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Students play hooky for day on the farm

Attendees at this year’s annual Corey’s Day on the Farm event had just about everything going their way. Kids rode horses and ponies, practiced roping calves, jumped in covered wagons for hay rides and generally let loose on a day they’d normally be in school.

Even the weather managed to cooperate for Monday’s leg of the event.

“This is about the biggest one we’ve had for a Monday,” event organizer Coleta Corey said of the event.

That’s a pretty big estimation, given the fact that the 2008 Corey’s Day on the Farm marked the 41st year the event has existed.

Corey’s Day on the Farm takes place every year for the two days following Mother’s Day. Special needs kids from across the Olympic Peninsula converge on the Kitsap County Fairgrounds during the event to get up close and personal with all sorts of farm animals and to experience rodeo and farming activities.

The event originated in 1968 when Danny, the special needs son of Coleta and her husband, Nick, brought some puppies to a show-and-tell presentation at his school. As the story goes, many of the schoolchildren didn’t know how to handle the puppies, so the Coreys decided to invite the kids out to their farm.

That first event drew 26 kids. These days, the event draws more than 1,000 — thus the move to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

“We didn’t know it was gonna last like this or grow like this,” Corey said.

Long lines stretched across the Fairgrounds, near the barns, for some of the more popular attractions, like the horse, pony and hay rides. That didn’t seem to bother too many, though.

“(This is our) second year — our first year out here we had a great time and we’re back,” said Jennifer Bunstock, while her son, Joshua, rode around on a pony.

Many kids lined up multiple times for the rides, in fact, though others ventured off to some of the lesser-noticed activities.

Pam Pyle and her young daughter, Faith, made the rounds to the handful of smaller animals that were mostly on hand to be pet and eat stuff.

“She seems to like the baby chickens,” Pam said of Faith, as the younger Pyle debated whether or not to pet a llama named Iquitos.

Seeing kids like Faith light up and smile for the llamas, chickens, or whatever else is what keeps many of the volunteers coming back.

“I took two days off work to do (the event),” volunteer Troy Erb said.

Erb, an electrician during the week and “cowboy on the weekend,” has been showing up at the Day on the Farm for about eight years with his brother, Travis, to show kids the finer points of calf roping.

The brothers, along with a few other volunteers, helped kids whip lassos around mock calves made out of steel and wood.

“I just like to see the kids smile,” Troy said.

Corey tipped her cap (figuratively — she wasn’t actually sporting a cowboy hat Monday) to Troy and the many other volunteers on hand.

“The thing that keeps this thing going is the volunteers,” she said. “(Troy and Travis) have been coming since they were little kids.”

And just like Troy and Travis, Corey was looking for just one thing to make the whole day worthwhile.

“We call it ‘that smile,’” she said. “It’s the first smile we see on the first child.”

As people continued to flood into the Fairgrounds, Corey and the others were assured plenty more to come.

Faith Pyle (left) and her mother, Pam, get some mid-morning entertainment from Iquitos, a llama from Pam Flaman’s (not pictured) Llamas for Love 4H club at Corey’s Day on the Farm Monday.

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