Houston & Peach

You'll see something beautiful and gross at the Georgia National Fair this year

People mill around the Miracle of Birth center at the Minnesota State Fair where animals give live birth during the fair. The popular attraction is being duplicated at the Georgia National Fair in Perry.
People mill around the Miracle of Birth center at the Minnesota State Fair where animals give live birth during the fair. The popular attraction is being duplicated at the Georgia National Fair in Perry. Minnesota State Fair

At the Georgia National Fair in Perry this year, it's gonna get real.

Work is underway on an expansion of the Georgia Grown building at the fairgrounds to be called the Baby Barn, which will allow fair attendees to witness live animal births.

The goal is for 11 births by dairy cows to be done at the center, which would be one birth for each day of the fair, to be held Oct. 4-14. Five hog births are also planned.

"We are really excited," said Keaton Walker, the fair's marketing director. "A child or adult who doesn’t get to see a live birth up close and personal, they are going to experience that right here at the Georgia National Fair."

Veterinarians will be on hand to discuss the process as the birth is happening and to monitor the baby afterward. The babies will also remain in the center throughout the fair for people to see.

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Wednesday and Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is attending. The building expansion is being financed by a $2.4 million bond. It is expected to be completed by Sept. 1.

Jack Spruill, director of marketing for the Department of Agriculture, said the idea for the birthing center came about four years ago when Black visited the Minnesota State Fair, which has a similar facility.

"It's the biggest attraction at the Minnesota State Fair, bar none," Spruill said.

The fair is near Minneapolis and Spruill said many city families will bring their children and sit for hours waiting to see a live birth.

It shouldn't be that hard though. Using labor inducing drugs, the Minnesota State Fair has about a 90 percent success rate in getting cows to give birth between noon and 5 p.m. Spruill said the Georgia National Fair will follow that same model. Also, people will be able to sign up for push notifications so that they can walk the fairgrounds and get a cellphone alert when a birth is imminent.

Hogs are more difficult to induce at a predictable time, he said, so that will be more up to chance. But even if a hog gives birth overnight, that will mean a litter of piglets for children to see the next day.

Michelle Butler, the education manager for the Minnesota State Fair, said a live birth generates a wide range of reactions from the crowd.

"There's shock and awe and some clapping," she said. "It's definitely an experience most people will never see other than coming to the fair."

The fair draws nearly 2 million people total over 12 days. Butler said about a million visits are made to the birthing facility during the fair, counting the multiple trips that a lot of people make as they check back on the birth progress and how the babies are doing.

The Georgia National Fair facility will house at least 1,000 people comfortably with a small amount of bleacher seating.

This year's plans are modest because it's the first year, he said. Next year the number of births will likely be expanded and more species may be added, with goats and sheep the leading possibilities. Unfortunately for those who would like to see a horse give birth, that's probably never going to happen. Spruill said horse gestation is too unpredictable even with inducement drugs.

About 200 cows at a nearby dairy have already been inseminated, timed to give birth during the fair. Before the fair cows will be selected from that group based on temperament and other factors.

Spruill doesn't expect a lot of people to come to the fair specifically for the birthing center this year, but he does think it will be a draw once people see it and start to spread the word.

"I think it's going to be overwhelming," he said. "I think you are going to have people drive from all over the state once they hear about it."