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Barnyard Scramble is history

"The Barnyard Scramble's days are over at the Island County Fair.For the first time in decades, Sunday afternoon at the 2001 Fair will not include an arena full of small boys and girls excitedly chasing alarmed barnyard animals through the dust as parents watched gleefully or despairingly -- depending on whether their child catches an animal.Through the years the Barnyard Scramble was criticized, scoffed at and occasionally picketed by animal rights groups, but its popularity with many kids and parents never ebbed.A lot of people hated having the Barnyard Scramble, including my wife, said Leroy Pool this week. For the past several years it has been Pool's job to acquire the animals for the scramble. But it was the biggest draw of the fair, and the kids had the most fun. There was nothing hurt but their feelings if they didn't catch anything.Marilyn Gabelein, arena manager, indicated the decision to axe the scramble was based on practicalities, not principle. You can't find the animals to turn loose, she said. Leroy Poolman only had chickens last year.Pool admitted chickens dominated last year's scramble. The other staple, rabbits, was hard to find in 2000. But he said he'd lined up over 100 rabbits for this year's scramble.From Pool's viewpoint, the scramble's biggest problem was housing the animals from the time he bought them at auction until the fair. He annually made public pleas asking people to take care of chickens or bunnies for a few days.Through the years the scramble included just about every barnyard animal, including ducks, geese, turkeys, sheep, pigs and even pot-bellied pigs. Ray and Eva Mae Gabelein, who helped start the scramble, raised many of the animals themselves for years, and acquired others from area farmers and auctions.Marilyn Gabelein said obtaining animals became increasingly difficult as development wiped out popular auction barns in such places as Marysville and Snohomish, and as many South Whidbey residents gave up raising animals.Eva Mae Gabelein said the Barnyard Scramble started in the 1960s after a fair volunteer from Coupeville saw a similar event in a Friday Harbor fair. Such scrambles were common in those days, but by 2000 Island County Fair's scramble was one of the few remaining.We've had lots who didn't like it but we kept going, Eva Mae Gabelein said. Criticism of the scramble peaked in the late 1980s when the event was picketed several times and critical letters to the editor were common in The South Whidbey Record. But in recent years the complaints died down. I guess they've given up, she said.There is no record of a Fair Board decision to eliminate the scramble, according to Saranell De Chambeau, Fair Board secretary. It never came to a vote to not have it, she said after reviewing board meetings.Marilyn Gabelein, the arena manager, noted that there will be other animal events to help replace the Barnyard Scramble. This year's Sunday afternoon offerings on Aug. 19 will include a sheep riding contest for boys and girls ages 5-7, greased pig contest for those 8-12, and calf scramble for kids ages 13-18.But there will be no Barnyard Scramble. Marilyn Gabelein said it could return next year, but Pool for one isn't anticipating that happening.I think it's dead forever, he said. "

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