It’s warm and dusty, but the barn is cool and the bleachers have doubled in number since last year. Families climb the stands, politely squeezing past new friends as an announcer prepares the contestants for their race, “Ready, set, goat,” she says, as owners cajole leashed goats to run between two cones and back again. This is the 2018 Goatalympics at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, a short, forty-minute drive from Seattle.
Accessible and plentiful parking makes arrival easy, while vegetarian and vegan food trucks serve pizza, tofu dishes, ice cream, kettle corn, coffee and beer, satisfying those in need of sustenance. The “Judging Barn” hosts the arena while the “Goat Barn” holds the pens where the goats can rest and people can pet them (with permission). The twelve breeds of goat contestants range in age from three months to 14 years old, while their human counterparts range from three to 60 years old. Events vary from obstacle courses, foot races, longest and shortest ears, and even a goat/owner lookalike contest.
33 percent of the goat contestants this year were adopted from New Moon Farm Goat Rescue and Sanctuary, where Ellen Felsenthal, the founder, uses the proceeds from the Goatalympics to help with the costs of her all-volunteer-run farm. While Ellen has been rescuing goats for twenty years, New Moon now have a board of directors and a team of 50 volunteers—and has adopted out more than 1600 goats. The Goatalympics are the biggest fundraiser for the farm ,with “open farm” days available to get yourself out of the city.
“2011 was the first Goatalympics, and the first year there were probably 100 people, with maybe 20 contestants,” says Felsenthal. “We just made it up, there’s nothing else like this.”
The event keeps growing. “Last year,” Felsenthal says, “we had over 5,000 spectators. The fairgrounds said it’s the biggest crowd they’ve ever seen for an event other than the [Evergreen State Fair].” If all goes well and as many people show up as last year, they will be able to pay for the “22 tons of hay” the goats consume per year.
This is an opportunity for city people and country folk to come together, share some bleachers, and be who you are: a friend of goats. “We don’t want it to be stressful, it’s not competitive, it’s just fun. It’s a really positive environment.” Felsenthal remarks.
The Goatalympics are free to attend, but donations are gratefully accepted and help keep it that way. You can learn more about New Moon Farm at newmoonfarm.org.