Barnyard burnout

Animals become racers at the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo

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Turkeys take their time racing around a track during the Barnyard Racers animal races at the North Idaho Fair Wednesday morning.

COEUR d'ALENE - The theme song from the old television show "Bonanza" floated from speakers across Jacklin Square Wednesday morning at the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo.

Children and adults filled bleachers surrounding a small racetrack paved with wood-shavings.

"We're going to play some music to get the pigs and ducks in the racing spirit," said Jennifer Gregston, owner of All Creatures Barnyard Racers, a brand new fair attraction.

The audience got in the spirit as well, clapping as "Cotton-Eyed Joe" blasted from the speakers.

Gregston handed out pompoms to children in the stands, and selected a young audience member to help her. She handed the boy a cowbell, and told him that would be the signal for the pigs to "break from their pens at lightning speeds."

Race anticipation filled the air as John Denver's voice bounced from the speakers: "Well, life on the farm is kinda laid back. Ain't much an old country boy like me can't hack..."

The older crowd members sang along; a few tapped their feet and bounced in their seats.

The four small pigs, with names like Squealie Nelson and Piggy Ray Cyrus, were lined up behind the race gates.

The bell rang, and the race was on.

Wearing bandanas, charging at breakneck speeds, the little pigs went around the track in a flash.

Gregston explained to the crowd that the animals had some enticement - Oreo cookies and milk were waiting for them back in their pens at the other end of the track.

Children and adults alike cheered encouragement and smiled with delight, as more pigs, some ducks and even a couple of turkeys took their turns on the track.

Gregston told the crowd that the ducks are natural racers. She trained them a few years ago and then a year went by before they raced again. The ducks remembered how to put their heads down to slip their racing bandanas around their necks, she said.

"Sometimes when the music starts, they start bouncing up and down and quacking along," Gregston said.

Gregston and her husband, Glen, live "just off 95" about 400 miles south of Kootenai County in Midvale, Idaho.

They've been bringing petting zoos to fairs since 1998, and started racing pigs 10 years ago.

The All Creatures Barnyard Races are featured multiple times each day at the fair in the Jacklin Square area. For a complete schedule, see C4 in today's Press.

Children watch ducks run out of the gates at the Barnyard Racers animal races Wednesday morning at the North Idaho Fair.

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