LAMPETER, Pa. — Paul Fauser would be the oldest farm animal decide working the native honest circuit.
Fauser, 87, a lifelong Manheim resident, judged the rabbit competitors Sept. 28 on the West Lampeter Group Truthful. Over time, Fauser and his late spouse, Christiana, raised hundreds of rabbits and competed with them at festivals and reveals throughout the nation.
“My first rabbit was a gift from my dad after I was 8, and it obtained me began,” Fauser mentioned. It turned a interest that has lasted a lifetime.
He isn’t alone in his love for rabbits.
In keeping with the Pennsylvania Division of Agriculture, there are almost 300 farms within the state that breed and promote greater than 110,000 rabbits yearly, making Pennsylvania the highest producer nationally.
Fauser’s expertise is in demand.
“I nonetheless get to as many festivals and reveals as I can to see the rabbit competitors,” Fauser mentioned, “and I’m nonetheless completely satisfied to evaluate each time I am requested.”
“We’re completely satisfied to have him at West Lampeter,” mentioned Connie Feeser, the honest’s rabbit competitors chairperson.
Feeser grew up inside strolling distance of the fairgrounds, confirmed rabbits as a baby and has coordinated the judging for the previous 29 years.
Christiana Fauser, who handed away in 2020, additionally judged on the honest many instances through the years.
“The Fausers had a lot expertise elevating rabbits and had been at all times completely satisfied to present recommendation to households… serving to them increase wholesome and aggressive animals,” Feeser mentioned.
As he started judging final week, Fauser talked concerning the course of.
“I have a look at bone construction and distinctive attributes of every breed, on the lookout for the animals that finest conform to the usual,” he mentioned. “I attempt to be encouraging and useful to all of the households with youngsters displaying their animals.”
Breeds vary from the three pound Netherland Dwarf to the 13 pound Flemish Giants.
West Lampeter’s rabbit competitors was the primary to get underway at this 12 months’s honest, which additionally included kids displaying pigs, lambs, goats and dairy cattle. For the rabbits, there have been 32 animals from 9 breeds vying for ribbons.
Breeds proven included Dutch, Dwarfs, New Zealand, Lop, Rex and Lionhead, in addition to an “different selection” class and a meat pen.
The general rabbit competitors winners had been each does. The grand champion was a Lionhead (Snicker) owned by Mya Hershey, and the reserve champion was a New Zealand (Sugar) owned by Renee Athoff.
A Legacy of Rabbits
The Fausers raised a variety of breeds through the years, however they took a liking to the favored Satins that had been first bred within the Nineteen Thirties from Havana rabbits.
The Fausers traveled with their Satins to festivals and reveals throughout the nation for many years, and each had been energetic within the American Satin Rabbit Breeders Affiliation, with Christiana enhancing the breed journal.
Fauser bought his complete herd of greater than 100 rabbits in 2021.
“It was laborious to promote the herd after so a few years,” he mentioned, including that he was completely satisfied that they had been all bought by one household from Virginia.
Fauser advises all learners to buy their starter rabbits from a good breeder, or after they turn out to be accessible at rabbit reveals and competitions.
“If you breed your personal rabbits and your herd grows,” he mentioned, “you’ll be extra profitable in the event you begin from a pair of rabbits with good heritage.”
Within the Shadow of RHDV2
A giant concern this 12 months is the extremely contagious and lethal RHDV2 virus. Two rabbits examined constructive this summer time at a facility in Fayette County, placing rabbit house owners on edge.
“Sure it is a concern for everybody,” mentioned Michele Kunjappu, who heads the Lancaster 4-H Rabbit Membership. “Homeowners and breeders are monitoring their animals fastidiously and it has prompted some present cancellations.”
The contagious virus that impacts rabbits and carefully associated species was first recognized in 2010 in France and confirmed up in the US in 2020. It has prompted mass die-offs in a number of international locations.
“It’s extremely contagious,” Fauser mentioned, “and if one in every of your rabbits contracts it, there’s a chance you’ll be able to lose your complete herd.”
Fourteen-year previous Emily Burkhart, who had two of her Dutch rabbits entered within the West Lampeter competitors, mentioned she deliberate to quarantine her rabbits after the present and to take explicit care to separate their meals and cages from the rest of her dozen rabbits.
“I am going to feed, clear their cages and groom them individually, after I work with the remainder of the herd,” she mentioned. “Sure, we’re all nervous concerning the virus, as it’s so contagious.”
The rabbit competitors was a part of three days of actions for all ages on the West Lampeter Group Truthful, which locals seek advice from because the “senior citizen” of Lancaster County festivals, as it’s simply two years shy of its one centesimal anniversary.
The honest has grown from an exercise to show initiatives on the long-gone native vocational faculty to a vibrant occasion held the final week in September that pulls native residents, neighbors and vacationers to actions from livestock competitors, a child parade, queen pageant, pedal tractor racing, tug-of-war contest, pig races and a horse present, with many occasions in tents erected for the annual gathering off Village Highway in West Lampeter Township.
The honest is a conventional agricultural and neighborhood occasion with no carnival rides or halfway.