When I was growing up I was very active in 4-H in Richland County, Ohio. Every year we had the Richland County Fair and I always looked forward to it. I could see my 4-H friends from all over the county, get my projects judged, and win lots of blue ribbons and some other awards.
Tom and I still like to go to County Fairs and we attend whenever we can, wherever we are. Several of the rangers here at Fort Union live in Sydney, Montana, and Ranger Leif has kids in the Richland County 4-H. When he told us the fair was coming up, Tom and I made plans to go.
We had a wonderful time at the Richland County Fair in Sydney, Montana. The fair ran from Tuesday through Saturday and we went on Wednesday. The 4-H judging was Tuesday, so we missed that, but we were able to see the results of the judging.
We arrived at the fair early in the morning. Sydney is an hour earlier than we are (Mountain time vs Central time). We didn’t realize the fair opened at 10 and we got there close to 8 a.m. There weren’t any signs about times and the gates were open, so we just walked in. None of the food booths were open and most of the buildings were still closed, but we could hear a loudspeaker coming from the grandstand, so we headed in that direction.
Turns out they were having qualifying rounds for the rodeo that would be held on Friday night – the biggest event of the fair. Tom and I have never been to a rodeo so we sat down and watched the team calf roping and barrel racing. The calf roping was particularly interesting. The calf would shoot out of its corral with two men on horses chasing it. One man would lasso the horns, jerking the calf in the opposite direction, which made its back legs rise up. The other man was supposed to lasso the back legs at that instant. When they did it, it was a beautiful example of teamwork. About half the teams were able to complete the task. Some of the men who were supposed to lasso the back legs missed and some of the men who were supposed to lasso the horns missed. It was really interesting to watch. I can’t even throw a lasso, much less catch anything with it!
Barrel racing is a women’s sport. The horses and riders, going at full speed, are supposed to make tight turns around barrels. They are timed and penalized if they knock a barrel over. We didn’t find it as fascinating as the calf roping, but it was still quite impressive to see how fast those big horses could maneuver around the small ring.
When the barrel racing qualifying rounds were over, Tom and I wandered over to the 4-H showmanship ring where kids were showing their animals. Ranger Leif’s kids have hogs, so we were particularly interested in watching the hogs. Showmanship for hogs generally means getting your pig to stay out of corners and not fight with other pigs. They don’t try to get the hogs to stay in one place. Watching the small kids try to get their hogs to move was fun. We also watched some dairy cow showmanship and sheep showmanship. The dairy cows were the best behaved. We really appreciated the judge because he took his time to talk to each young person and explain what he liked and what he wanted them to work on.
We met up with the Halvorson’s after showmanship and they took us into the hog barn. Unlike other county fairs, we couldn’t just wander around and look at the big livestock. The chickens and rabbits were sitting out, but the other barns were restricted. We admired the Halvorson hogs and looked at some sheep and llamas that shared the same barn. The Richland County Fairboard had just built new barns and everyone was really enjoying the new accommodations.
We left the Halvorsons to get some lunch since the food booths were finally open. It didn’t take us long to check out all the offerings. We looked closely at the United Methodist booth (hamburgers) and the Sons of Norway booth (breaded meatballs). I decided on a corndog, which was fresh, hot, and delicious. Tom had a cheeseburger at the Little League booth. We couldn’t find any good desserts, although we looked really hard.
We went through the 4-H building and then checked out the various crafts and foods in the general building. The only things that had lots of entries were paintings and photographs. Ranger Leif entered some home-brewed beer and mead and was the only entrant in both categories. So he won the blue ribbon for both!
Finally, we walked through the Vendor building, which was an odd collection of things. There were massaging recliners, water filters, leather purses, homemade soaps, and a mattress company. The mattress salesman was lying on one of the beds. He invited us to join him, but we turned him down. In the corner, right before we left the building, we found Allison’s Cookie Jar. Allison had lots of cookies out for sale. Tom got a half dozen chocolate chip cookies and I got a 4-H sugar cookie. Allison is a farm wife who bakes cookies in her kitchen. She does lots of custom decoration of sugar cookies. Tom loved her chocolate chip cookies and we might have to order some before we leave North Dakota.
As Tom and I were leaving, the ticket booth was finally open. We paid our entrance fee as we walked out. The ladies there told us we didn’t need to, but we like supporting county fairs. Besides, it was only $2 per person.
Tom and I had a wonderful morning at the Richland County Fair. It was fun to attend a county fair with the same name as the one where I grew up. Although it was smaller, it still had the same community feel that goes with any county fair.