TORRINGTON – The contestants were clumsy, stubborn and confused about what was happening. Some of them quite plainly wanted to be elsewhere. All of them were mere kids.
But it didn’t matter: they were goats with a race to run.
One by one, over a dozen children urged their baby goats down the 50-foot obstacle course at the Goshen County Fair Grounds on Tuesday night.
Completing the task was a feat that required focus.
First, contestants had to scoop up water using a pail in one hand. Then with their other hand they had to guide their animal companion down a line of folding chairs. As in baseball, the human had to touch down on each chair while weaving the goat through the channel.
The final step appeared the trickiest: the goat needed to step onto a platform while its handler emptied her pail of water into a tub.
The voice of race announcer Lawrence Randall boomed over the loudspeakers after the stopwatch clicked.
“Thirty-nine-point-three [seconds] for Cooper! There you go! Woo!” he cheered after a young boy pulled his goat onto the platform.
Technically, however, Cooper received an assist from another contestant who ran onto the field to help lift the goat into its final position.
Wasn’t that cheating?
“It’s very typical,” Randall laughed. And encouraged? “Absolutely.”
“I thought I was...gonna lose”
With a time of 20.1 seconds, Ashlyn Schanel, 9, and her five-month-old goat, Cookie, were the fastest in the race.
“I thought I was totally gonna lose,” Ashyln said afterward. Despite coming in first, she admitted that the two of them had not practiced.
Clad in purple and white flannel and sporting brown pigtails, she explained that Cookie was being uncooperative today. Exhibit A was how the goat careened into one of the folding chairs during her run, knocking it down. Hopefully, Cookie will grow out of it, added Ashlyn’s mother, Michele Schanel.
Cookie had no comment on this allegation.
Randall said that the competition began approximately ten years ago. He has been the usual emcee, adding with a chuckle that no one else wants to do it. His title is “goat superintendent,” with a fairly straightforward set of duties.
“Pretty much, you run all of the goat shows,” Randall explained. “Make sure all the kids are taking care of their goats.”
One question lingered after watching goat after goat be dragged through the obstacle course: were the goats having an okay time?
“The goats normally enjoy that,” he nodded. “Some of them, they don’t like to do that as fast a pace as the kids do. But they’re fine.”
The costume contest
While not as adrenaline-pumping as the goat race, the first part of the event was actually a costume pageant. The animals and their companions paraded onto the field and stood before the bleachers to be interviewed by Randall.
The aspiration was for both parties to be in costume, and some contestants delivered. There was a pair of mermaids. Two pairs donned in colorful Mexican serapes. But the clear standout was Sully Resich, 10, who was the only person to wear a head-to-toe costume: Sulley (no relation), the blue, furry character from the movie Monsters, Inc.
“I wore that for Halloween,” Sully said. “My little sister dressed up as Boo. I just thought, ‘well, I could be Sulley and my goat could be Boo,’” referring to the purple pseudo-monster outfit she fit on her goat, Shanel.
Although there was no official winner of the costume competition, Sully, from Los Angeles, modestly refused to crown herself as the best-dressed.
“I think I was the most creative,” she allowed.
This was Sully’s first year in the race. Unlike some of her competitors, she practiced with Shanel “Rocky”-style--going up and down her cousin’s driveway three times and petting her repeatedly. Even so, her expectations differed somewhat from the reality of the event.
“I thought you had to do the obstacle course with your costume. But you didn’t,” she said.