116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — When Eva Dolan readies her bird for the poultry show at the Linn County Fair, she usually gives it a bath, clips its nails and grooms it to look its best.
This time, she just snapped a photo.
Banished by the bird flu outbreak, a poultry show that for years has been a staple at the county fair transformed this weekend from three dimensions to two so the show could go on — somehow.
'We're just kind of making the best out of a bad situation,' said Jackie Bohlken, the Linn County 4-H poultry co-chair. 'The kids are really still getting into this.'
All fairs are prohibited this year from having live birds on site as one of the precautions called for in Iowa's emergency protocols for stemming the spread of the disease. Bird flu has caused more than 32 million chickens and turkeys to be euthanized in the state this year.
For the Linn County Fair this past weekend, the ban meant trying to create new opportunities for kids to stay involved. That included a sort of poultry portrait contest as the main event, as well as the addition of an egg show. But there also was a rubber chicken toss, a crowing contest and photo competitions for ugliest chicken, best-dressed bird — which garnered entries of geese in rain gear — and the best selfie, posing with poultry.
Bohlken said there are some 'really hard-core poultry kids' saddened by the ban, so she started planning ideas for a replacement.
For the main show, kids were given specific rules for positioning their birds for the photos. They were told to submit a 4x6 to 8x10 inch photo with a side view of the bird from head to talons, taken on a white background.
The birds are judged according to the American Poultry Association's ideal standards for the various breeds. Saturday, certified poultry judge Helena Hayes used the photos to scrutinize the birds by those standards.
Eva, a 15-year-old from Cedar Rapids, said even though a photo was easier than the usual preparation, it still was difficult.
'It's not fun taking pictures of chickens,' she said, noting the difficulty of getting hers to stand still.
Natheless, Eva — this year's queen of the poultry show — said she's just happy she got to have a seventh year of showing.
'I think 4-H is really important for biosecurity.'
Indeed, safety education was evident. In the poultry tent, an informational poster encouraged bird owners to check for bird flu. Bohlken also said she wanted kids to fill out what she called a 'thankful turkey' — a big drawing where children could post what they were grateful for despite the bird flu outbreak.
'I wanted kids to see a bright side to it,' she said. 'We have our birds' health … if we can help educate the public on biosecurity and things we can do to help it, we need to make that a prominent thing.'
While she's not sure what will happen with next year's poultry show, Bohlken expects it will keep some of the ideas added this summer.
'Our whole deal here is we need to be encouraging to all the kids,' she said.
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