A testimony to the Ohio State Fair’s milking parlor

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cows in milking parlor
Cows in a milking parlor

The Ohio State Fair milking parlor is now at rest. The following is not a eulogy, but more like a testimony to her presence and worth. This “grand lady” can now boast over 50 years of service to literally hundreds of bovine beauties and their owners. 

Maintaining

Like all of us, she has had a few “hiccups” along the way. She has routine checkups and screenings to maintain her good health. A few adjustments, cosmetic makeovers, boosters and even replacement parts keep her fit and on task. On occasion, there have been a few emergency calls, but every effort is made to manage uninterrupted service for her customers. 

Our parlor is not a marvel of current technology and efficiency, and sometimes the steps to her performance can be an enigma. Whether awake or silenced, her rhythmic hum offers up the background music of our barn. 

Public

Beyond what she does for exhibitors, she also communicates to the public. Fairgoers from multiple generations have gazed through those large windows and marveled at the process in front of them. As backup, a recording plays over the speakers with further explanations. 

In recent years, she has even become a donor as the proceeds from the milk produced and sold serves to fund youth programs for dairy kids. 

Students

Perhaps her largest contribution is relatively unsung. Over the years, Ohio State University students (mainly dairy judges) have managed her day-to-day and show-to-show functions. 

They have come from all walks of life and so very many now have impressive positions of leadership on their farms or within our industry. And in some simple, but significant way, exhibitors themselves were their mentors. If you were ever served by the parlor, you have already met and influenced them. 

There is not enough space here to tell of the maturity and growth students have learned and earned within the walls of the parlor as their classroom. It is as if we have our own culture created by the shared experiences that speak to a sense of duty. 

Closing up

After the very last cow show, the students and I scrubbed every wall, assisted the milk hauler and followed the protocol to put the “grand lady” at peace till spring. As I closed the door on 16 years of this adventure, I felt that sentimental urge to embrace the space and all the great kids that have been in and out of this realm. 

We were not awarded any trophy or banner, but the reward was a genuine sense of accomplishment for the management of this space. When you visit the parlor again, I hope you will show respect for all she has offered to so many without any special thanks or credit. 

Although life has changed in and around her space, the parlor has been a loyal advocate for two- and four-legged species. Rest well good and faithful servant!

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Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.

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