4-H dog show at Routt County Fair gives competitors the opportunity to fetch ribbons (with photo gallery) | SteamboatToday.com

4-H dog show at Routt County Fair gives competitors the opportunity to fetch ribbons (with photo gallery)

HAYDEN — There is no question that the Routt County Fair’s 4-H dog show was full of plenty of surprises Wednesday inside the exhibit hall at the Routt County Fairgrounds.

Longtime competitor Leona Thurston, who earned the ribbon that goes to the overall grand champion, said those surprises are just part of showing at the fair.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Thurston said of keeping her dog focused and on task inside the show ring. “Sometimes things just don’t work out. That’s what happened to me last year. My stepmom did something that got my dog’s attention and so she forgot what the command sit meant, and she forgot what anything meant for the entirety of the show.”

On Wednesday, Thurston’s dog Paisely was on task. But there were plenty of those unexpected moments including a young competitor being pulled across the smooth concrete floor of the exhibit hall by her large black dog outside the show ring, and more than one dog deciding to take hold of the leash for a game of tug of war in the middle of judging inside the ring.

Those happenings brought smiles to the people who had come out to watch, and even a few from the owners who were there in pursuit of one of those large, colorful ribbons that go to the grand champions. But when the show came to an end, it was easy to see that those who had taken part in the event loved their dogs even more than winning.

“The only reason I got my dog Paisley was so that I could be a part of this 4-H program, so that was probably the biggest win,” Thurston said. “I love my dog, she’s wonderful.”

But Thurston, a 2020 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, said the program has had a huge impact on her life over the years. The program has also been a chance for her to learn great leadership skills, become a mentor and fuel the program’s future success.

She said 4-H has been a way to make lifelong friends, to learn from those that have a passion for the programs she is involved in and to make her a more active community member.

The fair is just a way to bring all the great things that 4-H provides together, and provide a place for young participants to show the community what they have gained as part of the programs.

This year, when the program lost several of its longtime leaders, Thurston and fellow competitor Ashton Nagel stepped up to fill in the gaps. Both competitors said it was a worthwhile experience and also has fueled a desire to continue the program’s legacy and strengthen the base by helping the next generation learn the skills they will need to turn their dogs into next year’s grand champions.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Nagel, who earned the champion ribbon for intermediate showmanship. “I learned a lot more than I ever thought I could.”

Thurston said that while Wednesday’s event at the fair is always competitive, at the end of the day those involved in the 4-H dog program are all friends and all share a love for their dogs.

“It’s definitely more laid back than some of the livestock events. Sure it’s a competition, but everyone is like friends,” Thurston said, “I just enjoy the family feeling that comes with the dog program.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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