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‘We don’t have kids to help us raise our livestock. We have livestock to help us raise our kids’

Brink family prepares cattle for the Northwest Washington Fair

The Brink family has been showing cattle at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Wash., for six years. The family brought seven animals to the 2019 fair: four heifers, two Angus bulls and one market hog.
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The Brink family has been showing cattle at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Wash., for six years. The family brought seven animals to the 2019 fair: four heifers, two Angus bulls and one market hog.

Sure, people go to the Northwest Washington Fair for the food, the rides and the Grandstand entertainment.

But when it comes right down to it, their favorite part of the fair — by a wide margin — is the animals.

That’s what they say when surveyed, according to Jim Baron, general manager for the fair, which runs through Saturday, Aug. 17, in Lynden. An estimated 200,000 people are expected to attend.

“I think another question is why is that important to them?” Baron said.

People are more removed from farming in this day, but they still want to know where their food is coming from and they still want to be closer to agriculture, he speculated.

To Baron, the animals and the people who raise them are the fair’s biggest stars.

On Tuesday morning, Aug. 13, six of those stars were in the show ring in the Henry Jansen Agricultural Center in the form of the Brink siblings and three of their Angus heifers. The siblings are all part of Pure Country Kids North 4-H Club, and this event was for 4-H kids.

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Wyatt Brink, 17, ties cattle up outside the show ring at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Wash., Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Before the show, cattle are spot cleaned, blow-dried, combed and sprayed with special beauty products to make their coats shine. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Jackson walked Buttercup on a halter, Madelyn led Duchess, and Wyatt did the same with Lizzy.

There was one other contestant in this category for Angus, which focused on late-summer yearling heifers.

The judge studied the beef cattle and awarded the siblings first, second and third place for their animals.

It was one of a number of events they competed in on Tuesday while their parents Branden and Heather Brink, both 39, watched.

By the time they’re done, the siblings will have competed in 30 showings among them during fair week. The animals will be judged for ideal characteristics and the siblings will be judged for their showmanship, which measures how well they handle the animals.

A total of 572 youths in 4-H and FFA exhibit their animals at the fair.

In all, the Brink family brought seven animals from their 15-acre farm north of Lynden to the fair.

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Wyatt Brink, left, and Madelyn Brink show their cattle in the ring at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Wash., Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

In addition to the heifers, there was an unnamed market hog and two Angus bulls named Hank and Baker.

They also brought Rosie, a Lim-Flex heifer that is a cross between Limousin and Angus cattle, for 10-year-old Jackson to show. Jackson also showed the market hog.

“The point is for you to show off your best animals,” said Branden Brink, a captain for the Lynden Fire Department and president of the Whatcom County Cattlemen’s Association.

The fire department is Branden’s full-time job. The family also raises about 30 head of cattle for its business, Double B Angus.

When the fair ends, the cattle, which are breeders, will return home with the family. The hog is auctioned off for meat.

Long days

Wyatt, 17, and Madelyn, 14, have been showing beef cattle at the fair since 2013. This year was Jackson’s first year showing cattle, although he’s been the one with the market hog for two years.

Fair week makes for long days and nights.

Each day, the family’s at the fairgrounds by 6 a.m. to prepare and care for their animals and return home as late as 10:30 p.m.

They dropped off their cattle and hog in the Henry Jansen Agricultural Center, which also houses goats, hogs and sheep on Sunday, Aug. 11 — the day before the fair opened.

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Madelyn Brink, 14, and Jackson Brink, 10, feed breakfast to the cattle at the Brink’s farm in Lynden, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Breakfast consists of one course of a grain mixture and a second course of hay. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

The animals, which rest on wood shavings in stalls, are there for public viewing as well. In addition to Angus, visitors ambling through the building can see other breeds that include Hereford and long-haired Highland and read about them on posted signs.

The families also are there to answer questions from the public.

Branden didn’t grow up raising cattle. As a teen he did a little milking on dairy farms and just always wanted a farm of his own. He preferred that life to living in the city limits of Lynden, where there was no place for the kids to roam.

Showing animals is a natural part of what the family does, Branden said.

It’s about “teaching the kids work ethic, how to take care of things, how to problem-solve,” he said.

Branden further referred to a saying that he posted on his Facebook page: “We don’t have kids to help us raise our livestock. We have livestock to help us raise our kids.”

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Jackson Brink, 10, waits to enter the show ring at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Wash., Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Outside the building tractors drive back and forth constantly shoveling saw dust and manure from the animal barns. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

“For us, the work ethic that’s built, learning how to take care of another living creature, that’s kind of the basis for us,” Branden said.

And while the fair is about a lot of work for the youngsters — they’re also judged on how clean they keep their animals and their stalls — it also gives them a chance to hang out with their friends, eat fair food and go on fair rides.

So said Madelyn.

As far as her showing, “It’s going better than last year,” Madelyn said, adding that being in the show ring was her favorite part.

Which animal is her favorite? That’s Hank, the yearling, which she described as the “little bull calf.”

“He’s easy to walk around,” Madelyn said. “He’s probably one of the tamest.”

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A “Double B Angus” sign notes where the Brinks’ cows are located inside the beef barn at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Wash., Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Their area includes the animal’s stalls, a tack area and a place for the family to sit. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Fair prep

On Thursday morning before the fair started, Madelyn and Jackson were busy at the family’s farm.

They cleaned the pens, fed the cows, and washed Rosie and Buttercup with Aloe Advantage concentrated shampoo to help keep their coats healthy and shiny.

Jackson blowdried Rosie’s black hair until it looked velvety. Branden then showed Jackson how to use the clippers on Rosie’s tail for a touch-up.

There’s a certain way to clip the cattle to blend the hair and to make them look as big as possible, Heather explained.

“There’s an art to it,” Heather said.

On Sunday, when they packed up the animals, the family took a bunch of other things they needed to care for them and make them show-ready, including show halters, brushes, combs, blowdryer, buckets, pitchfork, brooms, shampoo and tail glue.

Then, off they went to the fair.

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Madelyn Brink, right, and Jackson Brink spray a soapy mixture onto two head of cattle at the Brink’s farm in Lynden, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. The bath is part of a daily routine that includes bathing, blow-drying and grooming the cattle in the final days leading up to the fair. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Going to the fair

Where: Northwest Washington Fair and Events Center, 1775 Front St. in Lynden.

When: Gates open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Saturday, Aug. 17; carnival rides and games are open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Entry cost: Gate admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 62 and older and $9 for youth ages 6-12. Children 5 and younger get in for free.

More information: Go to nwwafair.com or call 360-354-4111.

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Wyatt Brink, left, blow-dries cattle as Madelyn Brink adjusts show halters before entering the show ring at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Wash., Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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