MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — Showing both horses and goats Tuesday morning and afternoon at the Montcalm County 4-H Fairgrounds, Corban Spittka was drenched from head to toe as heavy rains splashed down all around him.
The dedicated 4-H’er, 15, of Sheridan, was having a difficult time showing his animals, as his horse was spooked and his goats were disturbed by the sights and sounds that the rainstorm brought with it.
But despite the many difficulties that a near nonstop rainstorm has brought with it over the past few days, Spittka says he and his fellow 4-H’ers have fought through the mud and water and are anxious to keep competing throughout the remainder of the week.
“It’s basically been raining nonstop,” he said. “It’s been very muddy and very difficult. Many of the horses are afraid of things such as their reflection in puddles on the ground or the sound of the rain coming down on the roof. I couldn’t even bathe my horse properly this week because there was so much standing water.”
But Spittka said rain is an element that is not foreign to 4-H’ers in Michigan, and adapting to the conditions is just a part of the job.
“The animals were freaking out a little bit and it gets dangerous,” he said. “A horse could break it’s leg, or a rider could fall and hurt themselves. It kind of stunk having to show my animals in the rain, but we’re prepared to be out here in the rain and I actually find the rain to be a bit of a blast.”
The conditions have had their effect on other fair events as well, as Wednesday evening’s SJO Motocross grandstand event was canceled due to poor track conditions.
“The rain (Tuesday) was the final straw,” Motocross Track Coordinator Cory Wall said. “If the sun was out this morning we maybe would have tried it, but right now if we build the motocross track we risk not being able to get it in shape for the tractor pull on Friday.”
Fair board member Lisa Johnson has had her eyes glued to her laptop all week, checking the weather radar every few moments to properly prepare for the heavy amount of rainfall.
“The weather for this year’s fair has been a challenge,” Johnson said. “As a farmer, I’ve endured several weather related challenges through the years and I know we will get through this.”
According to the upcoming 5-day forecast from WZZM 13 in Grand Rapids, conditions should be decent throughout the remainder of the week.
There is a chance for thunderstorms tonight, but weather conditions for Friday and Saturday should be sunny and dry with a chance of rain to close out the festivities on Sunday.
“The forecast is for sunny through Saturday,” Johnson said. “We’re excited for things to get dried out and to have a big end of the week.”
Johnson said both the 4-H staff and the 4-H’ers themselves are ready to move past the rain, and she believes with a good forecast throughout the remainder of the week, attendance at the fair will also stay positive as the midway is up and running without any problems.
“I thought it was going to affect our crowd today for Kids Day, but we had well over 750 kids and parents,” she said. “That’s about 50 percent more people than we had last year. I think we might have had some pent up demand since the rain held off today.”
Johnson said parking has been difficult, but no major issues have occurred, as when vehicles have become stuck in muddy conditions, others are quick to come help.
“Even though we’ve had to cancel a few events, our parking has only been off a total of $150 compared to this time last year,” she said. “It’s getting a lot better. We spent $400,000 preparing these fairgrounds for this kind of rain, for it to drain properly, and we should be OK throughout the rest of the week.”
According to Johnson, all remaining fair events are expected to run as scheduled.
Johnson said though the weather has been unfortunate, it hasn’t dampened the spirits of the kids showing their animals throughout the week.
“This is what 4-H is about, coming together to help each other out during difficult times,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing.”