Monday, November 14, 2016

Eye-Opening Experiences

One thing I like about traveling is the opportunity to see new places, new people, new cultures and to have new experiences. For four years or so, John, Brent and Brady have taken an annual trip to Louisville, Kentucky in November to attend the NAILE (North American International Livestock Exposition), taking along the grandchildren to show sheep in competition with hundreds, if not thousands of sheep-sters from across the nation. This year I went along to observe and of course take pictures.

The 4-day adventure began Thursday morning. Eight Stewarts, three friends, eight sheep, a trailer of equipment, a truck and a Sequoia, with luggage departed at daylight on the 9-hour trip. Just getting on the road was no small feat. We arrived independently in Louisville during rush hour but made it to the Kentucky Exposition Center by dusk. I got my first sight of the Center from the bumper to bumper freeway: literally thousands of livestock trailers lining the enormous parking lots that surround the Center. NAILE is a 2-week international fair consisting of competitions for nearly every agricultural species and every breed. While we were there for the sheep showmanship and judging competitions by breed, there were equal cattle and horse events occurring at the same time in other equally colossal wings of the massive facility (over 1,200,000 square feet) on 400 acres.

Inside one wing, there were rows and rows of livestock pens and two large show rings with bleachers covering an area similar to two football fields (my guess) under a roof. The preparation for this must have taken weeks. The floor was protected by rolled roofing which also added a bit of traction to the otherwise slick concrete floors. Interspersed with the pens were watering troughs with hoses connected to water through the floor and electrical outlets also through the floor. The washing pens were located on outside walls of the building, requiring a healthy walk, often through a maze of people and multitudes of sheep 'stuff' consisting of fitting stands, show boxes, folding chairs and tables for more 'stuff', blowers and shearing equipment, plus straw, bedding and sheep feeding supplies and buckets. Add to that the smell of sheep and the green dust from the fancy dyed wood shavings that coated the show ring floor and you have the full effect of the NAILE experience, Part 1.

This just sets the stage for the really big experiences with the grandchildren that I'll explain on Thursday.

"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it," (Luke 10:23-24 NIV).

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