Fifth Annual Farm and Ranch Day in Fruita, Colo. |

Fifth Annual Farm and Ranch Day in Fruita, Colo.

Story by Margaret melloy guziak
Photos by Ray Guziak
Grand Junction, Colo.
Lunch crowd lined up and eating on hay bales.

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The first red robin on your lawn is traditionally the first sign of spring and signals the end of the cold weather everywhere, but NOT in Fruita, Colo. In Fruita, the Annual Farm and Ranch Day and free barbecue every March announces that winter is gone and another spring has arrived.

March in western Colorado was a strange month, yet it was typically “A spring time in the Rockies.” It went from the overnight snow storm that blew through here on March 3, to the warmer than average weather all winter. Today it was the brightest, sunshiny Saturday we have seen in a long time. March 31st was simply perfect, warm weather for the friendly crowd and the Coop staff as they hosted this spring’s “Celebration of Agriculture” once again, both inside and outside their store at 1650 Hwy 6 & 50 in Fruita.

It reminded me of the lyrics of 1972 hit, “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash:

Look all around you,

there’s nothing but blue skies,

Look straight ahead,

there’s nothing but blue skies.

I can see clearly now …

It is a bright, bright, sunshiny day.

It was just that kind of a day for the 5th year for Farm and Ranch Day at the Fruita Coop. Locals knew what to expect and weren’t disappointed. Neither were the “first timers” who came to take part in the agricultural event co-hosted by the CSU Extension Service and Coop Country/Ace Hardware store. In fact, thanks to Mark Liff, Fruita Coop’s PR person and the staff, this year’s was bigger and better than ever with over 40 booths, informative presentations and organized displays. Special demonstrations ranged from a blacksmith performing his craft by setting up, explaining and working his craft at the back of his pickup truck, to the wooly alpacas strutting around in circles, showing off their stuff to the delight of the gleeful crowd.

And there was something new: This year’s event had a passel of FFA students from FMHS volunteering to help all the little tots participating in the new Kids Construction Workshop, making free birdhouses from pre-cut pieces of new wood. For some of the little kids, it was their first time to hold a hammer, and they eagerly listened to the mentoring student at their elbow, learning how to hold and nail the pieces together themselves. When they finished and carried away their birdhouse, each child’s face glowed with the pride of accomplishment, a feeling akin to hitting a home run for the first time.

Sutherland’s donated the wood to FFA for the new birdhouse project. The FFA students designed the logo “F&A 2012” emblazoned onto the front of each birdhouse. Some helped set up the booths, while other FFA students manned a Bake Sale Table with money earned from the homemade baked goods going into their FFA treasury. Fruita Monument High School is in the only high school in School District 51 that has a Future Farmers of America Club. The local FFA students with Ryan Hudson, the AG Education Instructor and FFA Advisor at FMHS should be congratulated for the enthusiasm, pride and spirit they always show in their work in the community, including helping the participants setting up their displays on this brilliant Saturday morning.

Inside the Coop, presentations included: “Gardening – Vegetables and Stuff'” and “Canning from A to Z” by CSU Extension. Kelly Sutherlin with Ranch-Way Feeds talked about “Backyard Chickens.” There was easy access to the classes inside. Near the ramp behind the smoking barbecue Coop workers, volunteers, and Mary Lou Wilson, a western slope Project Planner for Vivax Pro Painting, cooked and served hamburgers and hot dogs for the free lunch BBQ offered every year. Nearby hay bales were strung out for easy seating next to tables holding the condiments, lemonade, and iced tea.

Some of the more than 40 tented displays were manned by persons from The Museum of Western Colorado, the Colorado National Monument, Leah & Dan Reynolds with their Horse Mountain Alpacas were joined by another Alpaca rancher, the Colorado Division of Wildlife exhibit. The gals with “Call Before you Dig” stood in front of their booth for a picture. We stopped at the Friends of the Wild Mustangs, and spotted teen Josie Gilbert lying backwards atop her own gentle mustang. It was a perfect picture for this glowing, fresh spring day. Her mother, Georgia, President of the Club who owns another three mustangs, stood nearby.

We chatted with Shirleen Hutton, President of the Absolute Prestige Limo Service LLC who proudly displayed one of their many stretch limos, while today, she and husband Jim offered free rides aboard their horse-drawn carriage to everyone touring the Farm and Ranch Day scene. Shirleen, this pretty and intelligent blonde, is a farm girl from Loma, Colo. Born and raised in Loma, their business is recognized as one of the best of its kind. It is currently available to locals and to the tourist industry. Their motto is “We make any occasion a special occasion.” Go to their website to see what they have to offer. (

So, spring has officially arrived on the western slope. Spring is another chance at whatever life throws you. It is a new beginning and a return to optimism. It is a joyous feeling of knowing that whatever and whenever you plant, things will grow. It is a return to happy times coming soon at small town festivals. Here’s to more happy days ahead for us all.

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