Eagle County Fair week marks culmination of year’s work
EAGLE, Colorado – It’s Eagle County Fair and Rodeo week, which means there’s lots going on at the Lengel house in Gypsum.
Sisters Hayley, 14, and Adie, 9, both have several 4-H projects on display at the Eagle River Center. They will both show and sell animals at the Junior Livestock Auction, and Adie will perform with the Freedom Riders equestrian drill team during the rodeo performances.
The girls come by their 4-H interests honestly – their mom, Edie Lengel, is a former Eagle County Fair and Rodeo Queen and avid 4H’er. She remembers well summers spent keeping up with her project notebooks and traveling to ride in parades as the local rodeo queen. It is an experience she wanted to share with her own girls.
Edie competed in sewing, equestrian, cooking and sheep programs.
“I sewed every year and then you modeled your outfit,” said Edie. “One year I made a red, white and blue bi-centennial maxi dress. It was really awful.”
She had the most success with her sheep projects, earning both grand champion and reserve grand champion ribbons. Before she had children of her own, Edie also served as a 4-H leader. But once her girls became old enough to do 4-H, she shifted her focus to helping them.
The Lengel girls both sew – on their own machines, which are set up in their bedrooms after an unfortunate experience involving the transport of their mother’s machine. After an injury sustained in a fall during a Freedom Riders practice earlier this year, Hayley is scaling back on her 4-H work, so she doesn’t have a sewing project this year. But previous efforts have taken her to the Colorado State Fair and taught her a lot about work ethic.
“One time she had to put in a zipper five times before it was right, but then she did win at state fair,” Edie said.
Hayley will also compete in photography open class this year and all summer she has been trying out muffin recipes for a cooking project.
Last week Adie finished sewing her skirt and its accompanying record book in time for the fashion show.
Along with their sewing, cooking and riding projects, the girls have branched out into an area their mom never dabbled in – poultry.
Hayley won grand champion honors in the poultry division and the previous year she was the reserve grand champion. Edie told her that in preparation for the county fair, she needed to read about chickens for 15 minutes every day. That work paid off when Hayley could confidently answer questions about her animals. This year both she and her sister will be showing chickens. In fact, Hayley is confident enough in her abilities that she plans to show a 1-year-old rooster, which acts a bit aggressive at times.
The girls work together to raise their chicken brood. Adie is in charge of the morning feeding and collects eggs. Hayley handles the nighttime feeding and collects table scraps for the animals. The two share profits from fresh egg sales.
“I sell them at school and I can’t keep up with the market there,” Edie said.
Ask Adie about chickens and she will rattle off a wealth of knowledge. She says chickens are smarter than their reputation suggests and that feeding them sunflower seeds and oyster shells makes their egg shells harder.
The girls have first-hand experience with the bane of chicken farmers everywhere – foxes.
“One time we were standing out there by the chicken coop and a fox ran right up and grabbed a chicken,” said Adie.
Last week, in addition to regular feeding, cleaning, egg-collecting and record-book keeping chores, the girls were sending out letters to potential buyers to let them know about the Junior Livestock Auction at 1:30 p.m. at the Eagle River Center. That show is always the literal bottom line for 4-H’ers. After a year of work, it’s when they sell off their animals and determine the profitability of their efforts.
But this week, there is plenty of work to do before the auction starts. Animals are hauled to the fairgrounds. Clothing, cooking and art displays are carefully assembled. As the week begins, the Lengels know they will be spending lots and lots of hours at the fairgrounds, but it’s all good.
The Eagle County Fair and Rodeo is the highlight of the summer for families such as the Lengels from throughout Eagle County, and before they know it, it will be over. There are just a lot of things to get done first.