Whether it was buzzing bees, swimming swine or giddy goats, animals were the stars of the show Friday for the opening night of the 2019 Brazos Valley Fair & Rodeo’s main weekend.
While cowboys and cowgirls put their talents to the test in the Brazos County Expo’s red dirt arena, families also were able to enjoy more intimate experiences with agriculture, art, food and live entertainment.
The massive three-day event offers a wide variety of experiences both indoors and outside. In the Brazos Expo exhibit halls, visitors can admire art contest submissions and purchase everything from belt buckles to lobster seasoning. Two cooperating vendors offered up something sticky sweet and aromatic this year: local honey and honey-based products.
The Bee Weaver honey farm has been operating out of Grimes County since 1888, and for the second year in a row they’ve sold their wares at the Brazos Valley Fair. Bee Weaver store manager Mitzy Camp shared free samples of drizzling golden honey, tinted with flavors of fruits, nuts and even coffee. She also sold the soaps, scrubs, jams and honey treats that can be found at the honey farm’s brick-and-mortar location just south of Navasota.
“The fair [in 2018] was fabulous,” Camp said. “It was great. We got lots of local business from it, and we did really well, made some good contacts. ... We are very well known in the beekeeping industry, but we’re trying to get people to learn more about beekeeping.”
Underneath the umbrella of Bee Weaver, Chelsea Murray and her family have started a mead company, Wildflyer Mead Co., also based in Grimes County. At the same booth as Bee Weaver, Murray offered the unique honey-based alcoholic beverage for purchase on tap.
“Wildflyer started Memorial Day weekend this year, and we are in the process of building tasting room production space now set up in [Bee Weaver’s] old honey house,” she said.
Not only could fair guests try the Bee Weaver and Wildflyer honey products in the vendor-filled exhibit hall, but they also could meet some Bee Weaver bees at an educational beekeeping station in the barn areas outside the Expo’s main arena. This area hosted dozens of animals and educational agricultural exhibits for children to explore and enjoy.
Chelsea Harris, a Texas A&M sophomore and experienced animal caretaker, volunteered with the fair’s animal exhibits, answering any questions visitors might have about the four-horned Jacob sheep, the giant Poland China pigs or the woolly Highland cows on display, along with a dozen additional farm animals.
“It’s very important people know where their food comes from,” Harris said. “A lot of people don’t know. It is really good to have the animals out here with information. Agriculture is the foundation of everyday life.”
While many animal attractions had an educational angle to them, some existed for pure fun and entertainment. With Swifty Swine Racing, the pigs that fair attendees saw weren’t just lounging in a pen; they were swimming and kicking up wood shavings around a small race track. Elouise Pool and Hendrik Swinepoel, entertainers with Swifty Swine, have been travelling with their 14 pigs for years now, putting on a show at fairs and rodeos all across the state.
With pig races, four pot-bellied pigs will be encouraged to run around a small track coated in soft wood shavings, rewarded with an Oreo cookie at the end. Each pig has the parodied name of a celebrity, from “Justin Bie-boar” to “Hillary Rod-ham Clinton” to “Donald Trump Roast.”
The Swifty Swine show was rich in puns and energetic audience participation. The crowd clapped for the main event, when Swifty himself, a small pig, swam a short distance in a water-filled trough.
Traveling fair-to-fair is fun for Pool and Swinepoel.
“Most of the time people tell us they love the pigs,” Pool said. “They are so cute, and people will ask if they can buy one. But these pigs are definitely not for sale.”
The fair and rodeo offer many more attractions and events for the whole family. For a schedule of the next two days' events, visit www.brazosvalleyfair.com.