we wouldn’t eat ourselves,” Olivia Shaul said.

Andew Shaul, Olivia’s dad, said it’s unlikely they will break even. Last year, Olivia’s hog sold for just under $800. But he said the experience is well worth the cost.

“For being a city kid, she says this is her favorite week of the year,” he said.

The relationships alone are worth it, he added.

“During fair week, all the parents look out for each other’s kids,” Andrew Shaul said. “If one gets out of line, the other parents are there to watch out for them.”

The Shauls stay in a camper at the fairgrounds overnight and take plenty of supplies with them for the week to control costs for food.

Andrew Shaul said he gives the family one day to eat fair food — another cost that can get high if he’s not careful.

“It can be an expensive endeavor,” Andrew said.

The family will butcher the gilt — Barbie Q — after the fair. The family can eat from a hog for about a year.

The family’s favorite? Pork burgers.

“My kids just destroy them,” Andrew Shaul said.

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