The Montezuma County Fair ramps up this week with livestock shows, chili contests, children’s events and more.
The festivities at the fairgrounds kicked off Friday night with a concert by country rock band Reckless Kelly, and on Saturday evening, youths from local 4-H groups took over the arenas to ready their pens.
“For a lot of the parents, I think 4-H and the FFA programs are just to try to help develop their leadership skills and to become a better, successful person,” said Kelly Comisky, a member of the fair’s board of directors.
She pointed to the responsibility skills learned by raising an animal.
“A lot of them raise them from birth,” Comisky said. “Some of them breed their own. And then some do buy, but they’re still taking a lot of time and effort into raising those animals, which – end goal – is nothing but teaching them responsibility and skills for the future.”
The biggest difference this year was the Reckless Kelly concert, Comisky said. The concert saw a high turnout Friday. Other than that, fairgoers will see many old favorites, including goat roping, chicken chasing, the second annual ATV Rodeo and the popular Demolition Derby.
The Ranch Rodeo will be Friday, although fair officials are unsure of turnout, Comisky said – an outbreak of vesicular stomatitis is expected to keep some animals at home because of quarantine requirements by the state. Last Saturday’s team roping competition was canceled after a couple cases of the virus were discovered in La Plata County.
The 4-H’ers are divided into tents based on species – sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry, swine and beef. Saturday evening’s pen setup was mandatory for participants, as preparation for Tuesday, when they will be allowed to bring their animals to the fair.
Autumn Harmon is a member of both the Barnyard Critters, her main 4-H group, and the Clover Buds, a group that targets youngsters ages 5-7, said her mother, Jenna Harmon.
Last year, as a 5-year-old, she took part in the fair for the first time, and on Saturday she was preparing her rabbit pen. “The main thing that she focuses on is breeding rabbits,” Jenna Harmon said. “Not market, but breeding.”
At this year’s fair, Autumn will show her rabbit at the open show and enter a green bean plant she grew as part of the Clover Buds. Along with that, she will take part in a variety of activities with the Barnyard Critters.
The Family Gymkhana events held Sunday morning attracted about 30 children ages 3-18. Relatives and friends cheered in the stands, and country music played. Events included mutton busting, horse riding skills, goat tying and barrel racing.
“It is a fun event for families and kids, with a lot of belt buckle prizes at the end,” said organizer Erin Gordanier.
The mutton busting tradition of setting a child on a nervous sheep then letting it bolt out of a pen into the arena generated good entertainment.
“Some use the death grip on the wool, others do the arm and leg wrap around the sheep,” Gordanier said. “For kids, it’s an adventure.”
“It was fun getting flipped and rolled,” said participant Hayden Forest.
Different age classes participated in the timed keyhole event, in which a contestant rides a horse into a chalkline in the shape of a keyhole, turns the horse and rides out without touching the lines.
For the goat-tying, participants run their horses hard to the center of the arena, dismount and tie up a goat’s legs.
Gymkhana events are casual and open to anyone. Gymkhana is not part of 4-H or FFA.
“The kids practice and learn control of their horses and roping technique,” Gordanier said.