Sam Shaffer, 13, grooms his 1,164-pound steer, Bud, on Friday at the Routt County Fair in Hayden.

Photo by Scott Franz

Sam Shaffer, 13, grooms his 1,164-pound steer, Bud, on Friday at the Routt County Fair in Hayden.

Beef showmanship a family tradition at Routt County Fair

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Ryan Fralick washes her steer, Monster, on Friday at the Routt County Fair in Hayden.

If you go

See a complete Routt County Fair schedule here.

Livestock sale Saturday

Routt County 4-Hers will say goodbye to their livestock and hopefully earn some cash for college funds and other endeavors at 5:30 p.m. Saturday when the Routt County Fair holds its annual Junior Livestock Sale. About 120 animals were sold in the sale last year. The event marks the end of a lot of hard work for children ages 8 to 18. The average price for a steer last year was $3,215.

— There are many hair products that can be applied to a 1,200 pound steer, Jessica Rossi explained as she finished grooming her own steer, Earl, on Friday in a warm and smelly arena at the Routt County Fair in Hayden.

Around her, other teenagers were using shears, blow dryers and combs on the heavy livestock as the animals mustered an occasional “mooooooo.”

Everyone has their own routine.

All of this, of course, came after the steers were given a shower outside.

In a few hours, Rossi and other 4-H'ers would walk the steers and an occasional heifer into a pen in front of a crowd during the fair's beef showmanship event as a judge quizzed them and gauged how well they've raised the animal.

The work leading up to the big day is intense, but it's almost like clockwork for the youths.

Get up at 7 a.m.

Put the steer in the barn.

It doesn't matter if it's 40 below zero outside.

Witnessing only the final preparations on fair day is to gloss over nearly a year of work that started when the steers weighed about 500 to 600 pounds.

But the youths love it.

“I was just raised that way,” Rossi explains. “I want to take over my family's ranch someday.”

She said her three sisters and her cousin — who all have lived on the family ranch near Yampa — do, too.

“We're competitive,” she added.

Walk down the line of youths shearing steers at the county fair, and you're sure to find their family members who also have shown steers not too far away.

Their parents and their grandparents did, too.

Beef showmanship is a multigenerational tradition for many families in Routt County.

Jessica Rossi and her three sisters — Sarajane, Josie and Ceanna — started raising steers for the fair when they turned 8 years old.

It's similar for other families.

In another corner of the indoor arena, 17-year-old Brandon Yeager prepared to show his own 1,154-pound steer, Jack.

His father, Shane, was there for Brandon's ninth county fair. His older sister, Shealynne, finished 4-H last year and now is a beef superintendent. The Yeagers have been involved in the fair since at least the 1920s, Shane Yeager said.

“It really gives you a lot of responsibilities and teaches you good work ethic,” Brandon Yeager said.

The count fair continues all day Saturday and Sunday.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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