Johnstown Independent

Showing rabbits is family affair

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Brayden Donohue, 9, will enter Ollie, a Netherlands dwarf rabbit, in the Ohio State Fair.

Northridge Intermediate School fourth-grader Brayden Donohue is participating at the Ohio State Fair for the first time this year, exhibiting rabbits Ollie and Mo.

"I feed them," Brayden said. "They're Netherlands dwarf rabbits, the smallest and easiest for kids."

The 9-year-old, who's a member of the Clover Connections 4-H Club, also will take a dairy-feeder cow named Bubba and two market pigs, Bacon and Sausage, to the local Hartford Fair.

His grandmother, Ellie Donohue, has been working at the rabbit barn at the Ohio State Fair for more than 20 years.

The Donohues live in Hartford, also known as Croton.

"I just kept going, setting up cages, handing out ribbons and helping the judges," she said. "I enjoy working with kids. I like the people I work with. We've all become good friends. I like working with the fair's Stacey French (in the Agriculture Department). It's also always interesting to see what rabbits are back."

The Northmor High School Jobs for Ohio Grads teacher said she also likes to go to the sheep barn to see if any of her students are there.

For Brayden, it's more about the overall experience.

"I like to fish (at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources area)," he said. "I love the funnel cakes, too. I also like to walk around to see if there's anyone there I know from school."

Donohue said her life with rabbits began many years ago when she lived in Iowa.

"Brayden's dad, Sid, won a rabbit in a raffle show," she said. "Then my oldest daughter started showing a breed. We've had 20 to 30 rabbits."

In the past, Donohue said, the family caught a wild rabbit and fed it with a bottle.

"She (the wild rabbit) won a blue ribbon at the fair," she said. "She moved to Ohio with us and passed away. Rabbits can live to be 10 to 13 years old."

Donohue said most 4-H members keep only a few rabbits, the "good ones," she said.

Good show rabbits feature an ideal body type with good hips, shoulders, markings, color and fur.

"The judges also look at the toenails," she said. "If there's a white toenail, it gets disqualified."

When it comes to feeding a rabbit, she said, they get the typical pellet chow, and they can eat apples without the skin, carrots and dandelion leaves.

"Brayden and I will cart our own water and feed to the fair," Donohue said. "The fair has chlorinated water."

The 2013 Ohio State Fair marked the first sale of champions for those who entered rabbits, according to Donohue. It's independent from the traditional sale of champions.

"Show coordinator Ed Boutwell got sponsors for it," she said. "There were 15 participants, and all got money. The highest ... got $5,000."

She said the sale was a great success, and she anticipates the same for this year.

The Ohio State Fair began Wednesday, July 23, and continues through Aug. 3. Admission gate hours are from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., excluding Aug. 3, when it closes at 8 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children ages 5-12 and adults age 60 and older.

Guests can save $4 off gate-admission prices through Aug. 3 at Kroger and participating AAA locations.