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Competitions begin at Garfield County Fair

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July 30 a big day

By John Colson

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Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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As Carbondale prepares for the 45th annual Mountain Fair at the end of this month, another annual celebration, the 78th Garfield County Fair at the fairgrounds in Rifle, is well underway, at least in terms of traditional 4-H competitions and exhibitions that help make up the backbone of the event.

Rifle is located 25 miles west of Glenwood Springs, along the I-70 corridor, at the Colorado Highway 13 interchange.

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The main County Fair schedule, of course, does not get going until Aug. 1 and runs until Aug. 6, and will include two rodeos, a demolition derby, a monster truck exhibition and a live concert at the outdoor arena on Aug. 5, featuring country music stars Josh Turner and Chris Janson.

To learn more about the County Fair, including schedules for events and results from the early activities, check out the website at garfieldcountyfair.com.

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Things were kicked off last weekend, on July16-17, when competitors in the 4-H “shooting sports” category (involving air rifles and pistols, archery, skeet and other types of shooting skills) got a jump on the fair activities.

According to Karla Farrand, the county’s Colorado State University extension agent who oversees the 4-H program, about 100 young competitors took part in the early shooting-sports competition at the fairgrounds.

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This coming weekend, July 23-24, about 30 young equestrians will participate in the annual horse show, also at the fairgrounds, which are located at 1001 Railroad Ave., about halfway through Rifle heading north from I-70.

And on July 30, some 225 exhibits will be judged in the Open Class categories, as discriminating judges pick and choose winners in traditional entries as cake, pie and cookie baking; photography and other visual arts; candy making; jelly, vegetables and meat canning; and a variety of crafts, including quilting and crocheting, as well as the more modern categories such as robotics and rocketry.

In addition, Farrand said, there are to be “interview judging” sessions, in which the entrants are asked questions about their preparation for entry in the fair, record keeping and other details, as well as general questions about life and “the story of their year.”

The whole purpose of interview judging is to give contestants the skills to go to job interviews later in life,” Farrand said.

Also on July 30, she said, will be judging of livestock in the Premier Exhibitor class, which she said typically draws from one-third to one-half of the entrants and involves a written test as well as interviews by the judges.

Remarking that entries in the Open Class, and other sections of the fair, have been rising in recent years, Farrand said that while there were only three cake-baking entries two years ago, this year there are 17.

Farrand said that, overall, the 4-H competitions for the year will feature exhibitions by some 275 entrants in 19 clubs scattered throughout the county, including the Black Sheep and Mt. Sopris clubs centered in Carbondale, and the Pan & Fork club out of Basalt.

A key activity for fair entrants is the Aug. 6 livestock auction, at which all species of livestock will be presented for sale to sponsors and other buyers.

The auction, Farrand said, starts at 1 p.m. in the auction barn, preceded by a “buyers’ barbecue” for those who have signed up to purchase cattle, swine, sheep, fowl or other entries.

Those interested in buying at the auction can sign up on Aug. 5 at the indoor arena, and must be signed up before the start of the auction in order to have a spot for bidding on grand champion beef.

The sale ends at 6 p.m. on Aug. 6, and signals the end of this year’s Garfield County Fair.

Farrand said the traditional emphasis on livestock — raising and selling — continues to be the bedrock activity at each fair, although she commented that there has been increasing interest in such higher-technology events as robotics and rocketry.

Also on the rise, she said, are interest in such activities as quilting, photography and textile painting.

“Quilting has seen a huge increase,” she said, explaining that there are 90 entries expected in the quilting competition and show this year. Judging in the quilting will take place on Monday, Aug. 1.

“Everything’s been going up,” she said of the growing numbers of participants, “which is kind of cool.”

Farrand said she has been involved in Garfield County’s 4-H activities for several years, first as a volunteer and now as the county’s extension agent, and that she has been active in 4-H from her days as a youngster in Oklahoma.

“4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) are huge in Oklahoma,” she said proudly.

Published in The Sopris Sun on July 21, 2016.

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