Squeals of excitement flowed of a large red tent as children got up close and personal with baby farm animals.

Thousands of local school children flocked to the Seguin Events Complex fairgrounds as an educational field trip to the 136th Annual Guadalupe County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday.

Their tour took them to the a petting zoo aimed at educating local school children on agriculture and barnyard animals.

“We came out today because we want our kids to understand that the community comes together for fairs, and they actually get real-world experience with the animals,” Patlan Elementary pre-kindergarten teacher Denise O’Neal said. “They can look at pictures of animals all day, but to actually interact with them and touch them and understand what the animal’s needs are is something you can’t take away. Seeing them so excited to visit with the animals and interact with them really touched my heart.”

The petting zoo hosted about 35 animals ranging from goats to baby bovines, with the most popular of the bunch being the piglets, Jennifer Gregston, of Jennifer’s All Creatures Barnyard Races, said.

“The pigs are hands down the kid’s favorite animal today,” Gregston said. “I could own a petting farm with just pigs, and people would be happy. Sometimes the kids will get scared when they enter the pen – especially these city kids that have only been around dogs or cats. We try to be patient with them and explain that they’re not going to get hurt.”

St. James Catholic School pre-kindergarten teacher Chrissy Belicek says a petting zoo is the perfect place for her students to learn about the farm and ranch life.

“This is a great way to expose kids to agriculture because not a lot of them get to see the animals and enjoy a community event,” she said. “It’s close to the school, and the kids really seem to enjoy it. The biggest thing for me though, is the agriculture experience because the kids get to see the animals, and the horses and be up close to them.”

The event also hosted several other educational activities for the children to enjoy.

“We have our petting zoo station, barnyard station, tractor station and we have a equine station set up over by the arena area,” associate member of the fair Gail Damerau said. “The horse station is pretty cool because it has the whole digestive system painted on the side of it and it’ll talk about the different things about the horse. We also have a learning barn where they will be talking about different things about agriculture and corn and how to grow it. We also have a reading station where we have some ladies that are reading a book to the children that talks about farming and agriculture.”

The school tours event was started by Damerau in 1983 and has continued to steadily grow over the years.

“I originally started school tours when I was still in high school here at Seguin FFA, and it started in the back of the cattle barn of the fair,” she said. “From there it just grew, and we started getting schools to come, and our animal exhibit got bigger, so we moved it, and it’s just grown so much every year.”

Joe Martin is a staff writer for the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at joe.martin@seguingazette.com .

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