31 county fair coop 1

Siera Giron, 16, back left, and Riley Currey, 15, back center, eat a chili dinner after presenting animals at the Solano County Fair in Vallejo, Wednesday. A few families spend the night at the Solano County Fairgrounds and share dinner costs to help save money. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Solano County

It’s ‘camping for 30′ at the Solano fair

By From page A1 | July 31, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Home is where the RV hookups are at the Solano County Fairgrounds.

There’s a small community behind the animal barns. The residents are youth showing their sheep, chickens, swine and other animals – and their parents.

The Dage family from Dixon is among them. This is the second year they’ve set up a temporary home at the Vallejo site.

It’s much smaller than the 40-acre “hobby farm” they call home, but no one is complaining. It’s a camping trip, just a little closer to home. The sounds of nature are replaced by many baahs, a few moos and some oinks.

When the Dage children aren’t cleaning pens or preparing their animals for show, they usually hang out in the 33-foot-long fifth-wheeler. It’s got many of the same comforts as home, said mom Lisa Dage. Her favorite: The full-size shower.

Twins Mason and Jonah, 13, and their sisters Saylor, 10, and Maren 7, have the option of sleeping on the floor or futons in the living room area.

They hosted a sleepover Tuesday.

Planning ahead is the key, Lisa Dage said. There are games, movies and crafts for the kids.

“It gets crazy,” she said.

At the same time, it’s like a vacation.

“When you’re at the fair you aren’t worrying about the million things that have to be done at home,” Lisa Dage said. “There’s nothing you can do about it here.”

A few trailers away, crock-pots of chili were cooking Wednesday for that evening’s meal. Corn chips would be served, too.

Gail Setka and Kim Scott, of Dixon, are the women behind the makeshift kitchen that feeds between 20 to 25 people breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily.

The first night they served up dinner – Monday – there were some extra, unexpected guests.

“We sort of winged it,” Setka said. “We came up with more spaghetti.”

The need for community cooking surfaced when the families realized the cost of eating fair food daily for a week.

Kids with a healthier diet are happier kids, Scott said.

Scott starts planning in June for the fair, sending out a menu to the participating families, who chip in for the cost of food. She does the shopping and advance food preparation.

Breakfast burritos are the favorite. The sausage is warmed up in the morning while the eggs are being cooked. Those who are showing animals clean up the pens first because they don’t get fed until that job is done. There are a few small refrigerators in their campers.

“It is camping,” Setka said. “Camping for 30.”

Rules are in place at the campsite. They include that no child can go beyond a certain point by themselves, and that when the nightly fireworks end, everyone has to be back at camp.

When there’s down time, there’s plenty of games for the children to play, or they take rocks and polish them at the lapidary building on the fairgrounds.

Creativity abounds: The youth created a version of poker using cards from the game “Go Fish.”

There are nightly activities for the youth who are camping at the fair. It was an egg toss Wednesday, where some competitors were knocked out after a few throws.

Parents were on hand to record the fun and offer tips. After the first pair broke their egg, one parent told the team to cheer for those still playing.

“It really is like a village,” Scott said.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

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