Long lines to pet the farm animals formed quickly during Danville Area Community College’s 37th annual Ag Day on Thursday, but that didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of about 700 children who eagerly awaited their turn.
For many of the Danville schoolchildren, who ranged in age from preschool to second grade, this was their first opportunity to pet a piglet or see a chicken up close.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to see animals they wouldn’t normally see,” said Sadie Baer, a kindergarten teacher at Meade Park Elementary School.
The Armstrong-Potomac chapter of FFA’s petting zoo featured a cow, two sheep, two piglets, three goats, a donkey and two miniature horses. The Georgetown-Ridge Farm FFA chapter also had a farm animal petting zoo on campus during the event.
“We bring them here every year. We make a day of it,” said Jennifer Lane as she helped chaperone 30 4-year-old pre-kindergartners from Danville Lutheran School.
Several Cannon Elementary School kindergartners stuck their hands in the pen of piglets.
“I like to make a noise like a pig,” 6-year-old Genavieve Stormer announced.
Her classmate, Ollie Whitlock, was more enthralled with the goats.
“I like it! I want to take it home!” he said.
The 6-year-old boy quickly changed his mind when the next animal, a donkey, licked his hand. The burro, hands down, became the little boy’s farmyard favorite.
The Cannon kindergartners squealed with delight and laughter when an Armstrong-Potomac FFA member perched a pair of sunglasses on the head of a miniature horse.
Tanner Horatschki, an Armstrong-Potomac FFA member, held a baby chick for the youngsters to pet. Next to him was a line of cages containing chickens, a pair of large geese, bunnies and a ferret on a hammock.
Cannon kindergartner Lakoda Scott peeked in the cages and exclaimed, “Those are real animals!”
“They like the bunnies the best,” Horatschki said of the children’s preference.
Nearby in the Mary Miller Gym, the farmer’s price barbecue sandwich lunch for 50 cents also drew long lines.
FFA members started cooking the meal, which consisted of a pulled pork barbecue sandwich, applesauce, baked beans and potato chips, at 7 a.m.
About two dozen FFA members served the meal that cost 50 cents — the price the farmer usually receives for these products after producing and selling them.
In the past, about 1,500 people made it through the lunch line in an hour.
Nora Setzer of Nora’s Daycare in Westville brought a half dozen children to Ag Day, as she has done in the past.
“This is the first year they’ve decided to try the lunch,” she said. “So we’re eating first and then we’ll see the animals and check out the flowers.”
Three-year-old Brayden Cox apparently enjoyed the lunch as he dug into a barbecue sandwich with a fork.
Setzer praised the FFA students who helped carry the food for the youngsters to the table.
“It was nice that they assisted with carrying the food on a tray,” she said.
Besides the lunch and petting zoos, the other activities that were offered on Thursday included pedal tractor pulls for the children hosted by the Catlin FFA, and tractor and farm equipment displays from Birkey’s.
FFA students also took the schoolchildren on tours through DACC’s ornamental horticultural building, the Harry Braun Technology Center and the college’s new, state-of-the-art greenhouse.
Marigolds and agriculture-related coloring books also were given away near the technology center.