This Saturday, eight full days of fun begins at the Delta County Fairgrounds, site of the 114th Delta County Fair.
So much fun, in fact, that this year's theme is "Let's 'stirrup' some fun!"
The fair actually opened Saturday, July 27 with the 4-H shooting sports held at the Delta County 4-H Range in Eckert. On Sunday, July 28, the fair and rodeo queen contest was held. Through speech, fashion, riding and other tests, contestants must demonstrate an ability to represent Delta County throughout the coming year as they travel to fairs, rodeos and other events across Colorado. They worked hard just to get to the contest, and are now ready to stirrup some fun.
In the speech portion of the contest, queen contestant Sierra Nelson said stirrin' up some fun means helping others at the fair to show off their projects. She plans to "put a foot in the stirrup and stirrup some fun as a queen contestant."
Junior princess contestant Ella Jensen said she first attended the fair in 2005 when she was 11 days old. Stirrin' up some fun means recalling memories of the fair, and "stirring up community fun during the fair."
Taneal Braslin, who is running this year for fair princess, describes stirrin' up some fun with her new filly, Cinnamon.
Delta County Fair Board president Rayn Bates estimates that between 600-700 kids ages 8-18 will be stirrin' up some fun at the fair. Between 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA), he hesitates to guess how many events kids participate and compete in. "I'd be wrong," he said. "But there's a lot."
For the kids, who also work hard throughout the year, "It's a good community service and it's good for the kids." Not only that, it creates so many opportunities for scholarships and education. Just ask Bates. He grew up in Cedaredge and participated in 4-H and FFA programs. After high school he attended Oklahoma State University and graduated from the Agricultural Leadership program.
The programs provide so many opportunities for participants -- from the contacts they make to scholarships and college opportunities, he said. "It's just crazy what it can do for you."
Bates estimates the Delta County Fair is one of the largest in Western Colorado for a community of this size.
About 400 kids participate in livestock. The event, which closes out the 4-H and FFA part of the fair, opens at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Events Center. Kids have put in a lot of time and energy into getting to the sale. "It's kind of what this whole thing is about," said Bates, who calls it "The Big shindig. It's a pretty good community event."
Putting on the fair is a year-round endeavor. From opening ticket sales to final day's Junior Livestock Sale, every aspect of the fair requires planning and coordination. The fair board itself has 18 members, each in charge of at least one area. Most of the members have also been through FFA or 4-H. It all begins September with the election of new members.
The first tall order of business is obtaining sponsors. Each year the Delta County community and businesses commit tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorships. Then they go to the sale and purchase animals. "For the community to raise that kind of money and then come to the sale and buy," said Bates. "That's a grateful community."
The official fair book calls the sale "a cumulation of months of hard work for exhibitors who have spent countless hours feeding, grooming, exercising and working with their livestock projects to get them ready." The purchase of animals in turn supports the future of 4-H and FFA, whose members use proceeds from market sales to purchase and raise next year's animals.
Now that the fair has begun -- it officially kicked off last Saturday morning with the shooting sports contests at the Delta County 4-H Range in Eckert -- "It's organized chaos," he said.
There are a few new things said Bates. In the main arena, in addition to bull riding, bronc riding, the team roping saddle shootout finals, and the coronation of the 2019-2020 Delta County Fair royalty and drill team performance, The One Arm Bandit & Company will put on a crowd-pleasing show during the Aug. 9 Flower Motor Company Rodeo. John Payne, aka the One-Armed Bandit, is a 15-time Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association specialty act of the year is a real crowd pleaser.
Also new, Delta County Federal Credit Union will present a community night. "It's a way to give the public something to do at the fair that's free," said Bates. It includes face painting, mutton bustin', a Kids Zone, watermelon eating contest, water games, a pinup girl contest, live music and cowboy poetry by Floyd Beard, a Hotchkiss native and 2016-17 International Music Association Male Poet of the Year.
It takes a lot of volunteers to run the fair. School sports teams help direct traffic, take tickets, and supervise exhibits. Other volunteers also work with local organizations and area chambers of commerce. And of course the fair board is an all-volunteer group that is always looking for new board members and volunteers, said Bates.
It is a lot of work putting on the fair, but the rewards are great, he said. "Serving on the board is my way of giving back to a program that gave me so much."