ESCANABA - For some people, it's an exhibit that has become virtually synonymous with the U.P. State Fair. Occasionally, hundreds of fairgoers congregate there, gathering around stalls and sitting on bleachers. With that level of public adoration, a recently-constructed pavilion, and over two decades of history to its credit, one thing's for sure: the Miracle of Life will continue to be part of the U.P. State Fair for a long time.
Diane Hanson, a farmer who has volunteered at the Miracle of Life for about 17 years, said that 2014 has been a very good year for the exhibit.
"We've had the birthings of two or three calves," Hanson said. "Some chicks have been born, too."
Jordan Beck | Daily Press
Rebecca Vollrath, right, and K.C. VanFleet, veterinary students from Michigan State University, milk a cow while volunteering at the Miracle of Life Pavilion Wednesday. The exhibit, designed to teach fairgoers about the inner workings of farm life, has been a long-standing tradition at the U.P. State Fair.
Though animal births are arguably the pavilion's primary draw, the exhibit has several other features worth checking out, Hanson said. A group of standees placed throughout the room show the production methods used in farming. Additionally, a selection of newspapers and photographs - some of which were contributed by the Delta County Historical Society - depict local farming history. One wall of the building displays photos of "centennial farms" - farms which have been owned by the same family for 100 years or more.
Hanson said the Miracle of Life can help to make farming more transparent to people who are unfamiliar with the "behind-the-scenes" aspects of agriculture.
"People can see where their food comes from, and see the safety aspects farmers use," Hanson said. "Our top priorities are to provide healthy food and safe food."
Joanne Stefl, formerly a member of both the Michigan Farm Bureau Board and the U.P. State Fair Board, said the exhibit was initially designed to teach fairgoers about how farming works.
"We had children who thought chocolate milk comes from a brown cow," Stefl said.
From the beginning, the Miracle of Life was sponsored by the Michigan Farm Bureau, Stefl said. (Greenstone Farm Credit Services became a co-sponsor when the exhibit moved from the tent originally housing it to its current, permanent location.) However, the exhibit's first showing was at the Detroit-based Michigan State Fair. It arrived in Escanaba in its second year, a location Stefl felt was a better fit for the exhibit.
"We're an example of what an awesome fair looks like," Stefl said. "People are totally friendly. We show the best of the U.P. here."
Renee Coyer, veterinarian for the U.P. State Fair, said that she feels education is still key to the Miracle of Life. Along with answering questions from guests during the day, Coyer coordinates the animals that will be on display at the exhibit, cares for them during the week, and ensures their welfare.
"We really appreciate people's support for the U.P. State Fair and the Miracle of Life exhibit," Coyer said. "Without their support, this exhibit would not be here today."
Stefl said that the exhibit's continued success serves as a testament to both its universal appeal and the important message it shares.
"It's life itself," Stefl said. "The continuation of our farms depends on the miracle of life."