Remembering the fair through his eyes
First, it was called Watermelon Days. Then Apple Pie Days. And now it’s Garfield County Fair Days.
My first event was in 1935 and I haven’t missed very many since. My mother, Marie Bernklau, was a big supporter of all the events and was an exhibitor for more than 60 consecutive years. She loved the fairs – both county and state.
I showed my hogs my first year in 4H in 1944 and was a 4H leader for 20 years in Garfield, Eagle and Weld counties.
Dick Dorrell, Art Dague and I started clowning at the Garfield County Fair in 1956. In 1957, we clowned Rangely, Burns in May and June. I was drafted in the United States Army the last of June.
I came home in the fall to help Art and Dick clown the Fair Days rodeo. I was in Germany in 1948 and was discharged in 1959. The years 1959 and 1972 were the only Garfield County Fairs that I missed.
Art decided he would not clown anymore, so Dick and I clowned from 1959 until 1963. We also put on the Jr. Rodeo with the help of Barbra and Carla from 1960 through 1963.
I was on the Fair Board from 1960 through 1968 and served as the president in 1963.
There have been a number of changes in my lifetime with the fair. The first years I was showing pigs, we showed them at the Rifle stock yards and after the show, a livestock buyer came to the yards and gave you a bid on your animal. You could either accept it or take your animal home. That’s the way it was growing up in the West.
In the 1950’s, the livestock judging took place at the Garfield County Fairgrounds, then the sale animals were hauled to the sale Barn north of Rifle and were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Today, the show and sale take place on the grounds.
Until the 1980’s, the fair, rodeo and race horse meet was held on Labor Day weekend. But with school starting earlier each year, the fair and rodeo were moved earlier in August. The race track was taken out in the 1990’s, which ended an era that is gone forever at the present grounds. Remember, the only person that likes change is a baby with dirty diapers.
Let’s all go out and support the 2014 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo!
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Former Rifle Bears standout turned starting running back for Western Colorado University Ty Leyba remembers it like it was yesterday.