Road to the County Fair: Small town part of family’s past, present
July 15, 2016
In a small town, it's hard to get away with anything. The LeBlanc family knows this firsthand, as they not only live in the town of Fort Lupton, but their family has been part of the community for so long, even 83-year-old Genevieve can't go to the grocery store without her daughter, Mary Ellen, finding out. Mary Ellen's son, Cody knows it too, and he's also seen the positive of a tight community.
Cody shows rabbits for 4-H and will do so for the final time in a couple of weeks, but last fall he earned a trip to the National 4-H Congress in Georgia after his gluten-free banana bread won grand champion at the Colorado State Fair.
To get there, he needed to raise the funds. With the help of his friends and neighbors, he did.
The three LeBlancs can list of the names of a number of families who lived in Fort Lupton for a number of years, and some arrived around the same time they did. Their family was one of the first to homestead in the area, even though the family sold that land many generations ago.
The LeBlancs are a resource for others in the community. Mary Ellen is heavily involved in the community, school and is the leader of the Tailtwisters 4-H club, of which Cody is a part.
Cody's mom and grandmother were part of 4-H too, but neither raised rabbits like Cody. Mary Ellen showed goats, which she started almost on accident — like Cody and his rabbits.
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Mary Ellen was already involved in her 4-H club when someone stole a goat and tied it down at a baseball field. No one claimed the goat, so it was donated to the 4-H club, and Mary Ellen showed it.
Cody's work with rabbits happened by chance, too.
"Her fault," Cody said, pointing to his mom.
Mary Ellen was offered a rabbit at the county fair when Cody was 6 years old. A few years later when he was in 4-H, he watched a rabbit judging contest.
"He was hooked," Mary Ellen said.
Since then, Cody launched into his rabbit business, Cody's Bouncing Bunnies. The breeding and meat business wasn't his first entrepreneurial adventure, though. In 2004, when he was 6, he started Bizcuits and Bonez. He and Genevieve experimented with dog biscuit recipes, and once a few flavors were locked in, he started to sell the treats.
The young business mind didn't go unnoticed, either. He entered the Young Americans for Financial Education's entrepreneurial contest. After placing his first year for his biscuit endeavor, he took second and then won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award the following two years. After the $250 prize he got as runner-up, he invested the money into his next endeavor: vending machines.
He set up a few machines around Fort Lupton with his biscuits. Mary Ellen said that concept sticks in her mind the most, but Cody only stuck with it until he was 12.
That's when he found out mowing lawns paid better.
When it comes to business, his focus is now on his rabbits. It's not a business degree he plans to pursue when he starts at the University of Denver this fall, though. It's politics.
The drive between Denver and Fort Lupton isn't far, but the longest span his direct lineage lived out of Fort Lupton was when Genevieve lived in California then Seattle for 15 years. Mary Ellen left for college at the University of Northern Colorado and lived in Nevada for five months for an internship.
But they all returned home.
Samantha Fox is a reporter and designer for The Fence Post. "Road to the county fair" is a weekly column series that includes six Weld County 4-H participants as they prepare and compete at the 2016 Weld County Fair. Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her at @FoxonaFarm on Twitter.