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Everyone in Weld has a story to tell

Kitty Michelotti-Glaser
Fence Post Staff Reporter

For 358 days a year they go about their daily routines. Weld County residents wake up, brush their teeth, do a few chores, head off to work or school, return home and get ready to do it again the next day. But for one fabulous week in July Weld County’s talents, hard work, and education come crashing together to form the Weld County Fair.

Each one of those individuals who have spent months preparing for that one week has a story to tell. Each person has their own routine, their own hopes and thoughts but they all have a love for the Fair in common. From age 7 to 70, from the newest Boy Scout to the most experienced 4-H’er, from “Sheri” to “Scar” everyone has a story, and I did my best to find them this year.

From the time the gates swung open, it was evident that this year’s Fair was going to be a little different. Each day had a theme, and there was entertainment to be found everywhere. On “Baby Boomers” or Senior Day, special events took place all day long to celebrate seniors. The Ackerman Family Band (pictured to the left), a Bluegrass band based out of Pueblo West, Colo., was one of the first acts. With dad, Randy on base, older brother, Aaron on fiddle, Jeremy on guitar and youngest, Rebekah singing, the family band transported its audience to a simpler time of family gatherings and easy laughter. They encouraged laughter with their banjo jokes. “Banjo jokes,” said Aaron, “are kind of like blond jokes.” For instance; “what’s the difference between a banjo and a trampoline?” Aaron asked Jeremy. “You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline!” (Cue drum and cymbals.)

Mom, or Sheri Ackerman, is the band’s manager and keeps them all organized while on the road (and at home). “Instead of video games, our house is full of music” she said. As far as how they got their start, “it just kind of happened,” she said. At age 9 Aaron began to fiddle, then moved onto the guitar. One day the family was thrown up on stage, and the rest is history. “It keeps the kids out of trouble, and they do well in school,” said Sheri. She did mention that it can sometimes be a challenge because the kids would rather play music than anything else. I wonder how things get done around the house!

Not far from where the Ackerman’s were packing up to head home, the rabbit barn was full of activity. Abbie Van Riper, a 5-year-old from the Wagoneers 4-H club was checking on her two rabbits Chloe and Clyde (see bottom photo on the previous page) when I asked what she fed them. She eagerly told me, “sunflower seeds for their coats!” They also get mixed rabbit food, but that’s not nearly as exciting. Abbie loves her rabbits because she “can hold them and they are fun to play with,” but she finds it challenging to take care of two of them because “their pens are messy.”

Spoken like a very responsible little girl indeed.

Just west of the rabbits were some equally cuddly, and messy critters. The pigs were enjoying the air conditioned building, but I could hear that the ones receiving their baths were not quite as thrilled. Seth Barkey, with the help of his dad, was attempting to wash a pig. The two of them were struggling to soap the critter that was only too happy not to cooperate. They would approach from one side and the animal would run to the other side of the pen. With hose in one hand, and soap bottle in the other, it was more of an aim-in-the-general-direction-and-squeeze thing. Then dad would scrub as best he could, and Seth would rinse, being very careful not to get any water in the pig’s ears. (Pictured above to the right.)

By the time they were done, Seth and his dad were soaked from the waist down, but the pig was glowing. After so much effort I had to know the story behind this boy’s love for his pig. Much to my surprise, this wasn’t Seth’s pig at all! It was his brother’s pig, but Seth was helping him out by giving the pig a bath because his brother was busy fitting his heifer. Seth’s own pig had died, so he wasn’t able to show at the Fair, but that didn’t seem to slow him down in the least. Seth was much more concerned with helping his brother than with his own misfortune. As Seth and dad left to find some dry pants, I couldn’t help but smile at the maturity and positive attitude that Seth displayed.

I was still smiling when I came upon a sight that made be laugh out loud. Jonathan Dilka (pictured to the right) was taking his turkey for a walk and introducing him to a little toddler who was dwarfed next to the giant bird. Aptly named, Big Boy was the largest turkey at the Weld County Fair. Weighing in at 41 pounds the turkey was a very gentle giant. Jonathan took Big Boy for walks every day at home, so the animal was accustomed to being out and was also very good with kids!

This was Johnathan’s first year showing turkeys. He had become interested when his friends showed turkeys, “I liked them right off,” he said. He genuinely enjoyed everything involved with owning and raising Big Boy. “I like walking, feeding and bathing him.” Having never bathed a turkey myself I asked him about the process. Jonathan told me you can put the turkey into a bucket and pour lukewarm water over them. They can get cold easily because their feathers absorb water. You also have to be careful not to get it on their heads or in their beaks because if they look up the water will get into their lungs and they will drown. That’s also the reason all poultry need roofs over their heads ” so when it rains they don’t look up and drown. For a first-year turkey man, Jonathan certainly knew his stuff.

My head still swimming with bird-knowledge, I meandered over to the sheep. Sweet, simple creatures, or so I thought until I met Caitlin McDonald and her flock of California Variegated Mutant or CVM sheep, and her Colored Romnedales. (Pictured above to the left.) Caitlin was only too happy to show me Zip, her Champion Overall Breeding Ram.

Zip, I came to find out, was a rare ram indeed. His coloring was a light coffee brown, but in the sheep world it’s called morrett color and is very rare. Zip is the herd sire even though he’s only 6 months old. Both the CVMs and the Colored Romnedale sheep are wool breeds. Caitlin also shows Southdown sheep, but she got into the wool breeds because her mom is a spinner and was attracted to the beautiful fleeces.

“It’s so hard to keep stuff out of their wool. They’re blanketed 24-7,” said Caitlin. Each sheep goes through about two blankets a year because they wear them so often, and get them caught on things. Some sheep make a game of trying to get their blankets off, especially when they don’t fit exactly. Selling the fleece covers the cost of the blankets, and will help to send Caitlin to college.

For 358 days a year they go about their daily routines. Weld County residents wake up, brush their teeth, do a few chores, head off to work or school, return home and get ready to do it again the next day. But for one fabulous week in July Weld County’s talents, hard work, and education come crashing together to form the Weld County Fair.

Each one of those individuals who have spent months preparing for that one week has a story to tell. Each person has their own routine, their own hopes and thoughts but they all have a love for the Fair in common. From age 7 to 70, from the newest Boy Scout to the most experienced 4-H’er, from “Sheri” to “Scar” everyone has a story, and I did my best to find them this year.

From the time the gates swung open, it was evident that this year’s Fair was going to be a little different. Each day had a theme, and there was entertainment to be found everywhere. On “Baby Boomers” or Senior Day, special events took place all day long to celebrate seniors. The Ackerman Family Band (pictured to the left), a Bluegrass band based out of Pueblo West, Colo., was one of the first acts. With dad, Randy on base, older brother, Aaron on fiddle, Jeremy on guitar and youngest, Rebekah singing, the family band transported its audience to a simpler time of family gatherings and easy laughter. They encouraged laughter with their banjo jokes. “Banjo jokes,” said Aaron, “are kind of like blond jokes.” For instance; “what’s the difference between a banjo and a trampoline?” Aaron asked Jeremy. “You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline!” (Cue drum and cymbals.)

Mom, or Sheri Ackerman, is the band’s manager and keeps them all organized while on the road (and at home). “Instead of video games, our house is full of music” she said. As far as how they got their start, “it just kind of happened,” she said. At age 9 Aaron began to fiddle, then moved onto the guitar. One day the family was thrown up on stage, and the rest is history. “It keeps the kids out of trouble, and they do well in school,” said Sheri. She did mention that it can sometimes be a challenge because the kids would rather play music than anything else. I wonder how things get done around the house!

Not far from where the Ackerman’s were packing up to head home, the rabbit barn was full of activity. Abbie Van Riper, a 5-year-old from the Wagoneers 4-H club was checking on her two rabbits Chloe and Clyde (see bottom photo on the previous page) when I asked what she fed them. She eagerly told me, “sunflower seeds for their coats!” They also get mixed rabbit food, but that’s not nearly as exciting. Abbie loves her rabbits because she “can hold them and they are fun to play with,” but she finds it challenging to take care of two of them because “their pens are messy.”

Spoken like a very responsible little girl indeed.

Just west of the rabbits were some equally cuddly, and messy critters. The pigs were enjoying the air conditioned building, but I could hear that the ones receiving their baths were not quite as thrilled. Seth Barkey, with the help of his dad, was attempting to wash a pig. The two of them were struggling to soap the critter that was only too happy not to cooperate. They would approach from one side and the animal would run to the other side of the pen. With hose in one hand, and soap bottle in the other, it was more of an aim-in-the-general-direction-and-squeeze thing. Then dad would scrub as best he could, and Seth would rinse, being very careful not to get any water in the pig’s ears. (Pictured above to the right.)

By the time they were done, Seth and his dad were soaked from the waist down, but the pig was glowing. After so much effort I had to know the story behind this boy’s love for his pig. Much to my surprise, this wasn’t Seth’s pig at all! It was his brother’s pig, but Seth was helping him out by giving the pig a bath because his brother was busy fitting his heifer. Seth’s own pig had died, so he wasn’t able to show at the Fair, but that didn’t seem to slow him down in the least. Seth was much more concerned with helping his brother than with his own misfortune. As Seth and dad left to find some dry pants, I couldn’t help but smile at the maturity and positive attitude that Seth displayed.

I was still smiling when I came upon a sight that made be laugh out loud. Jonathan Dilka (pictured to the right) was taking his turkey for a walk and introducing him to a little toddler who was dwarfed next to the giant bird. Aptly named, Big Boy was the largest turkey at the Weld County Fair. Weighing in at 41 pounds the turkey was a very gentle giant. Jonathan took Big Boy for walks every day at home, so the animal was accustomed to being out and was also very good with kids!

This was Johnathan’s first year showing turkeys. He had become interested when his friends showed turkeys, “I liked them right off,” he said. He genuinely enjoyed everything involved with owning and raising Big Boy. “I like walking, feeding and bathing him.” Having never bathed a turkey myself I asked him about the process. Jonathan told me you can put the turkey into a bucket and pour lukewarm water over them. They can get cold easily because their feathers absorb water. You also have to be careful not to get it on their heads or in their beaks because if they look up the water will get into their lungs and they will drown. That’s also the reason all poultry need roofs over their heads ” so when it rains they don’t look up and drown. For a first-year turkey man, Jonathan certainly knew his stuff.

My head still swimming with bird-knowledge, I meandered over to the sheep. Sweet, simple creatures, or so I thought until I met Caitlin McDonald and her flock of California Variegated Mutant or CVM sheep, and her Colored Romnedales. (Pictured above to the left.) Caitlin was only too happy to show me Zip, her Champion Overall Breeding Ram.

Zip, I came to find out, was a rare ram indeed. His coloring was a light coffee brown, but in the sheep world it’s called morrett color and is very rare. Zip is the herd sire even though he’s only 6 months old. Both the CVMs and the Colored Romnedale sheep are wool breeds. Caitlin also shows Southdown sheep, but she got into the wool breeds because her mom is a spinner and was attracted to the beautiful fleeces.

“It’s so hard to keep stuff out of their wool. They’re blanketed 24-7,” said Caitlin. Each sheep goes through about two blankets a year because they wear them so often, and get them caught on things. Some sheep make a game of trying to get their blankets off, especially when they don’t fit exactly. Selling the fleece covers the cost of the blankets, and will help to send Caitlin to college.


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