Long-awaited Routt County Fair week begins Monday in Hayden | SteamboatToday.com

Long-awaited Routt County Fair week begins Monday in Hayden

The few pigs already in their pens were lonely Sunday

— Despite friends Butterball and Rosebud in the adjacent pen, it was a lonely existence Sunday for Artemis Fowl and Captain Holly Short.

The four-some, the pigs of Greta Thurston, 13, and her sister, Leona Thurston, 11, accounted for almost all the noise in the cavernous display barn at the Routt County Fairgrounds. A sea of empty pens surrounded them, the barn's quiet blanketing them.

That will all change Monday as they're joined by enough farm livestock to fill a zoo. The Routt County Fair got underway during the weekend with several horse shows, but it begins in earnest today, running throughout the week.

For many agricultural-minded children from across the county, Monday marks the end of a long journey of raising an animal, the end of a short but hectic few days of final preparations and the start of one final hectic week that stands as summer's last hurrah.

The 4-H livestock often spends as much as a year with families, steers often being raised starting in the fall. The Thurston's swine joined the family in the spring and made for plenty of early mornings and long days.

"You start getting ready for the fair right when you get your pigs," Leona said. "You start socializing them and walking them."

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That meant 5:45 a.m. wake-up calls from Dad for some chores before school, then sometimes several hours in the evening, walking the swine to help the animals stay lean and learn to work with their handler.

A month out, more detailed preparations begin, and in the final week, everything begins to come into focus. The pigs are washed regularly and lotioned to ensure they're looking their best when it matters the most.

"You start ordering fancy shampoo and stuff," Leona said. "Then we were packing everything up and I couldn't find my show pig stick."

And that's only part of it. The Thurston's also participate in horse, vet science, rabbit and chicken events.

"The fair is a lot of late nights and early mornings," Greta said. "The horse shows start at 8 a.m., so you have to wake up at 6. Then you're staying up late getting your next animal ready and your horse ready again for the next day.

"It's crazy, but it's a lot of fun."

The fairgrounds underwent its final preparations this weekend, and on Sunday the exhibit hall was set up, waiting for the coming mountains of crafts. The livestock areas were cleaned and the show arena set up.

The 4-Hers themselves were going through some of their final preparations, washing animals and looking ahead to the looming week.

Action begins at 8 a.m. Monday with a horse show and continues at 9 a.m. with a dog show. A 3 p.m. English horse show starts the action in the afternoon, and the day's schedule wraps up with a 6 p.m. gymkhana event.

While Sammy Koepfer, 14, washed her pig Sunday, she explained that she named the pig Chewy not because she someday may be bacon, but because she tends to munch on everything. Sammy traveled every day to the farm where Chewy was kept, 10 miles away, to walk and train her animal.

It was hard, Sammy admitted, but Sunday on the eve of the fair, it seemed worth it.

"It's stressful," she said, "but once you get here, it's the best. I wait all year for this week."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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