Fair offers something for everyone, even a city boy

phjeffburkheadWhoever says there’s nothing to do in a small town, isn’t paying attention.
There are plenty of activities going on, if you want to get involved.
For a rural county, Rio Blanco’s two towns have some pretty major events, including Meeker’s sheepdog trials, Range Call, powwow and Fall Festival, while Rangely offers rock crawling, Septemberfest, Holidayfest, Crab Crack and the college’s annual foundation banquet and auction.
Of course, then there’s the Rio Blanco County 4-H Fair.
I’m a city boy, but I love the fair.
Last year was my first experience with the fair, and I really enjoyed it. I tried Rocky Mountain oysters for the first time. They’re tasty, especially with a little cocktail sauce. I received tips on pig showmanship from Gerald and Todd Morris, who know a thing or two about showing animals. I saw mutton riding for the first time; I had never heard of such a thing. I stepped in manure while taking photos, all in the line of duty. And there was lots of good food. What’s not to like?
One of the best things about the fair is it involves families and businesses from the towns on both ends of the county.
The fairgrounds may be located in Meeker, but I saw lots of people from Rangely at last year’s fair, either as participants or spectators. And the fair board is made up of representatives from both ends of the county.
A ton of work goes into putting on the fair, and the county 4-H Extension staff is to be commended for their dedication, not to mention all of the parents and volunteers who put in countless hours.
Most of all, the fair is about the kids.
This year, the Herald Times, along with Rio Blanco County Extension, is proud to recognize the fair with a pullout section in today’s paper. Another special edition will be published after the fair is over, with a complete list of results and lots of photos. Thanks to Extension and all of the business sponsors, whose support helped to make these special editions possible.
Along with a schedule of events, the special edition in today’s paper profiles the five senior 4-H’ers in the county — Makaila Etchart, Hillary Hayes, Clinton “Weeg” Kilduff, Meg Nieslanik and Megan Ridings. There’s also a feature story about Morgan Neilson, the state’s new 4-H president.
We hear a lot about the societal problems with today’s youth — drugs and gangs, as well as the all-about-me attitudes attributed to the younger generation, like lack of respect, lack of a work ethic, etc. But after spending time with these Rio Blanco County 4-H’ers, it’s renewed my faith in young people. They are a product of their upbringing, and it says a lot about family, community and programs like 4-H and FFA.
So, enjoy the fair, and celebrate everything that’s good about living and working in Rio Blanco County.
Just be careful where you step.
•••
Here I am talking up the fair, and I missed the first event — last week’s fashion revue.
I’m still kicking myself over that one.
I fully intended to cover the event, as I did last year. On Monday, Dessa Watson had told me about the fashion revue and other upcoming fair events, like last Saturday’s shooting competition, and I even mentioned them in my column in last week’s paper.
And I still forgot.
I even walked right past the fairgrounds building, where the fashion revue was being held, on my way to the Meeker Recreation Center to watch the documentary film about the Ute Indians’ return to the White River Valley.
And it still didn’t dawn on me.
Walking home after the movie, Dessa drove by and asked if I wanted a ride, yet it didn’t occur to me that she would have been coming from the event.
Then later that night, sitting on my front porch, it finally hit me — I had missed the fashion revue.
My first thought was, please, God, let the fashion revue be next Thursday. Of course, that was wishful thinking. My second thought was, is it possible to bring everybody back together and have the event again? You know, sort of a do-over. Dessa, who I’m sure was thinking I was crazy by now, politely said that would not be possible.
Typically, I’m good about writing things down, so I can keep track of my schedule. It has been crazy busy lately, even more crazy than normal, but still, that’s no excuse for forgetting to cover an event.
So, the only thing I can attribute it to is, well, old age. I knew those senior moments would come in handy. Sort of like a mulligan in golf, right?
•••
Thanks to Jack Mohnhaupt and Shawn Luce for helping me out with photos from the fashion revue. You saved my you-know-what.
•••
The Northwest Pipeline project, which started in May, has been a boost to the Rangely economy.
“We’d be dead in the water without them here, with the tourist traffic this year it’s been slim pickin’s,” said Henry Hames, owner of Buck ‘N’ Bull RV Park and Campground and a member of the Rangely Lodging Tax Board.
But locals are wondering what will happen when the pipeline project is over and workers move on.
“I think it’s going to be very quiet,” Hames said. “I think we’ll go slow into the winter and be dead until spring.”
The pipeline project was expected to be completed in the fall. But word is the project is running ahead of schedule.
“They were originally hoping to be out of here by September, because they have a line starting in Fresno (Calif.) as soon as they finish this one,” Hames said. “What I’m hearing now is (the project) is two or three weeks ahead of schedule. So some of them may be leaving as early as the second or third week of August.”
Workers from Snelson Companies, the pipeline construction company, have filled most of the spots at local RV parks. But some businesses have benefitted more than others from the pipeline project.
“Some of the businesses have said they haven’t got much out of it,” Hames said. “But they’ve taken all of our full-hookup spaces, and even all of our 12 tent spaces have been taken up. For awhile there, we had everything filled.”
With hunting season right around the corner, local businesses traditionally count on that being another boost to the economy.
“We haven’t gotten that many reservations for hunting season,” Hames said. “I don’t know if they’re just waiting to the last minute. But we’ve had very few reservations compared to what we normally have. I’m not even getting inquiries about what’s available. Even if we don’t get the reservations, we usually get people calling to find out what’s available, but I haven’t even been getting those calls.”
Asked if he attributed the lack of calls to the economy, Hames said, “I’m not sure. I was up in Wyoming last week and I couldn’t even get a place (to park his RV). I stayed one night in an open field, because that was all that was available. From what I’ve seen in Wyoming, they’re going crazy, up and down that western corridor.”
Here’s hoping some of that “craziness” spreads to Northwest Colorado.
•••
On a more positive note, Enterprise is initiating an environmental assessment for a proposed Meeker Gas Plant expansion. A public meeting was held July 16 to talk about the expansion process.
“I can not speak to particulars as yet; they have just talked to us in concept at this point,” said Jeff Madison, Rio Blanco County planning director and natural resources specialist. “They are planning to build three more plants at the same site, what they call trains, to add to the two that are there. They have spent three years and approximately $950 million on the first two. I suspect they have learned some things about building in Colorado, so they should be able to trim time and cost on these some. They also will have some shared facilities, which should trim costs some. They peaked out at about 650 workers on the first two phases.
“If I had to guess, and that is all it would be at this point, I would say two to three years and $ 1.2 billion (for the proposed expansion),” Madison added. “Seems like a pretty big deal to me. Not bad for a county that is supposedly running away business.”
•••
The economy is having an impact on local hiring practices.
“The last couple of years, we’ve had budgeted positions for the county, but were were unable to fill the positions due to the high competition for labor,” said County Administrator Pat Hooker. “Now, with the economy being down a bit and more people looking for work, we’ve been able to fill some of those long-standing open positions. Currently, we’re close to being fully staffed within the county for the first time in quite awhile.”
However, county officials will pay close attention to the economy before committing to any new hires.
“Any hiring needs over the next several months will have to be reviewed and approved by the commissioners,” Hooker said. “We’ll be watching the workload, county/business activity, etc., closely to make sure the employment need is long term, before we commit to additional hiring.”
•••
I had someone tell me last week she had heard a human skelton was found tied to a pole with barbed wire in the Piceance Basin.
That was news to me. So I decided to check with Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Mike Joos.
“Back in the first part of June, a call was received of a skeleton tied to a tree in Piceance Creek,” Joos said. “Deputies responded to the call and upon arrival they did find a skeleton; however, it was hanging in a tree, not tied to it. The skeleton was that of an elk. End of story.”
I guess that’s how rumors get started.
•••
Congratulations to Lisa Pollard of Meeker, who recently passed her Ph.D. defense in American history at the University of Nebraska. Her focus is on the American West. She will officially receive her degree Aug. 14.
•••
Three-year-old Hailee Hernandez of Meeker has had three heart surgeries — two of them open-heart surgeries — in her young life.
Hailee had her first open-heart surgery when she was 8 days old. She had her second open-heart surgery July 12 at Children’s Hospital in Denver. The surgery lasted five and a half hours. She came home four days later.
“She’s doing wonderful,” said Hailee’s mom, Ruby.
Apparently, a buildup of scar tissue was not allowing blood to flow to Hailee’s heart. Doctors discovered the problem when they did a heart catheterization.
“We were just shocked, because we didn’t know anything was wrong with her,” Ruby said. “She’s like the Energizer bunny, all day long running around. But the doctors told me she was lucky to be alive.”
A benefit yard sale will be held Saturday at 815 Main St. in Meeker, with the money going toward Hailee’s medical expenses.
Nathan Smith, who works with Hailee’s dad, Chris, at Berry Bros., came up with the yard sale idea.
“I’ve been friends with Chris and Ruby since they moved out here,” Nathan said. “All of proceeds will go to help them out.”
•••
Barone Middle School parents will be glad to hear the Meeker School Board has approved the repaving of Bob Tucker Drive, which is the road leading to the middle school.
“The road has sorely needed a retrofit for some time,” said Mary Strang, school board president. “And thanks to some of the buyout savings on materials (for the school bond construction projects), we were able to include it in our project.”
Rotor milling of the old asphalt will begin Aug 10, with the repaving to begin a week later.
“The community will be mighty happy to know that this will be done before school starts,” Strang said. “It’s gotten so bad that it’s been suggested we needed to put up a sign that says, ‘four-wheel drive only.’”
Or, turn it into a rock crawling park.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.