Whether you've been to more fairs than a 4-H parent or you've never seen a steer in your life, a trip to Hayden should be on your must-do list this week.
The Routt County Fair runs through Sunday at the fairgrounds in Hayden.
Inside the gates of the fairgrounds, spectators will find many things: Entertainment for adults and children alike, a microcosm of Routt County's ranching industry and a cultural introduction to the area's rich rural heritage.
This year, organizers have worked particularly hard to make sure the fair offers more for its youngest spectators, giving parents more options for keeping their youngsters entertained between visits to the Exhibit Hall, the grandstands and the livestock shows.
Along with the ever-present chance to see pigs, cows, llamas, horses, rabbits and other animals up close, children now can enjoy a carnival offering a "Kiddy Corral" with a corn pit, duck pond, beanbag toss, mini-train rides and an inflatable castle. Abbie the Clown will provide roving entertainment for children as well as workshops (for all ages) on topics such as making balloon animals.
The fair also offers contests especially for children, such as the free pedal tractor pulls Saturday, or the catch-a-bunny, catch-a-calf and greased pig contests that follow the Ranch Rodeo on Sunday. For the most adventurous of pint-sized (or, technically speaking, 3- to 8-year-old, less than 70 pounds) cowboys and cowgirls, the TIC Mutton Bustin' also happens during the Ranch Rodeo. (Make note, parents: Entries for Mutton Bustin' are $5 and must be turned in at the fairgrounds by 5 p.m. today.)
And speaking of the Ranch Rodeo, the annual event gives spectators of all ages a tongue-in-cheek glimpse into the daily life of a rancher -- or at least some of its most potentially comical aspects. From wild-cow milking and team branding to trailer loading and steer doctoring, the event gives competitors a chance to show off their real-world skills in a setting that is bound to generate laughter from the grandstands.
For a slightly more serious look at the skills cowboys and their horses use in day-to-day work, check out Saturday morning's working ranch horse competition. It is one of several events added to the rodeo this year that is intended to entertain while educating spectators about ranching and livestock. For anyone who missed Monday's cattle dog trials, the Saturday horse competition will be another chance to see and appreciate the complex skills and responsibilities a rancher's four-legged helpers must master to help get the job done.
The Routt County Fair Board also has worked to ensure plenty of other entertainment to complement the traditional livestock and home-arts competitions. On almost any evening this week, spectators taking in the fair after a hard day at work can be guaranteed something to enjoy from the grandstands, whether it's tonight's local talent show, Friday's performance by the Front Range-based Westernaires precision mounted drill team, or Saturday's concert by 3-Wire, which will be followed by the annual Junior Livestock Sale and a barn dance that goes until 1 a.m.
Whatever your pleasure -- carnival rides, livestock shows, musical entertainment or traditional rodeo and riding events -- this year's fair offers something to amuse and instruct everyone.
For a complete schedule and specifics on each event, pick up a Routt County Fair Book, which is free and available at businesses and Routt County government offices in town.