Cow Plop

Where does a cow go to relieve herself? Basically, wherever she wants.

Now, that might sound like a lame joke, but for contestants in cow plop contests, sometimes referred to as “Cow Plop Bingo,” it’s a serious matter. For a measly $5 stake, they might be able to recoup a small fortune, courtesy of some randomly placed bovine fecal matter.

For the last 23 years, the Mt. Pisgah Sportsmen’s Club has been sponsoring one of these events, inviting all and sundry to take a chance on where Bessie does her business. This year’s event will be held at the E.L.M.M. Community Center in downtown Winchester on Saturday, Sept. 28. The cows will hit the field at 1 p.m. There is a grand prize of $1,000 for picking the right square. Given the random nature of the contest, the winner does not have to be present to claim their prize.

This event is being held in conjunction with the Winchester Pickle Festival, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., all along Main Street.

“Basically, the Cow Plop Contest is a fundraiser for our club to support the various events that we hold in town,” said Karey Miner, treasurer of the sportsmen’s club. “We do scholarships for kids moving into college, as well as dinners for the elderly, including our Thanksgiving dinner.

“I think this gets a great deal of attention and amusement from the public. When you tell them what it’s all about, they really get a chuckle out of it.”

Miner explained that a grid of 3-by-3-foot squares is painted on the front lawn of the center. Competitors are invited to purchase an “Official Deed,” which grants the purchaser the rights to a particular square for the duration of the contest. Of course, just how long this could take is completely a matter of chance and the idiosyncrasies of the cows’ digestive systems.

“This could take five minutes, or it could take three hours,” Miner said. “We spread hay and apples on the grid, to entice them over there. Depending on the luck of the local forage groups, we’ll have either one or two cows on the field.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the poop will always land smack-dab in the middle of someone’s square, and they will occasionally overlap into multiple territories. In that case, a judge is called in to make the final call.

“We generally pick someone out who is just hanging around (to be judge),” Miner said. “In that way, we can make sure that there’s no favoritism involved in the process. It’s all a matter of just how much of the poop lands in a particular square.”

The Winchester Pickle Festival, which is being held on the same day, has been running for just about the same amount of time as the Cow Plop Contest, drawing in avid canners from all over the region, competing for the honor of having their pickles recognized by the judges and the public.

“The event starts straight off with the parade through town, beginning at 10 a.m.,” said Kevin Bazan, chairman of the Winchester Pickle Festival Committee. “Mr. Pickle leads the parade, which features various different groups in town, including sports teams, school groups and the marching band from Pioneer Regional High School, along with the Nelson Town Band.”

Bazan said that the event draws in about 90 vendors, along with about 4,000 to 6,000 attending pickle lovers.

“This all got started by one of our longtime residents, Gary  O’Neal, back in 1998,” he said. “He was looking for something specific around which he could form a harvest festival, but the obvious choices, such as garlic and pumpkins, were already taken. So, he settled on pickles, and the event has just grown and grown through the years.”

Of course, the event isn’t just about the pickles. There will be a variety of snacks available for sale, as well as music playing throughout the day.

“There’s tons of music here,” Bazan said. “We have Steve Pro and the Ticket, as well as the bluegrass group Blackjack Crossing. Local musician Charlie Brady will perform on the steps of the Town Hall, and the Winchester Community Band and the Nelson Town Band will be playing on the common.”

Competition for prizes is central to any festival like this one, and there are several to choose from. There’s a canning contest, which will be judged, and a pickle-eating contest, beginning at 1 p.m.

“We have all sorts of vendors, some of which aren’t strictly pickle-related, especially when it comes to crafts,” Bazan said. “We do ask that each vendor has at least one thing related to pickles for sale. Our judges go around to the booths, and decide which vendor has the best item which reflects our theme.”

A fine family day is guaranteed for all, with events for every taste, including everything from poop to pickles.

The 23rd annual Cow Plop Contest will be held Saturday, Sept. 28 on the lawn of the E.L.M.M. Community Center, 20 Durkee St., Winchester, starting at 1 p.m. “Official Deeds” will be available for $5 apiece, with a grand prize of $1,000. The cows will enter the field at 1 p.m. The 22nd annual Winchester Pickle Festival will be held the same day on Main Street in Winchester, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call Kevin Bazan 381-1243 or visit winchesternhpicklefestival.org.