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7/18/2013 Valley’s big weekend with County Fair, Stampede


All eyes turn to our 4-H and FFA youths and to the rodeo cowboys and cowgirls


Mid-July and the Custer County fair is here for the week, with its horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens and…kids. Lots of kids! Adults are in attendance too, all in town to enjoy the exhibits and Westcliffe Stampede rodeo. Funnel cakes, bleachers, rodeo clowns, snorting steers…all of it can be had all week at the fair grounds just north of town.

The fair began Monday with the 4-H indoor exhibits. On Tuesday the horse show and gymkhana commenced, with kids showing their equines under saddle and on the ground. Arranged in three divisions, senior, junior and novice, the kids also participated in barrel racing, among other contests.

On her quarter horse Blackie, Katlyn Freeburg, 15, competed in all horse events. "I got a second in showmanship," she says. She didn’t mention that she also won blue ribbons in youth class photography with pictures of Sangre sunsets and mountain flowers on display in the Fine Arts Building.

Novice rider nine-year-old Kaya Hoffman, atop a sorrel quarter horse, won two firsts, one in western riding and pleasure. In her pink cowboy shirt, she ran the barrels at a trot while her dad, Trinity Hoffman coached from the sidelines.

A total of seven kids participated in the equine events, most winning ribbons and having a good time while parents and grandparents watched and cheered from the bleachers.

During the horse show at the western end of the fairgrounds, Dan Gomez and his son Ethan -- dad in the cab of the tractor and boy riding in the broad shovel -- groomed the grounds for the mutton-busting event. "I am on hand to do what needs to be done," Gomez says, which includes serving as the arena director. "That means I yell at all the cowboys to ‘hurry up,’" he quips.

The tractor belongs to Dorothy Nepa, who not only donate the John Deere for the fair and rodeo, but who for years has served as the ticket supervisor. She says, "We hope to fill the stands as we have done in the past. Come early and stay late. Sundays are less crowded, so that’s a good time to come if you want to avoid the horde."

On Wednesday, the 4-H and FFA livestock arrived, checked-in at 2 p.m. and livestock weighed-in at 5 p.m. Fifty-five 4-H animals are on display and, along with the FFA livestock, the kids are busy feeding, washing and showing their critters.

Today, Thursday, opens with the dog, rabbit and chicken show in the morning, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The swine show starts in the afternoon at 5 p.m. After the pig presentation will be a Calcutta auction and dinner at 7:30 p.m..

Friday begins with the sheep classes at 9 a.m., followed by goats at 10:30 a.m. and cattle at 1 p.m. At 2:30, right after the beef judging, the Master Showmanship occurs. The day ends with another Calcutta auction and dinner at 5 p.m., with the rubber check race launched at 7 p.m.

For those two-steppers, don’t forget the dance at the Saddle Club building beginning at 9 p.m.

Saturday, before the Stampede parade, July 20, the Rotary Club will host a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m. at the school parking lot on Main Street. The parade gets going at 10 a.m. Brittanee Bohannan, on her handsome, bay-roan Tennessee Walker, will carry the flag at the head of the procession. From San Antonio, Texas, sixteen-year-old Bohannan spends summers in the valley with her grandparents, John and Vicky Decker. Her horse JD, at 16.5 hands, will add grace and elegance to the parade, so be on hand to watch that fluid, stately, high-stepping equine, with his comely and capable rider, strut his stuff Saturday on Main Street.

The rodeo starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by another boot-shuffling dance at the Saddle Club building at 9 p.m.

Sunday’s highlight is the 4-H and FFA Livestock Sale which gets underway at 12 noon. Bidders have an opportunity to purchase prize-winning steers, lambs, hogs and other livestock. The animals can be processed, giving buyers a freezer-full of quality meat, or "floored" in which the animal is sold back to the processor. In either case, all the proceeds go to the individual youth. Bidding is often brisk, and volunteers are on hand to help buyers with the whole process.

Sunday also includes the American Legion roast beef luncheon served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. On the menu: roast beef, potato salad, baked beans, rolls, dessert, lemonade, tea and coffee. The Stampede Rodeo commences at 3 p.m.

Not only can visitors watch the bucking bulls and other roundup events, but they can visit the prize-winning, hand-crafted exhibits in the Fine Arts building, which includes a wool, hand-woven purse by Terry Ward, photographs by Mary Chandler and Lorie Batson, live orchids grown by Mary Gompf and ceramic statues of a cowgirl and cougars by Mary and Dalton Wommack.

The exhibit also features informational poster presentations from Valley youth, including Ryan Young’s and Casey Brandon’s archery illustrations and Kylie Carter’s Leadership explanation and visuals.

The fair and rodeo offers a lot of fun for families, 4-H participants, local residents and out-of-town visitors – it’s the height of summer, with the Sangres glowing in aspen green, the hay fields lush with grass and the sun warm and generous. So head on out to the fairgrounds, cheer on the kids and watch the cowboys and cowgirls demonstrate their skills.

The fair and rodeo are quintessential community events, generated in years when TV did not exist and residents poured into town to meet and greet each other – so engage in the frontier tradition and plan to hit the fairgrounds this weekend.

– Cyn Williams