If the only part of the County Fair you see is the rodeo and demolition derby, you’re missing out on a lot of the wonderful, small-town events that make the Fair a real community event. Every year, kids up and down the valley expend a lot of effort, sweat, and tears and accrue plenty of mashed fingers and toes, and yep, lots of manure, getting their 4-H and FFA projects ready.
This year, take the time during the Fair to talk to the kids in the poultry barn about their chickens and turkeys. You’ll be amazed (and impressed) at what the youngsters will tell you about getting their hens ready to show. Arrive early and watch the kids shearing their sheep. Let your little ones go nose-to-nose with a goat through the fence, and you may find your own child showing livestock at the Fair in a few years.
Jennifer Celis of Hotchkiss is one of the many teens who make Fair the centerpiece of their summer each year. As a member of the Bell Creek Buckaroos 4-H club, Jennifer will be showing a pig for the third consecutive year. She purchased Bella, her Hampshire/Yorkshire cross, as a six-week old weaner in March, and has been responsible for her care throughout the spring and summer. Like the other competitors, Jennifer will have to show the judges the book that she has kept documenting the animal’s weight, diet, expenses, and medical care. She has to make sure that Bella weighs enough (230 pounds) but not too much by the weigh-in date. And then she has to show Bella in the ring, moving her around to keep her in the judge’s eye and showing off her conditioning in a ring full of other exuberant young porkers.
Jennifer says that Bella is “so sweet. I wish I could keep her.” But Bella will be auctioned off, along with the other pigs, sheep, and goats, and most of the kids will put the proceeds into their college funds.
Over in Heritage Hall, the non-animal exhibits are equally impressive. The youngsters bake and decorate cakes, sew clothing, make artwork, construct beautiful woodwork pieces, and prepare instructive displays on everything from fishing and hunting to entomology and wind power. Not only is it a blast to see the kids’ enthusiasm for their projects, it’s also pretty humbling when you realize how much they know!
Heritage Hall is open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. each day from Tuesday through Saturday during Fair week. Schedules for the 4-H/FFA livestock shows can be found in the Fair book, available throughout the valley.