Eagle County Fair & Rodeo stampedes into Eagle this week | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Fair & Rodeo stampedes into Eagle this week

EAGLE — For 51 weeks of the year, Eagle County largely identifies as a world-class ski resort community.

But for one week each year — this week — the county revels in its Western roots when the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo hits town.

The county fair is marking its 76th anniversary this summer. That means generations of locals have grown up attending and competing at the annual event.

"I started with 4-H when you could start and did it from age 9 to when I was a senior in high school," said Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.

Together with her two sisters, the Chandler girls did cooking, sewing, lamb and leadership projects. Not surprisingly, Chandler-Henry's own kids were also 4-H'ers, participating in cooking, sewing and shooting sports clubs.

"It's fun to be on the funding side and the organizational side of the county fair now," Chandler-Henry said.

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She's already been down to visit the county fairgrounds this week — watching as the stock contractor brought in the rodeo animals, the Junior Livestock Commission members prepared animal pens, the carnival crew started set up and the county extension office registered open class exhibits.

"There's just an excitement about the fair and rodeo," she said.

One of Chandler-Henry's most vivid fair and rodeo memories revolves around an evening performance before the new, covered grandstands were built at the Johnnette Phillips Rodeo Arena.

"It started pouring rain and we huddled under trash bags because we were determined to watch the rodeo to the end — there was us and about 10 other people," she said. "Nowadays the competitors get wet, but the spectators stay dry."

Rodeo action

Headlining each day of the county fair is the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association action nightly at 7 p.m. Like the name says, the competitors at the Eagle rodeo are big name pros and the stock contractor for the event is a renown firm.

"I believe what makes our rodeo special is the people in this community and the support they give us," said Tanya Dahlseid, a key member of the Eagle County staff. "I also think Pete Carr (the stock contractor for the rodeo) and his staff have made it so amazing with the quality and level of the performances. We get compliments from all over about our rodeo."

The Carr firm has been nominated as Stock Contractor of the Year each of the past two seasons. Additionally, 27 animals from the Carr stable have been selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, a record for animals from one stock contractor at Pro Rodeo's grand finale.

Six seasons ago, eight-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Ryan Gray tied the world record with a 94-point ride on Carr's Grass Dancer during a memorable evening at the Eagle County Rodeo. A few weeks ago, Gray matched moves with reigning Bareback Horse of the Year Dirty Jacket for 92 points to win in Pecos, Texas. That was the highest marked ride so far in 2015.

When horses and bulls hit the mountain air in Eagle, they get frisky and there is always the potential for another record-setting performance.

"It's pretty incredible to see these animals when they're here," Dahlseid said.

New this year to the rodeo action is clown Brian Potter and Mustang Millionaire winner Bobby Kerr, whose work with wild mustangs has become a showcase of horsemanship skills.

Texas swing band Mark Powell & Lariat will take the stage Friday and Saturday night following the rodeo for a free live concert and dirt dance.

Something for everyone

Beyond the rodeo action, there is something for all ages at the Eagle County Fair. The 4-H projects and animals are on exhibit and there will be carnival rides, food vendors and contests throughout the day. In addition to the carnival, a number of free daytime activities are planned including educational presentations, a local artist expo, face painting, kids crafts and more.

Returning for the fifth year is the Country Showdown, set for today and Thursday. The action takes place from 5 to 7 p.m., before the rodeo. Competitors will take the stage this evening, and judges will invite the top six to perform on Thursday evening. The contest winner will advance to the state finals.

And it wouldn't be the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo without the Junior Livestock Auction planned at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Prospective buyers are welcome to attend the buyers barbecue at noon.

"I find it really fun to see the kids at the livestock auction, showing their animals," Chandler-Henry said. "And then seeing the community bid on those animals and raise the price up is great."

For more information about the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo or to purchase rodeo tickets online, visit http://www.eagle countyfairandrodeo.com. Free parking for the event is available west of the fairgrounds, with free shuttle transportation available to the rodeo grounds.