Fun for the family |

Fun for the family

Kelly Silva

— The rodeo arena at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden were covered with a layer of dirt and manure and categorical signs hung from the ceiling of the exhibit building.

Extension Office agents were setting up Wednesday afternoon for the 87th annual Routt County Fair Aug. 11-19 with shows ranging from a rabbit and poultry display to a baled hay contest.

With 15 exhibit divisions participating in the fair, each increasing in numbers every year, there’s sure to be a category where everyone fits.

Along with exhibits in the building adjacent to the fairgrounds, the rodeo arena will be filled with youth showing their prize livestock.

Debbie Alpe, extension agent at the Colorado State University Extension Office, said the Home Arts Division alone has more than 1,000 categories within it.

“We have an awesome show for a county fair,” Alpe said. “But we’re still a strong 4-H fair.”

In the junior livestock, the Extension Office counted 134 pigs, 101 lambs and 43 steers. In addition to those numbers, about 30 head of breeding cattle and the same number of breeding sheep will be counted. About 65 horses will compete in the horse and horse breeding competition.

About 20 to 30 rabbits and about 15 poultry also will be a part of the junior livestock division showcase.

The Extension Office mainly works behind the scenes to assure the 4-H and FFA junior livestock events are running smoothly.

Horses, cattle, sheep, rabbits, poultry and other livestock are displayed and judged in two categories: showmanship, including the livestock presenter, and judging the animals for height, weight and meat content.

In the exhibit building, competitions and displays present art, flowers, canned goods, crafts, quilting, beer and wine selections, photography and needlework, among hundreds of others.

Saturday and Sunday present the open horse show, and events continue through the week with entries and competitions for goats, bum lambs and the open rabbit and poultry show.

Thursday night presents Waddie Mitchell, a buckaroo poet, and a concert with Eric Heatherly follows next Friday.

But Aug. 17-19 is when the ball starts rolling, Alpe said.

“It’s amazing. There’s been this incredible transformation of this county into a resort and tourism spot, but the county fair still exists,” Alpe said.

Alpe said every year the fair presents a 4-H barbecue on the final Saturday, usually headed by “The Barbecue King of Routt County.” However, because of the recent death of Bobby Robinson Sr., the fair has dedicated the barbecue in his name.

Another new award has been designated to dedicate Helen Sherrod, an active 4-H exhibitor who died this year also.

“People from all over bring anything imaginable and let their talent shine,” Alpe said.

Routt County Fair always has been linked to the agricultural community, and while other county fairs have dwindled over the years, Alpe said, “Ours seems to stay alive and well.”

C.J. Mucklow, extension director for Routt County, said he thinks Routt County’s fair has been so successful over the years because the Soroco chapter of the Future Farmers of America has remained extremely involved and dedicated.

“We’ve also had a great fair board that’s kept it up to maintain the rural culture,” Mucklow said.

“As we become less rural, we’ve got to get people to come and look or exhibit something at the fair.”

Without exhibitors, a fair would not exist, Mucklow said.

According to “Faster Horses, Younger Women, Older Whiskey,” a book archiving the Routt County Fair from 1914 to 1995 by Sureva Towler and Jim Stanko, Hayden is considered the agricultural center of the county. The fair originated there in September 1914 to celebrate the success of the Railroad Days and the town’s enthusiasm.

The town thought a fair would promote the agricultural products of the county and sold $1 tickets to raise $25,000.

In the early 20th century, the Department of Agriculture encouraged schools and civic leaders to become involved with their communities with 4-H Clubs.

The first 4-H Club in Routt County was established in 1929. Currently, 4-H members are between 8 and 18 years old and work in areas such as forestry, wildlife, homemaking and crafts.

FFA also began in the early 20th century so young people could become intimately involved with agriculture as a vocation for high school. Steamboat Springs had its first chapter of FFA in the 1950s.

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