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The 2016 edition of the Rio Blanco County Fair is over. That is a mixed blessing because the event is fun to cover, but not a lot of fun to follow up on.
It is fun to cover because these kids of all ages work their little hearts out to prepare their entries, be it for a livestock event, photography, floriculture, painting, fashion, rodeoing, baking, canning, making dioramas, growing vegetables and a lot more.
These kids entering the fair can range in age from single digits up into their 70s and 80s, and each entrant, it is obvious, has put all they had into their work.
On the other hand, it is tough to follow up three intense days and 600 photos later.
You don’t want to miss a single event, which is sometimes tough, but when it comes down to selecting roughly 30 to 40 photos to published in the paper, it takes hours and hours to look at every electronic frame to decide which person’s photo or exhibit or animal should be in the newspaper.
It would be easy to fill the paper if you just stuck with the familiar 4-H and FFA names like Collins, Lapp, Shults, Franklin, Turner, Kennedy, Walsh, Allred, etc., but there are so many other participants from both ends of Rio Blanco County that you have to find a variety of entrants to feature.
You can’t possibly cover them all. And it is easy to feel sad about that because nearly every entrant put everything they had into the fair, and it is too bad that some don’t get their photos in the newspaper.
There are so many fun contests such as the rabbit chase and the Rio Blanco County’s Got Talent 4-H Talent Show and 4-H Fashion Show, the Pet Rock Contest, the Cloverbud Show and Tell and the Lil’ Buckaroo Rodeo.
If anyone thinks that Lil’ Buckaroo Rodeo is just a bunch of young kids messing around with small animals and no one gets hurt, you haven’t seen a real Lil’ Buckaroo Rodeo around here. These boys and girls play serious rodeo games and injuries are not uncommon.
And the rabbit chase is about as heartwarming as it gets. This is for the little kids and is a chance for about 10 kids at one time to get into a chicken wire enclosure about 12 feet across. When the kids get into place, about 15 rabbits are turned loose, and, if they are caught by the kids, the kids get to keep them. This goes for about three or four young age groups.
The youngest group was 3- to 4-year olds, and it is hysterical to watch some of the bolder kids jump right on a big old rabbit. For those not so bold, it is heartwarming to watch these kids try to sneak up on a rabbit because they want to grab it by surprise—which doesn’t really happen.
All kids who enter get a live rabbit, but it is easy to see those who are bold and who will get out and play with their rabbits and those who have shock and terror in their hearts as adults have to help them corner and capture even a tiny lop-ear.
It is equally fun to listen to the quilters brag about their quilts as though they had just prepared the emperor’s clothes.
Women can be terribly catty, I confirmed for my fourth year at the Rio Blanco Fair. If you quietly listen to the women who didn’t claim best of show or champion ribbons, you could probably find all out all the dirt on your neighbor ladies who weren’t in the exhibit hall at the same time.
I also get kick out of the old timers—the good ol’ boys who use the fair as just an excuse to get together with their years-long buddies, talking mostly this year about the Republicans—it got heated a few times. I didn’t know either one of the gents in one heated conversation between obviously long-raised Republicans.
One honestly took after the other with quite expletive language because the other said he just couldn’t support Trump this year, because “Trump is crazy. Anyone who would vote for him is an idiot who doesn’t know or care what happens to our country.”
The other fellow let it fly with a small deluge of his own expletives referring to Hillary and all the other Clintons going back, it seemed, until the turn of the century.
I also get a kick out of the “city folks” although there are not a significant number of them on hand at a small rural fair.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard the four-letter word for fecal material when it came into contact with one’s shoes, I absolutely could retire—in style.
Already signs are starting to appear on the various businesses welcoming the hunters to Rio Blanco County.
It’s getting close to that time again.
While the archery season opens in about a couple of weeks, that hunt will be followed by four rifle hunts and run until the middle of November.
It seems like the archery season just isn’t as busy as the remainder of the hunts, but if that is true, it s a bit of a shame because I have seen a lot of nice deer this year—other than in downtown Meeker—in all directions from Meeker at least.
What the hunters do for the coffers of Meeker and Rangely is nearly invaluable. You can’t put a true dollar value on it, which I am sure is the millions.
But those who enjoyed it last year are probably back this year and maybe will be bringing some friends. And so the cycle goes, growing and growing each year and adding more to the towns’ coffers each year.
The hunters stay at hotels, eat at our local restaurants or even stay at one of the lodges outside of town and pay for guided hunts. They come into town for a drink or two or to buy some booze or they stop by the various businesses in the towns and buy tools, souvenirs to take home and invariably buy gas and oil for their trucks and four-wheelers.
When they have a good time, everyone they come in contact with at home knows what a great place Rio Blanco County can be. When they are met by a bunch of surly folks who act like they don’t want to be bothered, you can bet those friends and neighbors back home will hear that too! And there is a good likelihood that the original hunters won’t be back, nor, obviously, will their friends.
While living in Aspen in the mid 1970s, it was a daily practice to make fun of the “snowbirds” from Denver or Dallas or California and as far away as Florida and the Carolinas.
There was no mistaking the fact that on a daily basis they didn’t fit into the Aspen “culture.” No. 1, they didn’t know how to drive. No. 2, they did treat the employees with a bit less respect because they didn’t have the kind of money that some person for Dallas might have had. They just figured that the locals were slaves, and it got pretty tiring, even though they often asked for it, for them to battle the locals, and that caused some of the tourists to not return and some of the good employees to not return.
But then, the last winter I was in Aspen, ironically, the town started taking on the attitude that they shouldn’t ignore the visiting jerks because they were, after all, the ones paying the salaries of the employees in Aspen.
That last year I was there, it truly was a better experience for everyone.
The tourists were allowed their obnoxious quirks without any major problems and the employees learned that the tips and business improved when the employees treated the “snowbirds” a bit better.
Such it is in li’l ol’ Rio Blanco County. These hunters are spending a lot of money to come out here on a three-to-five-day hunt. They want to kick up their heels a bit, but if we make them feel welcome, they will enjoy it more, those folks in Rio Blanco County will enjoy it more and the entire circle continues to grow.
It means more and more money in the pockets of our family, our friends and our neighbors who rely on the hunters and other winter outdoorsmen and women who visit our town.
Let’s make these hunters most welcome. In more than one way, it will likely pay off.
It is also the time of year to urge caution on the part of motorists all over Rio Blanco County as school gets ready to kick in again across the county.
More students will be walking sidewalks and crossing streets, more students will be riding their bicycles to school, more parents will be driving to deliver their children to the schools, and there will even be more students driving to the high schools and to Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Nothing is more devastating than injuring a child, or worse, and it is something one never gets over.
Nothing on earth is worth the extra speed used to get to school or even to work two minutes early, and injuring a child, having an accident with a student or even hitting mom, who is on her way to or from school.
Slow down a little bit, take a little more time and please pay more attention at crosswalks all over town.