Kayla Rossi clings to her lamb as she competes in the mutton bustin' competition at the Routt County Fair on Sunday.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Kayla Rossi clings to her lamb as she competes in the mutton bustin' competition at the Routt County Fair on Sunday.

Routt County Fair comes to a close

Mutton bustin’, ranch rodeo, home arts ribbons bring end to Routt County Fair

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— A ranch rodeo, ornery lambs, shaved ice and piles of prize ribbons brought an end to the 96th annual Routt County Fair on Sunday as locals and visitors gathered at the fairgrounds in Hayden in gorgeous late-summer weather marred only by a few gusty winds.

“The numbers are down a little bit, but our sponsorships are pretty good,” Routt County Fair Advisory Board member Don Hayes said about the weeklong fair. “The community involvement has really shined this year.”

Fairgrounds manager Jill Delay and Routt County extension agent Karen Massey seconded that notion, saying the down economy largely didn’t deter crowds who filled the grandstands for the demolition derby Friday night, for example, keeping spirits high and food vendors happy. The recession may have been reflected less on the rodeo grounds than in Exhibit Hall, where Massey said participants’ home arts contributions increased in categories such as crops — the most-contested category this year, with 208 entries — canning and home brewing.

“A lot of the things that increased in Exhibit Hall were practical things,” Massey said. “Those are going up.”

Massey and Linda Long, who long has presided over Exhibit Hall during the fair, said entries decreased this year in arts and crafts. Those more leisurely activities perhaps took a backseat to practicality. But the exception to that came from Routt County’s quilters, who submitted an all-time high of 87 entries, a highly visible part of the 1,243 total home arts entries this year. That’s down from 1,329 total entries last year, Delay said.

The best of all this year’s entries came from Steamboat’s Troy Allen, who won the “Superintendent’s Award” for “the most outstanding exhibit in the entire Exhibit Hall” with his welded, detailed sculpture of a horse created with floor nails.

Colorful quilts hung from rafters above that horse. They also adorned walls and were draped over tables Sunday.

“We continue to have the best quilt display there is,” Massey said.

Several of the quilt entries came from Jackie Grimaldi, of Steamboat Springs, who won this year’s Helen Sherrod Award for earning the most home arts ribbons at the fair. Grimaldi had no idea Sunday how many entries she submitted or how many ribbons she won. She entered categories including quilting, cookies, plants and embroidery.

“If something was finished, it came to the fair,” she said.

Long said the annual award honors Sherrod’s service as a local 4-H leader for 50 years, during which time she won “bushel baskets of ribbons” at Routt County fairs. Grimaldi was a fitting recipient of this year’s award — Sherrod was her mother.

“I’m probably going to take a purple ribbon up to the cemetery for her,” Grimaldi said.

Hangin’ on

Outside Exhibit Hall on Sunday afternoon, ropers and riders performed before half-filled grandstands in the Mountain Valley Bank Ranch Rodeo. The next generation of cowboys and cowgirls also got a taste of the chutes, as padded, helmeted children ages 3 to 7 took part in mutton bustin’. Twenty-one children signed up for a chance to hang on to running lambs as long as possible. Most lasted just a few seconds, as something in the wind had the lambs stirred up Sunday.

For Hayden resident Sam Mosciaro, 4, the event proved to be a learning experience. His mother, Cindy Mosciaro, said Sam’s been training for mutton bustin’ for about a year by climbing onto the family’s two Labradoodles, Hank and Tater, and riding them around the house while hanging onto their ears.

The real thing proved daunting Sunday. Sam initially protested — common sense might have kicked in — as his father, Joe Mosciaro, lowered him over a chute rail and onto an edgy lamb. But after a little coaxing, Sam decided to give it a go. He lasted a full four seconds on his lamb, earning hearty applause from those nearby and breaking into a smile as he posed for post-ride pictures with his father.

Earlier in the day, Sam’s sister, Ella, 2, won two $50 savings bonds — one for “most unhappy baby,” Cindy Mosciaro said, and the other for “closest resemblance between mother and daughter.” Ella’s morning moodiness was “nothing a nap couldn’t take care of,” Mosciaro said.

Hayden Congregational Church hosted a November fundraiser for Ella, who has a lesion on her brain that causes seizures. Cindy Mosciaro said Sunday that Ella is doing pretty good. But the family is moving next month to Kansas, where Cindy, a nurse, has been hired for a job that will provide full medical benefits for the family, including Ella.

It’ll be a bittersweet move.

“We’re going to miss this so much,” Cindy Mosciaro said Sunday at the fair. “The community is what makes a town. … We wanted to make sure we got one more fair in.”

The Routt County Fair has been a constant throughout the community’s ebb and flow for the past 96 years. Linda Long noted Sunday that she and the rest of the fair’s advisory board are meeting next month to brainstorm for the 100th fair, in 2014.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do for the 100th,” Long said about her plans for home arts in Exhibit Hall. “But it’s going to be really special.”

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