The unofficial and by no means complete guide to a great time at the Garfield County Fair |

The unofficial and by no means complete guide to a great time at the Garfield County Fair

Rifle Correctional Center inmates help build sheep stalls in the indoor arena at the Garfield County Fairgrounds in preparation for the Garfield County Fair, which kicks off next week.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

With so much to do and see at this year’s Garfield County Fair, it almost seems like the wide array of events are simply too big for one’s britches.

If you don’t necessarily have your mind set on what you’re interested in experiencing this year in Rifle, keep in mind that the county fair is more than a celebration of all things Americana. It’s a unique showcase of scientific achievements, hard work and perseverance.

So, with the first Garfield County Fair events slated for Sunday, here are a few friendly suggestions on how you can properly immerse yourself in the finer qualities of Garfield County’s biggest gatherings.


With dreams of becoming the next grand champion, Future Farmers of America and 4-H participants spend a tremendous amount of time working on their projects and with their animals, usually spending months trying to best prepare them for competition during fair week.

“There’s a show each day of the week,” Local 4-H member Katie Rhinaman said. “Even if you show up for 10 or 15 minutes, it means a lot to us because we’ve put in a whole lot of work, because I know many of us started our 4-H projects back in November.”

Don’t think for a second it’s an easy gig. Whether it’s cattle, swine or sheep, livestock judges keep a sharp eye out for what will prove ideal at market. Determining peak physical attributes is key in any participant’s run at a ribbon.

10-year-old Tristan Cheney hangs out with his 4-H rabbit at the 2019 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

It’s a great demonstration of agriculture, horticulture and use of natural resources.

“Many of us see it as the chance to show everybody, ‘We’ve learned all this — look how hard we worked,’” Rhinaman said.

Perhaps even more rewarding is when a local ranching outfit or business outbids their competitors to pay top dollar for any animal during the livestock sale.

“I like watching buyers try to outbid each other. It’s kind of fun to sit back and watch them all,” Rhinaman said. “Now, being in the sale is a little bit nerve-racking.”

Garfield County Fair Board member Levy Burris said he loves to spend time at the indoor arena at the fairgrounds since 4-H exhibitors ages 8 to 18 have worked on their projects most of the year.

“It doesn’t cost you anything,” he said. “Go in and see that because the kids are raising the animals and are learning. The 4-H portion of the fair is very extensive. It starts with the horse show and the dog show and there’s model rocketry launching. … It’s just phenomenal the amount of work these kids put into everything.”

The livestock sale is slated for 1 p.m. July 31. Meanwhile, livestock shows run all fair week. In addition, come check out all the cool science, technology, engineering and math-related shows. A robotics contest and a model rocket launch event are slated for Sunday.

If anything else, come by to simply enjoy the adorable barn critters.

“You can usually find a kid in the barn who will let you pet their animal,” Rhinaman said.


A county fair just isn’t a fair without watching cowboys and cowgirls kick up some dust during the high-flying action of a good ol’ rodeo.

“It’s good all around,” Burris said. “It has everything as far as the different events: the calf roping, barrel racing, the bull riding, the bronc bustin’… for the true Americana rodeo experience.”

Let’s start with the “Xtreme Bulls” event hosted by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. This year’s seventh annual event, with gates slated to open at 6 p.m. Wednesday, features some of the meanest bulls and best cowboys in the country, if not the world.

Tristan Mize holds on for dear life while taking on the very last bull of the night during the Xtreme Bull Riding event at the 2019 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday night in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Riders will try and stay mounted atop these beasts for 8 seconds before they’re bucked off to high heaven. Grab a refreshment and try not to laugh too hard at the rodeo clowns as they lure the bulls away from wreaking havoc.

“And we’ve got a special treat this year,” Burris said. “We’ve got the Army’s mounted color guard that will be there all week long.”

On Thursday, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association joins up with the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association to host the eighth annual Pro Rodeo Night Honoring American Veterans, which takes place at 7 p.m. In addition to bull riding, roughstock events include bareback riding and saddle bronc riding.

“Go buy your ticket and show up,” Burris said. “They put on a very good show. It lasts for about three, three-and-a-half hours. They run slack all day. And then the premiere contestants are the ones that are competing for the prize money that night, and I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house.”

A cowboy hangs on in hopes of making the eight seconds during his bareback ride at the Pro Rodeo night of the 2019 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Thursday evening in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

To first get your feet wet with rodeo, check out the Family and Kidz Rodeo, slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday. During this time, kiddos will compete in a number of entertaining events, including things like mutton bustin’, barrel racing, calf scramble and so much more. The mutton bustin’ finale will take place during the pro rodeo.


This year, country music singers Aaron Watson, Michael Ray and Chancey Williams close out Friday’s fair events with a perfect night under the stars of western Garfield County. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the first show starts at 6:30 p.m.

“They have the premium standing if you will — the mosh pit,” Burris said. It’s down front and center, and it can be a little rambunctious at times, and everybody’s up dancing, but there’s no sitting.”

But how’s the best way to enjoy the show?

“I think it’s premium seating,” Burris said.“You’re not going to get trumped or knocked around by any dancing.”

And when you look at this year’s lineup, it’s safe to say the dancing’s going to be abundant.

Watson, described as a “do it yourself” country artist, at one point hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts for best country album.

Ray, on the other hand, has five Recording Industry of America Gold-certified singles and loves playing hits from the 1980s and ’90s. His personal songs, however, include things like family, history and hope. The Florida native is also a YouTube sensation.

Finally, Williams is no stranger to topping the iTunes Country chart and Billboard’s Heartseeker’s Mountain chart.

But even if you choose to spend your fair time in a completely different way, one thing is certain: You’re going to have a good time.

“We’re still trying to bring new things in with our Western heritage,” he said. “This should be a great week.”

For a full schedule of fair events or ticket arrangements, visit

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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