In Monroe County, there are many reasons for the heightened anticipation of Easter weekend. Easter egg hunts are a dime a dozen (maybe 50 cents in 2023) and the searching for Easter baskets, filled with treats and toys, ranks high on most kids list. For adults, hiding the baskets can continue generational retribution, from years of difficult-childhood basket hunts. Whether or not those are happy memories, may depend on their parents’ hiding ability versus their youthful, sleuthful abilities. Memories may include going to church with grandparents, beautiful flowers, lavish meals, finely dressed folks and even the coloring of eggs. For the Ornes family, out on Janus Avenue, in Sparta, eggs just did not seem epic enough, so they colored their sheep.
Matt and Diana Ornes live at 11277 Janus Avenue, with daughter Vanessa and son Elliott. Also on hand, on the day of the Herald visit, was Karlee Bailey, a friend of Vanessa, and Declan McIntyre, who doubles as Matt and Diana’s nephew, as well as a young livewire from next door. “This is our third year doing this,” said Diana. “Last year we had six sheep that we colored and this year we are up to nine.”
Vanessa Ornes, without missing a beat, rattled off the names of the sheep from last year, as well as the names of the green horns. Vanessa also stated the identifying color that enables spectators to pinpoint their favorites. “The repeats are Cherry - who is colored red, Bamboo – who is a deep dark purple, Stomp – who is dark blue, Crash – who is the neon green color, Lily – sporting the lavender shade and Otter – who is a dark forest green. New this year are Tulip – who is a dark pink, Boujee – who is the hot pink and Firefly – who went with teal this year. The triple repeats are Cherry and Bamboo.”
With such interesting names, the Herald pressed on how the fluffy creatures came to earn their sobriquet-esque titles. “Crash was named for the car accident she was in, on her way from Indiana to Wisconsin,” Vanessa explained. “Tulip was given her name because we passed a field of tulips after buying her, and it just seemed like a wonderful name. Firefly came from a road sign we saw, after we bought her in Iowa. Bamboo is just Bamboo, no reason.”
On their farm, the Ornes’s have around 30 animals. Vanessa, Elliott, Declan and Karlee are all in 4-H, with the Valle Ville club, and show the sheep at the Monroe County Fair. In addition to their 4-H shows, Vanessa and Elliott also belong to the Wisconsin Club Lamb Association, which has shows starting at the end of this month, on the 29th.
Last year, Diana wanted to put on her own sheep show, so she did exactly that. “He [Matt] thought I was nuts for wanting to a hold a sheep show. I thought ‘I can do it, I have people that will help.’ We ran 400 sheep through that ring and 90-some exhibiters,” Diana confirmed, before asking her husband, Matt, the time frame for the event.
“We started at 9 a.m. and we were done and packed up by 5 o’clock, so 8 hours,” Matt calculated. “Our expediency was helped out by the fact that we were told to be out by 5 p.m.,” Matt quipped.
Diana Ornes sits on the Wisconsin Club Lamb Association Board of Directors, as the Vice President and Points Chair. On Sunday, June 11th, she will oversee the Cranberry Rumble, which will be held at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, located at 1625 Butts Avenue, in Tomah. Weigh-ins start at 6:30 a.m. and the first show starts at 9 a.m. More information can be found on their FaceBook page, Cranberry Rumble WCLA Jackpot.
As for their colorful Easter Sheep, the Ornes family is hoping to break last years record, of around 300 visitors. The colorful cove is just a half mile off of State Hwy. 71, with very little traffic, outside of the vehicles congregating to gaze at the colorful grazers. A video of the Herald’s visit can be seen on the Heralds webpage, at www.monroecountyherald.com, or on their Facebook page. WKBT channel 8 also visited the Ornes farm, on Sunday afternoon, based a tip that was traced back to the editor’s desk. The story ran on the Sunday night news, and can now be viewed on the Herald’s Facebook page, at Monroe County Herald.
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