LITTLE VALLEY - Royalty walks among the crowd at the Cattaraugus County Fair promoting the county's dairy farms and products. Whether in the barns or the show ring, Taryn Dechow, this year's Cattaraugus County Dairy Princess, knows what needs to be done to prepare for the fair.
On Sunday, as the fairgrounds bustled with exhibitors bringing in their animals and domestic items for show, Taryn was found washing and grooming her Holstein heifer, Karyn, in preparation for the next day's Dairy Judging competition. In just minutes, she quickly transformed from a farm girl in a T-shirt, denim shorts and rubber boots to a refined lady in her tiara and sash.
As this year's reigning Cattaraugus County Dairy Princess, Taryn comes from a long line of royalty - following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, Taurie and Taylor, who have also held the title. Taryn was Alternate Dairy Princess last year and two years before that, she was Dairy Ambassador.
The Cattaraugus County Fair has entertained people of all ages and interests since 1842 and it’s the perfect place to showcase a special animal. Taryn Dechow, Cattaraugus County Dairy Princess, poses above with her prized Holstein heifer, Karyn.
Photo by Deb Everts
Photo by Deb Everts
The girls are the daughters of Terry and Patti Dechow, of Cattaraugus, and they have a brother, Dane.
Taryn has been a member of the "Dairy Heirs" 4-H Club for eight to 10 years and her mother, Patti, leads the club along with Kerri Martin.
Patti said all 10 club members are participating at the fair by bringing their animals, which includes everything from dairy animals, poultry and pigs to rabbits and dairy steer.
Taryn brought several of her prized animals to the fair for exhibit and entered them for competition in hopes of bringing home a coveted winner's ribbon, or two. Through the 4-H club, she is showing a heifer, two chickens and a rabbit.
This is her second year showing her Holstein heifer that is now classified as an intermediate yearling. She started working with the heifer last year, about two months before the fair, to get her trained on a lead.
"She's very good at walking on the lead this year, but I had to do some review training to get her back into the motions," Taryn said.
This particular Holstein was chosen out of three or four other calves last year because Taryn knew what age group she wanted to show and Karyn was the calf with the best lines.
Taryn explained that each farm has their own veterinarian and an exhibitor showing cattle at the fair must bring the animal's papers. She said grooming begins just prior to fair time and continues during the fair. The animal is washed and they do touchups - clipping their coat and polishing hooves with baby oil to get them shiny.
Her two chickens are not market hens, but rather laying hens so they won't be eaten. She said the chickens are about a year old and a mixed breed, mostly Leghorns.
She said anyone planning to exhibit a chicken must bring it to the fairgrounds on a certain date to have blood work done and be banded with a number. A veterinarian checks all poultry to be sure they are clean, healthy and disease free.
"Chickens are more apt to have a disease than rabbits and chickens that also spread diseases," she said. "If you keep rabbits separated they're usually alright, but with chickens, if one has a disease, they can spread it through an entire flock and possibly throughout the fair."
She noted that the rabbits are also checked for diseases, but the examination isn't as thorough as for the chickens.
Taryn said her rabbit, a 5-year-old female, black "mini-Rex," is definitely the easiest of her animals to care for and get ready for show. She explained that the rabbits are judged first by breed, age and gender. Once down to the finalists, they are judged by color, breed, age and gender.
"I groom my rabbit, clip its nails and make sure that it has its identification tattoo in its ear," she said. "Every rabbit must have a tattoo, whether it's an actual tattoo or put on with a Sharpie marker. It's a requirement for taking the rabbit to the fair, so if the rabbits get mixed up or get loose, we can identify them."
In June, Taryn attended a Dairy Princess Training Seminar, sponsored by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council of New York, where she also made a presentation. The duties of the dairy princess include promotion of local products by educating the consumer on nutrition and the role of the dairy farm in Cattaraugus County.
Princess Taryn will turn 17 on the last day of the fair and this fall she will be a senior at Randolph Central School. She is a member of the Future Farmers of America and the Envirothon team who were Cattaraugus County champions, for the second consecutive year, and placed second in this year's New York State Envirothon competition.
The Cattaraugus County Fair is located at 501 Erie St., in Little Valley, and runs through Sunday. For more information, call 938-9146 or download a fair guide at cattarauguscofair.com.