at the fair
Kids get lessons, adults get competitive
Few things say county fair like horse shows and rodeos, and Marion County’s 87th annual fair has both.
The 4-H horse show Sunday gave kids opportunities to put their horses through a series of trials that demonstrated handling and showmanship.
It also was a time for learning as judge Stetson Schmutz of Salina took time to orally critique each entrant and give tips on what they should work on for next year. He also talked to the crowd about what he looks for when judging.
“I’ve known him since he was a 4-Her,” county extension agent Rickey Roberts said. “The county fair is meant to be educational, not just competitive. Certainly the horse show was that way. He made it very educational.”
However, fewer kids benefited than in some years. Roberts had just 10 competing, none in the senior division.
“I’m out of them,” he said.
Monday and Tuesday, it was time for adults to invade the ring for a co-ed ranch rodeo.
Organizer Edy Jost said she switched to having a co-ed rodeo four years ago because it was getting harder to recruit enough teams for a women’s ranch rodeo.
She turned away 13 co-ed teams from last year’s one-day event, so hoping to accommodate more, the rodeo was expanded to two days.
However, timing affected turnout this year, she said.
“A lot of guys have to be up at 4:30 in the morning and get their ponies out to ship cattle,” Jost said. “You have this kind of heat out there, and that doesn’t want to make you want to go out and play in the evening.”
Eight teams competed in four events Monday, and five teams were signed up for Tuesday. Top teams in each event win cash prizes, as does the overall best team.
While competition inside the arena is fierce, a family-like atmosphere prevails outside. One of the highlight for Jost is giving kids rides after competition has concluded.
“I had probably 10 to 12 kids after the rodeo last night for about an hour,” she said. “That’s how we get them hooked. Not all of them are cowboy families.”
Jost likes giving ranch women a chance to compete with men.
“There are a lot of good women ropers out there, and they can jump in and help,” she said. “Usually it’s dads that are doing the rodeoing and mom and the kids sitting on the side cheering. Mom gets a chance to get off the ranch and get in there and enjoy herself.”
Events are based on typical ranch activities, including culling, roping, tying, loading a trailer, and mock branding with a powder-laced iron.
“Most everybody loves the branding,” Jost said. “That’s my favorite event. It’s fun to get them thrown down and get them tied and then cheer on the person running with the branding iron.”
Events and exhibitions will continue through Sunday at the fairgrounds in Hillsboro.