LUMBERTON — Kids enjoyed a close encounter with big cats on the second night of the 71st annual Robeson County Regional Fair.
The Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind show had a packed crowd Friday evening as fair-goers got a good look at tigers and lions. As music from “The Lion King” blared through the speakers, the crowd cheered for the big cats as they jumped through hoops and walked narrow planks.
“My favorite part was when the tiger jumped through the fire,” 9-year-old Kiara Jones said.
After the show, kids had the chance to feed the tigers for $5.
Jones, although apprehensive, fed Kia, the albino white tiger.
In addition to Kia, the show included tigers Nipper, and Narnia, and lions Mo and Chi Chi.
Co-owner and host of the show, Georgina Donoho was worried that Chi Chi would not be able to perform. Donoho said that the cat is the oldest at 19 years old and gets pretty temperamental if the weather isn’t just right.
“If it gets too cool, she won’t perform,” Donoho said. “Right now this is a big experiment.”
She and her husband, Vincent Duke, have been performing the show for 31 years.
“I love this part of the country,” she said. “New York is a completely different place. Everyone is just so laid back here.”
Donoho is a seventh-generation performer and Duke is a sixth. The county fair was their 17th this year.
“We have four more fairs,” she said.
Donojo and her husband run the show and care of the animals. Each morning they get up and feed the animals and clean the cages.
“Think about cleaning your cat’s litter box. This is like a thousand times that,” Donoho laugh with a laugh.
“It’s an all-day process. This is a lifestyle not a job. It’s just like raising babies,” she said.
The lion and tiger show will show again at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. today.
Also in attendance at the exotic show was country singer Jordan Davis, who performed right after the show.
“Anytime I get the chance to see a tiger, I’m for it,” Davis said.
Davis was supposed to perform on the stage by gate 10 at 7 but was delayed30 minutes until the big-cat performance was finished. When he took the stage, he performed his newest hit “Singles You Up.”
Other entertainment for the night included the Alan Sands, the comedic hypnotist who will be performing every night, and Lumberton’s own the Robeson County Rockers who lined danced on the local entertainment stage at 6:30 p.m.
There was also a praise dancing competition, during which groups and individuals representing churched mimed and danced to gospel music.
The winner of the competition was 10-year-old Nathan Prince, who took home $100 cash.
The fair on Friday enjoyed sunny skies and temps in the high-80s; sunny skies remain in the forecast today and Sunday, but temps will be more fall-like as they dip into the 70s.
Today the farm animal checkin will start at the Livestock building before the fair opens, and will be followed by the 4-H goat shows.
The Fireman’s Competition scheduled to take place this afternoon has been canceled for this year.
But there is plenty more: Young people can take part in the pumpkin-decorating contest, there is local entertainment featuring the Singing Revelations, The Mountaire Chicken Pickin’ Contest, and the three-point shootout.
Reach Tomeka Sinclair at 910-410-5865