A longtime Delta County Fair Board member and 4-H leader was chosen as the grand marshal of the 112th annual Delta County Fair parade.
For 20 years, Richard Bailey and wife Marilyn were active with the fair. They were on the Delta County Fair Board, were 4-H leaders, and served as sheep superintendents.
Marilyn passed away last fall. "We were married 62 years," he said.
Richard Bailey was raised on a farm in Iowa and Marilyn grew up in Kansas. They both showed sheep in 4-H as children and raised sheep on their small farm between Hotchkiss and Crawford, where they also raised sons Bill and Kevin. When the boys went to college, Marilyn took over as fair sheep superintendent, which takes a lot of work. "I will say she was darn good at it," said Bailey.
The Baileys met in 1954. He had served in the U.S. Army in Korea and after the war was stationed at Camp Carson (now Fort Carson) near Colorado Springs. On May 21 -- he remembers the day clearly -- his friend set them up on a blind date. By September they were married.
In 1962 they packed up the boys and moved from Colorado Springs to Hotchkiss. "There was just getting to be too many people on the Front Range," he said. They bought property off of Highway 92 and have lived on it ever since.
"This is as close to town that I ever want to live," he said.
He worked at the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery for 25 years, retiring in 1991, and was president of the Crawford Mesa Water Association for four years. He also led the Delta County Horse Drill Team for a time. "It kept kids off the street," he said.
One year they entered an original sheep camp in the Delta Parade of Lights. The theme that year was "Coming Home for Christmas," Bailey recalled. Their sheep camp was all lit up, and the parade theme was written across the back in lights. It was that year's winning parade entry.
Bailey has also been honored by the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce.
In 2003, he started the Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trials. "I think it's been very successful," he said.
He bought his first border collie for $73 in cash. At the time, stock dog trials were very popular, and he traveled the country with his dogs. During the fair he would give dog-handling demonstrations, sometimes using ducks, which people loved. On parade days he and his dogs would herd sheep along the parade route to show off their skills.
One day, said Bailey, someone asked him why he doesn't start a trial in Hotchkiss. He was too busy at the time, but by 1994 he and Marilyn were fully retired. One of his sons was also putting on a trial in Minnesota at the time, and he asked his son if it's possible to put one on in Hotchkiss. His son said sure.
The community was very supportive. Several of his friends agreed to help out. Dick Hotchkiss agreed with a handshake to let him hold the trials on his ranch adjacent to town, and sheep rancher Larry Allen agreed to provide sheep. There aren't many places in the country that one could get both land and sheep, said Bailey. "We are so lucky."
The Town of Hotchkiss donated $500 to the event, an amount they've given each year since.
Today the trials, held for three days over the Mother's Day weekend, are second in size in Colorado only on the Meeker Classic trials. Every year registration fills up quickly and there's always a long waiting list. And when Bailey goes to other trials around the country and mentions Hotchkiss, people say good things.
Next year the event celebrates its 15th year. "Oh yes, I think we have a good trial," says Bailey.
Demonstrations in sheep shearing, spinning and weaving are now held during the event, and local organizations sell food and beverages to raise money. Other events, including the Ute Trails Car Show, an annual ARBA-sanctioned rabbit show, and an open house at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum, are held the same weekend. It's also a big weekend for yard sales, although Bailey said he wishes those people would come to the trials instead.
Bailey still has two border collies, and is dog-sitting another. He keeps a few ewes on hand so he can work them. He's already entered this year's Meeker trials, an event he's missed only three times in the last 30 years, and where last year he was recognized as the oldest handler.
Last year he handed management of the trials off to Cheryl and Gordon Hebenstreit, Cedaredge residents who have been with the event since the beginning. "I still have quite a bit of say in what happens," said Bailey.
He also enjoys woodworking, a skill which he said was passed on from his father. He made much of the furniture in his home. A few years ago he discovered a unique method of making shepherd's crooks and started making them. After making about 40, he started numbering them and is now up to No. 376.
The last two years he made small custom black walnut chests to give to the overall winner of the stock dog trials. Next year's chest, made of cedar, awaits the finishing touches. "You need a hobby, something to do when you retire," he said.
Bailey said that being named this year's grand marshal was a "complete surprise." He will ride in an early 1900s-era hitch wagon restored by Mike Twamley of Delta pulled by Kacey and Cricket, a team of Brabant red roan draft horses owned by Eunice and Steve Ward with the Grand Mesa Harness Club.
"And that suits me fine," said Bailey.