New residents feel at home at the Larimer County Fair

We’ve all heard the stories.

Some of you may even have personally experienced the newcomer that moves here from another state and immediately starts complaining and wants to change the lifestyle of Colorado.

They move to the country for a “simpler” lifestyle, but then bellyache about the combine that has traffic slowed on “their” road to work.

Perhaps they complain about the tractors that wake them up at 5 a.m.

Or maybe, it’s that “horrible” smell that is coming from that “disgusting” feedlot up the road that could not possibly have been there when they bought the house.

Then there are people who come here and appreciate what Colorado has to offer.

Stephan and Kelly Laffey made the move to Colorado a couple of years ago.

Stephen Laffey grew up in Cranston, R.I., and after an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate, Laffey decided that a fresh start was in order and made the choice to move from Rhode Island to Colorado.

“We picked Fort Collins because we thought it would be a good place to raise children,” Laffey said.

The Laffey family includes five children; 17-year-old Samuel, Sarah, who is 16, 9-year-old Audrey, 7-year-old Jessica and 5-year-old Stephan Jr.

As you can imagine, Colorado was a whole new world for the kids.

Stephan Laffey realized that his 36 acres could not support full-sized cattle, so he decided to raise Red Dexters — a very rare and specialized dairy breed.

Dexter cattle are the smallest of the European cattle breeds, being about half the size of a traditional Hereford.

They are definitely small, but not a miniature.

The Black Dexter is larger, horned, and sold mostly for meat.

The Red Dexter is polled and used primarily for milk. The meat is excellent, but they are far too valuable to slaughter.

Stephan and Kelly Laffey wanted to make sure that the kids learned about the rural Colorado lifestyle, so they thought about 4-H. “The way that we got started was because we home-schooled, and we felt like we wanted an outlet for the kids to meet people, and thought 4-H would be good,” Kelly said. “When we got the cows and knew that we were going to show them. I thought that the best way for the children to learn to show the cows was in 4-H.

“All of the kids really got involved in 4-H. You can sign up for eight projects, and Audrey did six at the fair this year, and she won a major prize for home environment, and she also one second place for cake decorating.”

Each of the children participated in at least one 4-H project at the Larimer County Fair that did not involve animals, including flower arranging, sewing, baking, painting, photography, home environment and cake decorating.

The two oldest, Samuel and Sarah, won ribbons for their projects in shooting sports.

Sarah won the champion’s ribbon for her black powder project, and Samuel was the reserve champion for his project on rifle shooting. Both Sarah and Samuel qualified for the state finals, taking place later this year. Sarah qualified for Black Powder and .22 Rifle, and Steven for .22 Rifle — not bad for two kids who had never fired a rifle before coming to Colorado.

The winning pattern at the Larimer County Fair continued when it came to showing animals.

All of the children were involved in showing either cows, calves or chickens and were winning divisional ribbons.

Jessica and Stephan Jr. were not old enough to show animals, so they participated in the bucket calf contest.

Audrey and Sarah showed chickens, while Samuel, Sarah, and Audrey showed the Red Dexter cows.

Asked whether she thought that 4-H was a good experience for her family, Kelly Laffey responded with a resounding, “Absolutely!” “Every kid should do 4-H,” she continued. “It’s a blessing. The 4-H leaders are just wonderful people to know. I feel like it’s the 1950s. It’s the way life should be with people interacting and teaching. And they learn so many skills. My kids are learning all the creativity stuff that I don’t have time to teach them on my own.

“It gives them focus and something to work for. So many kids get into trouble today. My kids don’t have time for that. It’s a really good way to raise kids. There are so many projects for the kids. 4-H and competing at the Larimer County Fair is an amazing blessing for every kid that is involved.”

Working with the Red Dexter cows and their Gypsy Vanner horse breeding program is a new learning experience for Stephan Laffey, and he, like his children, is approaching it enthusiastically.

“This is a new experience for the kids and for us, too,” he said. “We would never have done this back in Rhode Island. All of these things at 4-H are very traditional values and family is really stressed.

“The lifestyle here in Colorado is great. The people here have really helped the kids. It’s a life-changing experience for the kids to really learn about self-responsibility and about the things that are really important in life — God, family, and country.”

As far as Stephan Laffey is concerned, it is all part of his plan to give his children every opportunity to grow up safe, happy, and healthy and enjoy all the benefits that our rural Colorado lifestyle can provide. ❖