Fair’s full-time job for 4-Hers in Eagle
EAGLE, Colorado – For the dozens of Eagle County youngsters who participate in local 4-H programs, fair week marks the high point of the summer.
But fair week also means a lot of stress and a bunch of work.
“During fair, you don’t get much sleep,” said Katie Stephens, a 14-year-old 4-H’er from Sweetwater.
It seems Katie is a master of understatement.
Consider the schedule she has maintained over the past 10 days of the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo. She has competed in English, Western, working ranch and gymkhana horse shows and practiced daily with the Freedom Riders 4-H Club in preparation for their performances at the rodeo.
She’s cared for her steers and her pigs and readied the animals for their respective shows in anticipation of the annual 4-H Junior Livestock Auction.
She competed in the 4-H dog show with her Oppenzeller mountain dog. And in her spare time, she set up a display detailing her veterinary science 4-H project.
Katie is a six-year veteran of the Eagle County 4-H program. This year she is especially excited to exhibit her two steers at the 4-H Beef Show at 9 a.m., Friday.
One of the steers is a Charolais angus, the other is a Simmental. This is her first year working with steers and one of the animals was a catch-it calf from last year’s fair.
The 1 1/2 year old animals have to be fed 25 to 30 pounds of grain twice a day.
“You have to halter break them and teach them where their feet should go and how to stand,” Katie said.
The steers obviously hold a several-hundred-pound advantage over the teenager, but she takes it in stride and talks about how she had to train the animals to be docile in the show ring.
When she finished with her steers, Katie planned to check on her pigs before heading out to Freedom Riders practice. On rodeo nights, she rides a palomino in the Grand Entry.
When this week’s over, she can catch up with her rest.
Wednesday was show day for kids in the 4-H rabbit program. Vickie Olson, of Eagle, and Elena Ortiz, of Gypsum, came away with award banners.
Vickie won grand champion honors with her New Zealand rabbit. Elena took reserve grand champion with her Californian.
Vickie, 15, is a seasoned 4-H rabbit competitor. Elena, 9, is an up-and-comer. And moments after their awards were announced, the two girls embraced in a bear hug.
For the past 11 years, Vickie as been involved in 4-H and she’s raised a couple of previous grand champions. While she purchases her rabbits from her aunt, Vickie has to pick out the animals herself. She has developed a strong eye for prime bunnies.
“I’m listening to the judges all the time and learning what they are looking for,” she said. “That helps me a lot.”
Elena was drawn to rabbits because they are “cute and fun and easy to take care of.” She also likes the snuggle factor. She brought four rabbits to the fair and the bunny named Dipstick was the reserve grand champion.
“Its fun to raise the animals. It’s kind of like having a job. It gets you prepared,” said Elena.
While both girls were plainly thrilled with their rabbit victories, neither one had much time to celebrate. Both Vickie and Elena had to head off to care for their goats in preparation for Thursday’s goat show. After she’s done at her goat pen, Vickie will meet up with the 4-H Freedom Riders. She serves as the club’s manager. She starts her fair days around 8 a.m. and finishes up around 11 p.m. when the rodeo ends.
“It’s a long week,” Vickie said.
Earlier this week, Lori Rivers, 17, of Gypsum, packed three goats in the family minivan and brought them to the Eagle County Fair. It’s a trip she won’t forget.
“We put them in there and they usually lay down,” said Lori. “But in our case, they were eating everything we had in the car.”
Lori has been involved in the 4-H goat program for a couple of years, initially because she saw some baby goats and thought the animals were irresistible. Last year her market goat did well in the Junior Livestock Auction so she signed up again for 2009.
This week will find her bathing and shearing her animals. She even took the time to help out fellow 4-H’er Devon Wood by shearing his goat.
While she plainly enjoys working with her animals, Lori warns that goats aren’t for everyone. “Goats don’t obey,” she said.
Lane Smith, of Gypsum, arrived at the Eagle River Center with this hogs Melia and Marilyn on Wednesday morning. He planned on spending a lot of time with the animals in preparation for the Thursday swine show. He’s already shaved and washed his pigs and Wednesday he was fashioning a food bowl to hang off the pen fencing.
Smith has been a 4-H member for two years. Last year his market hog brought in $2,700. He has high hopes for the Junior Livestock Sale on Saturday.
“This year I’ve made a bunch of new friends in 4-H and I know how to take care of hogs better,” he said.