The tricks to staying cool at the Johnson County fair this year are the same for both people and animals: spend as much time as possible in the shade, and keep the water and Gatorade flowing.
On Tuesday temperatures hit 90 degrees with heat indexes that climbed even higher for the second straight day, and similar temperatures are expected for the rest of the week. Those temperatures tend to keep fairgoers away, but some have no choice but to stay with their animals or man their booths for 12 hours a day.
Those fairgoers are the ones who know how to stay cool.
After mild temperatures so far this summer, a heat wave hit this week, and temperatures are expected to be around 90 degrees most of the week.
Many of the sheep, livestock and hog pens at the fairgrounds have fans hanging from their roofs or standing around the animals, keeping them cool. And by midweek many of the people staying at the fairgrounds all day — from families with animals to care for to groups working fundraisers — have either found shady spots to stay under or brought their own shelter from the sun.
“We learned that during (our) first year: stay in the shade as much as you can,” Bryan Johns, Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 266, said.
Members of Troop 266, including 13-year-olds Tim Johns and Nolan Feller, have been working traffic control at the fair for the past four years. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Scouts spread throughout the fairgrounds’ parking lots, making sure that no one is parking where they aren’t supposed to.
The money they’ll earn this week will help pay for their trips to summer camp or to high-adventure courses around the country.
The boys typically work in six-hour shifts, with about four boys working traffic control and four others cooling under a canopy that the troop brings with them. The boys coordinate traffic work for 30 minutes at a time before switching with those in the shade, Tim Johns and Feller said.
Feller also swore off eating anything salty during traffic duty.
And each boy almost always has something with them to drink.
Hydration is key to keeping families and animals cool, fair families said.
This week 17-year-old Makayla Plummer of Bargersville has been preparing to show sheep at the fair and has been prepping the animals with the help of her older brother Levi and her father Duane. Levi Plummer was a 4-H’er for 10 years who raised both sheep and hogs, and he learned importance of keeping the air around the animals moving and keeping them watered.
“They’re just like us. They’ll overheat pretty quick,” he said.
The Plummers are watching for droopy ears or inattentive faces from the sheep, all of which can be signs that they’re overheating.
And when raising hogs Levi Plummer always had to be sure none of the animals’ skin was turning pink or purple and that they weren’t panting too much — all signs of too much sun.
He also started mixing powdered Gatorade in with his animals’ water to keep their electrolytes up.
While this year’s temperatures are high, the Plummers are thankful that the fair isn’t as hot as it was last year.
“It was so miserably hot last year. It just never cooled off at night,” Duane Plummer said.
The heat has a mixed effect on business.
Fair concession stands, including the lemon shake-ups and pineapple whip station run by Gateway Services, are used to seeing a drop-off in sales after the first day, but this year sales took a steeper dive than expected. That’s likely because people tend to buy more lemon shake-ups or pineapple whips when it’s hot.
But fewer people come to the fair when the temperature rises, Gateway director of operations Dan Mustard said.