Few things can dazzle a child like the discovery of a new animal.
"I've never saw a zebra before," Evie Hulme said.
Petting a donkey or kissing a goat can be pretty exciting for young fairgoers, too.
"I think anything that is unique, that you can't see otherwise, certainly brings folks here," said Tim Shea of the Champlain Valley Exposition.
Fair officials say in a state dominated by dairy they'll always showcase the Holsteins and the jerseys. But it's the allure of the unknown that really draws people in. No surprise, exotic petting zoos rank high among fair favorites. And since Vermont does not have a zoo, many schoolchildren rely on fairs to expose them to non-native species.
Animal rides are major moneymakers at fairs. But when the animal handlers come to Vermont, they can bring the camels, but they have to leave the elephants behind.
"We don't allow elephants in Vermont primarily for safety concerns, primarily public health concerns," said Col. Dave LeCours of the Vt. Fish and Wildlife Department.
Fish and Wildlife says elephants are common carriers of human tuberculosis, a contagious respiratory disease that's airborne. Allowing the ivory tusked animals in is not something state officials are willing to risk.
"We're concerned with people being exposed to that in a mass situation like a fair would be," LeCours said.
But it hasn't always been that way. Twelve years ago, the Shelburne Museum hosted the Big Apple Circus and a parade of elephants graced the grounds. This marked one of the last times the gentle giants came to town. Animal rights advocates protested outside, concerned about the animals' welfare.
Vermont is one of the only states that has outlawed elephants and wildlife officials say the fair community is not pushing too hard to change that. And these kids don't seem to mind. They're more focused on what the fair does have.
"The goats and the sheeps and a zebra," said Liam Lavery, 4.
The max penalty for sneaking an elephant into Vermont is a $3,000 fine.
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:27 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:27:22 GMT
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes. The council votedMore >>
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:45 GMT
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill passed Tuesday allows an unlimited number of qualified Vermonters to access medical marijuana -- removing theMore >>
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:03 GMT
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman. 43-year-old Craig Dubuque was arrested for the alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Police sayMore >>
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 11:35 PM EDT2014-03-12 03:35:07 GMT
"You know, people say you might not need it, which is true, but this way you get a choice. I don't have to go out tomorrow," said Lorinda Henry of Milton. Henry says she hit the grocery stores TuesdayMore >>
Parts of Vermont could get up to 24 inches of snow in the coming storm. And VTrans officials are warning drivers they may not be able to keep up with the storm rolling in Wednesday.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-03-12 00:02:07 GMT
"Seems like it was just yesterday. Doesn't seem like it's been two years at all," said Glenda Reandeau of Tupper Lake. Residents of Tupper Lake still have their eyes out for Colin Gillis, a now 20-year-oldMore >>
Colin Gillis of Tupper Lake, N.Y., disappeared two years ago. And authorities are still searching for him. They say the investigation now focuses on tips from the public and from those who were the last to see Gillis.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-03-11 22:17:43 GMT
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser. Authorities say Officer Adam Lucia was one of two officers responding to an aggravated assault call Monday at TopsMore >>
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser.More >>