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Farmer’s Day at Sonoma County Fair gives thrills to all ages

The annual Farmer’s Day was celebrated Sunday at the Sonoma County Fair with a range of activities that borrowed more closely from thrill-seeking sports than typical rodeo offerings.

Events like the wild cow and wild goat milking contests, the hide race, pig scramble and mutton bustin’ had participants kicking up dust at the Chris Beck Arena to the delight of some 200 people watching.

The wild cow milking contest, where a team of three people attempt to get a drop of milk out of the cow’s udder while the animal races around the rodeo arena, was not without peril.

Andrew Ryan was part of the winning cow milking team — which received $300 — though he slightly injured his left leg in the contest. He was able to get a squirt of milk into the plastic bottle in less than 30 seconds while his other two friends held onto the halter rope that had been placed on the cow in the chute.

“Rule No. 1: Don’t lose the rope, or it’s over,” Ryan said. “I had no clue what I was doing. We had a plan, but the plan didn’t work.”

Tyler Pitto of Lodi was literally dragged into the hide race competition by his girlfriend, Katie Ward-Crummey, the fair’s Miss Wine Country Rodeo. In the event, a horseback rider drags a team member along with a rope attached to a thin layer of rigid cowhide, which acts as a sled on top of the bumpy dirt of the arena.

“She signed me up and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” said Pitto. Ward-Crummey, a skilled rider who shows cutting horses, galloped around the arena while Pitto held onto the cowhide for almost 18 seconds.

“It’s like going downhill on a snow sled,” he said afterward. “It’s very bumpy and rough.”

The arena also had activities for children, including instructors giving roping advice. Joe Johnson of Cloverdale, an honorary member of the fair board, said the youths appreciated the lasso lessons even though many had more knowledge about Pokemon GO than the 4-H Club.

“I think there will always be farmers around,” Johnson said. “People always want to till the soil. They want to do things with animals, grow things.”

There also was a stick horse competition, where children were judged on their western attire as well as their galloping techniques, and a pig scramble, where more than 30 kids raced to catch one of about a dozen pigs inside a temporary pen on the arena grounds.

The pigs had little chance as the kids scooped them up and brought them — many porkers squealing in protest — to the adults overseeing the contest.

Jenna Scarpete, 12, of Cotati, picked up the first pig in less than a minute. Scarpete, who also competed in the event last year, said the contest was easy because most of the pigs stayed huddled in the middle of the pen instead of running away.

“I went out grabbed the first pig and took it to the girl and got a gift certificate,” she said. “I just picked it up by the two back legs.”

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.