Scooter McSquib riled up the crowd from his center-stage spot in the barn, lazily swinging his lasso in a loop while regaling families in the heat and shade. He flicked the rope at sheep running by without a small rider.
This was the professional clown's first time at the Mississippi Valley Fair — one of the biggest he's been to this summer. He was performing at the afternoon mutton busting competition, an event he described as an Olympics-level event for the kids.
It's meeting the kids, parents and other fairgoers that take top spot in McSquib's fair loves, and he's not alone.
"Everyday we get caught up in all the negative that's going on in the world, but if you come to these, everybody is kind and generous," McSquib said. "I see so many wonderful people day in and day out. It really restores my faith in humanity."
Across the way in the Educational Center, Orion Mack showed off his ribbon-winning chickens and duck, offering the chance to pet one if people were interested. He wandered between their cages and cradled each bird while rattling off fun facts.
Mack has traveled from Walcott for three years to show his birds — one duck, one cockerel and several chickens. He had a couple of rare breeds for the area, earning him more than one blue ribbon. The 14-year-old got into 4-H after coming to the fair and seeing all the livestock shows, and if he had to pick a favorite part of the event, it's definitely not the food.
"My favorite part of the fair is getting to see the smile on people's faces when they get to pet a chicken, or pet a cow, or hear our laughing roosters laugh," Mack said.
Robert Roe watched from his seat as kids wandered around the educational and interactive exhibits. They'd stand in bird and butterfly habitats, listen to geese squawk and roosters crow and pause at the tall box he was stationed next to, looking closely at the bees as they conducted their busy work in the observation hive.
The hobby beekeeper brought the bees with him from his home in Long Grove to teach people about the inner workings of a hive. Seeing the kids and showing them new things is his favorite part of the fair.
The 2022 Mississippi Valley Fair Queen was one of those kids once upon a time, having come to the fair for as long as she can remember. Caelan Engelbrech was crowned earlier this week and has spent her time at the fair since going to events and meeting fellow fairgoers. She helped out with mutton busting in the afternoon, high-fiving successful riders.
Engelbrech said she loves meeting people at the fair, and will take that love with her to the Iowa State Fair next week to try for another crown.
"I really enjoy the fair, I think it's brought so much joy to me over the past years," Engelbrech said. "It's just like a family."
Photos: Mutton Busting and Carnival Rides, Thursday at the Mississippi Valley Fair