Amy Hadden Marsh
Contributing Writer
Rifle, CO Colorado

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July 25, 2012
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County Fair: Garfield County 4-H: Heartbeat of Garfield County Fair and Rodeo

With a few exceptions, like maybe the Demolition Derby or Steve Skinner's Stimulus Package rock band, the Garfield County Fair and Rodeo is probably not all that different in 2012 than it was in 1938, when all this fun started.

There's the parade, the rodeo, cowboys, a midway - and there's 4-H. A staple of the fair long before this year's rodeo queen rode her first horse, Garfield County 4-H promises another healthy crop of cattle, poultry, swine and rabbits.

On Saturday, July 28, start the weekend by taking a look at the club's general projects on display at North Hall at the Garfield County Fairgrounds.

Judges will decide on Tuesday evening, July 31, who decorates the best cake, and performers and models wearing clothes they stitched themselves will get their moment in the spotlight at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2 on the Backstage.

Kim Schriver, Colorado Cooperative Extension's interim director of 4-H and Youth Development in Garfield County, said the fair is the culmination of months of work.

"The fairs are an opportunity for us to exhibit what we've worked on all year," she said.

Tuesday is also when 4-H project animals make their entry.

Those who raised a calf purchased it as early as last October. Youngsters raising kids, lambs, piglets and bunnies buy their animals in early spring.

Schriver said the more time a 4-H youngster has to spend time with their animal, the better the results. They have time to train the animal for show, adjust their diet for maximum health and, in the case of swine, make sure they pack on the pounds.

This year, half the rabbit exhibitors as well as several of the beef, goat, and sheep entrants produced their show animals from their own herd.

Judging begins Tuesday afternoon July 31 at the Indoor Arena.

Schriver described three types of competition: market, breeding and showmanship.

In the market shows, judges look for the most market-ready animal, she explained. "It has to be exactly what consumers want to buy."

To become the breeding champion, the animal must demonstrate good mothering skills. Seriously. Remember, these animals will be sold to livestock breeders or kept on the ranch for future stock.

But, when it comes to the showmanship champion, it's the human who has to make a good impression. "It's the hardest," said Schriver, "because it shows how much work you've done."

Showmanship contestants compete within their age group. They all bring their heifers and steers into the arena at the same time - or sheep or goats, depending on the show.

Cattle are led by a halter and lead rope. Goats are led by a chain and sheep are guided by hand. Once in the ring, the animals are made to stand "square." The animal must also stand still.

Belly-scratching is recommended to calm the animal but if it doesn't cooperate, said Schriver, "they do a circle, bring it back and re-set."

Poultry and rabbits are placed on tables inside the arena and must stay put without assistance from the exhibitor. Contestants are then asked questions about anatomy, breeds and upkeep.

Rapport is key in this contest. "You can tell who's worked with their animal and who hasn't," said Schriver, "but sometimes the animals can have a bad day."

Livestock competitions end on Friday, Aug. 2, and culminate with the annual livestock sale on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 3.

Schedules may change so check the website at www.garfieldcountyfair.com for updates.


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The Post Independent Updated Jul 25, 2012 06:57PM Published Jul 25, 2012 06:56PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.