Eastern Rhode Island 4-H Fair in Portsmouth celebrates 50 years

Cows and rabbits and chickens — oh my!

Posted 8/5/19

PORTSMOUTH — Kaylin Couto is only 12, but she’s already a seasoned veteran of the Eastern Rhode Island 4-H Club.

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Eastern Rhode Island 4-H Fair in Portsmouth celebrates 50 years

Cows and rabbits and chickens — oh my!


PORTSMOUTH — Kaylin Couto is only 12, but she’s already a seasoned veteran of the Eastern Rhode Island 4-H Fair.

“I’ve been doing 4-H ever since I could walk and hold a halter,” said Kaylin, who’s been around farm animals since she was 2 and a club member since she was 5.

“My mom used to show Angus cows, and I started showing Angus cows from my grandfather’s farm. Eventually, I liked sheep and pigs, so I also got those, too,” she said while taking a short break Sunday at the  Eastern Rhode Island 4-H Fair at Glen Park.

The fair celebrated its 50th anniversary over the weekend, with children of all ages competitively showing cows, rabbits, chickens, goats and sheep. 

Of course, the event also featured plenty of fun and games, such as the obligatory cow pie throwing contest, the egg on a spoon race and and several eating contests in which contestants inhaled watermelons, ice cream, doughnuts and pies.

But on Saturday and Sunday, just like every year for the past five decades, the children and the animals they care for were the main focus.

“It teaches you how to share, it teaches you compassion because you have to take care of animals, it teaches you responsibility. It was a major part of my growing up,” said Arleen Kaull, a member of the 4-H’s executive board.

Ms. Kaull, the executive director of the Middletown Senior Center, returned to the fair this year after a prolonged absence. 

“I ran the fair years and years ago and I came back to help for the 50th,” she said. “My parents were involved in this; my dad was one of the original founders. We said, ‘Let’s go back and help the kids.’”

For its first two years, the fair was held at the top of Quaker Hill on East Main Road, behind where the Portsmouth police and fire stations now stand. In 1970, the town purchased the Glen, including Glen Park, and a group of five men involved in 4-H, including Domingoes Rodrigues, Ms. Kaull’s father, decided to move the fair to that location.

“They built a barn, and they built most of these buildings,” she said.

The only one of the original founding five who’s still alive is John Martin, Ms. Kaull said. 

“We honored him (Saturday),” she said. “I said to him, ‘We, the community, can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for thousands of children.”

Showing the animals

That includes Kaylin Couto, of course. Over the weekend she won “reserve showman” in the cow category. “That means I was the second-best showman for cows,” she said.

There’s a lot involved when presenting your animals to the judges, she said.

“It’s a little bit of everything, I guess,” said Kaylin. “You have to place the feet in certain areas. Sheep you set up in a square, cows you kind of offset them, which means one foot goes farther than the other one. You just want to present then as best as you can. You want to hold their head up high.”

Kaylin has learned invaluable life skills in 4-H, but there’s also a social element involved.

“I’ve made a lot more friends that sort of understand me,” she said. “All my other friends at school are like, ‘Can’t you just skip going to the farm on the weekends?’ And I’m just like, ‘No, they have to be trained.’ I love my animals and I would not skip it. They don’t understand that, but all my 4-H friends do.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Kaylin plans on becoming a veterinarian when she gets older, and having her own farm. She already has the property picked out.

“I saw this farm in Portsmouth,” she said. “It used to be a really big horse farm. I want to buy that one when I get older.”

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