Rodeo ready to rumble
From sand-casted healing candles to cotton candy, from polish sausages to dart-throwing, from the Ferris wheel to the 4-H livestock competitions, from air-brushed art to dust-raising rodeo action, the annual celebration of all things agricultural is ready to get in the saddle. Things get going today from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. when the first of a three-night rodeo is scheduled to capture the hearts and souls of ranchers, farmers and city slickers alike.
With a wildland fire brewing in the background – as evidenced by a massive smoke plume looming on the horizon – the bustle appears louder and the hustle more apparent Wednesday afternoon at the Eagle County Fairgrounds in Eagle.
Don Wagner and Darin Hendrix from Arivaca, Ariz., are relaxing in the shade of their softly-scented booth surveying their sand-cast candles.
Troy Carthy, a 10-year-old veteran 4-H livestock showman, isn’t quite as relaxed. Wearing a starched denim shirt over a belt buckle the size of a saucer, he makes his way towards the livestock barn where, in just a few minutes a judge will be asking him prodding questions about his poultry project. With the color in his already rosy cheeks on the rise, he tries to remember the types of feathers.
“I might win two this year,” he says, bending over to see what sitting down would feel like wearing the belt-buckle belly-plate.
“It would hurt my ribs,” he proclaims, adding breathlessly that he thinks he has a chance to win again with his sheep – and maybe with his goats.
“If they give one for poultry, maybe I can get that one too,” he says before he takes his seat and lets his mom pin his competitor’s number to his shirt.
It’s 4 p.m. and the 4-H poultry show is getting underway, with judge Joan Wescott, presiding in pure white.
Karly VanCampen, a 9-year-old Eagle girl, looks poised waiting by her cage where her rooster looks decidedly more restless.
“I told her to smile and have fun,” her mom, Lauri Van Campen, says from the stands, looking over at her daughter encouragingly.
“It’s her first time,” she adds, pride in her voice, at the sight of her daughter’s gracious stance.
One stall over, in the hog section of the livestock barn, Shelton Adams, 14, of Eagle watches his chocolate-brown Duroc pig take a nap, giving “happy as a pig” new meaning.
“He is 133 pounds,” says the 4-H participant, who has done several hog projects in the past and isn’t “too positive” about his chances this year.
“There is always something that could be better,” he says, looking down at his pig, which is sighing in the straw.
“I haven’t done too well in the past. We’ll just see how I do this year,” he says of his big day, today, when the hogs are judged at 1:30 p.m.
Back out in the heat, early carnival connoisseurs are cruising for action.
“I got two little plastic purses and bracelets,” says 11-year-old Alex Wolf of Eagle, who just spent $4 for the privilege of fishing with hooks attached to goodie bags at one of the half-dozen trinket booths.
There is mild regret in her voice. “They should have given us the $2 back,” her younger brother Josh, 8, chimes in.
Josh only fished one time and ended up with a World Wide Wrestling action figure perched atop a pen and a small note pad.
“Just use your hands when he is not looking,” says 14-year-old Kayla Lange, who is visiting from Wisconsin, when asked if there is a trick to good fishing.
She and her cousins meander over to the rides, which aren’t quite ready to go.
It’s never too early to check out good investment opportunities for small allowances.
Back at the fair’s little market, Wagner and Hendrix aren’t bothered by much, not even the plume of smoke off in the sky.
Their sand-cast candles, scented with everything from mulberries to sandalwood and decorated with ornamental pieces of cactus wood, add a soothing aroma to the more excitable smells coming from the food row.
“We get to play in a sandbox,” explains Hendrix of the process of making sand-cast candles. “You wet it down, you pack it in real good, and you create any shape you want.”
The art of sand-cast candles, Wagner says, “is just an old hippie trick I learned along the way.”
Though the two don’t travel in a tie-dyed bus – “it’s an RV” Hendrix says – they are a study in the laid-back attitude of the children of the 1960s.
“We were at the Montrose fair and decided to come check this out,” Hendrix says. “Southern Arizona is hot and dry around this time of the year.”