'Stars' offer guided tour of agricultural heritage

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— This year, when Steamboat residents take a free Alpine Taxi shuttle to the Routt County Fair in Hayden, they may be sitting next to a star. An agricultural star that is.
With help from the Community Agriculture Alliance, and depending on whether everyone gets their hay up in time, a longtime rancher or someone historically associated with agriculture in Routt County is going to be on each ride to Hayden.
The project is called A Wagon Full of Stars. Participating ranchers will visit with the shuttle riders and share the history and the current issues of agriculture in the Yampa Valley.
"This is a cultural program offered to residents and visitors of the Yampa Valley," Agricultural Alliance Executive Director Ellen Stein said. "One of our organizational goals is to raise awareness to agriculture."
To further support the mission, when the patrons arrive at the fair, they will have the option of getting a tour of the fairgrounds with a 4-H member acting as guide.
"They will also tell people about their experience with being involved with 4-H," Stein said.
Ag Alliance member Jo Stanko is organizing the ride-along ranchers, but admitted that it has been difficult to get people because it's hay season.
"Most years it wouldn't be so bad, but this is such a low year for hay that we got to get every little bit of it," she said.
However, Stanko promised that someone will be found to do the job.
So far, locals Bill Baldwin and Kay Wagner have agreed to be tour guides. Others have expressed interest but haven't committed yet.
While offering a perspective on ranching in the Yampa Valley by someone who knows the business first-hand, the free rides to the fair are, by themselves, an important service, Stanko said.
"We thought it would be a good way to get people down to the fair," she said.
Stanko hopes to get as many people to go to the fair this year as possible to see all the arts, crafts and food displayed. It could inspire those observers to enter something themselves next year.
The rides to the fair will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, just in time for the fair's headlining event, an evening performance from famous cowboy poet Baxter Black.
The next rides are at 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday to go to the wine- and beer-tasting competitions and the Ranch Rodeo.
On Saturday, there's a 9 a.m. ride to the parade, an 11 a.m. ride to the rodeo, a noon ride for roping events and 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. rides to the horse races and 4-H barbecue.
Anyone interested should be at the Soda Creek Mercantile parking lot a little before the shuttle leaves. There is parking at the Wells Fargo Bank.
"It's entertainment and education," Stanko said of the trip.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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