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DU QUOIN -- People attending the Du Quoin State Fair on Friday were talking about the heat, but they're not the only ones affected by the temperatures.

The animals at the fair also feel the heat.

Kara Gilmore of Marvelous Mutts said the weather has not been problem.

“We come prepared for any weather," she said. "The dogs are in air conditioning between shows and we try to condition them."

During the show, the dogs perform agility, play Frisbee and do dock diving. All of the dogs are from shelters or rescue organizations. Most were not the right fit for their family, or had an owner who can no longer care for them.

Gilmore shares each dog’s story before it performs. The show includes eight to 15 dogs at each place they perform. Fifteen dogs are in Du Quoin this week with three trainers. The dogs rotate in and out of the show schedule.

The Marvelous Mutts show tries to communicate that there are good dogs in shelters, as well as purebred dogs.

Next to the mutts, the Grizzly Bears show teaches fairgoers about bears.

“We’re not doing any circus tricks. It’s strictly educational,” Dexter Osborn said.

Tonk, a 9-year-old bear who stands more than 7 feet tall and weighs 650 pounds, is the veteran of the show. He has been with Osborn since he was 6 weeks old.

Yogi, a 3-year-old who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 250 to 300 pounds, and Maggie, a 1-year-old bear, also are in the show. Osborn said Maggie is still new to the fair, so is out on a limited basis.

All of the bears were born in captivity. When not traveling to teach humans, the bears live on an eight-acre farm near Naples, Florida, which is licensed by the state of Florida. They even have a pond for swimming.

Osborn said people can safely coexist with bears if they remember a few things. Do not get between a bear and its food or a mother bear and her cubs.

“We try to teach people how to stay safe in bear country,” Osborn said.

Marvelous Mutts will continue through the weekend at 2, 4:30 and 7 p.m. Grizzly Bears follow each show at 2:30, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Mark Schwarm, known as the Horse Whisperer, will perform 30-minute shows. The IPRA Rodeo will be today and Sunday.

Other free entertainment includes music in the free entertainment and beer tents, with many local and regional performers. Safari Experience features a variety of animals.



Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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