Wyoming State Fair draws excited participants
August 18, 2017
When Reagan Harnish received a handshake from the judge, it took her a moment to realize her Saanen dairy goat had just been named the Grand Champion Dairy Goat at the Wyoming State Fair. Harnish, who lives in Platte County, found the trip well worth it after winning the highest honor in the show.
The Wyoming State Fair, held in Douglas last week, started 105 years ago as a way to showcase Wyoming agricultural products. While retaining that history, it has added the diversity of other agricultural programs, events, youth competitions and educational opportunities to its lineup, according to Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Doug Miyamoto.
Families can travel to the fair and learn a lot about agriculture in the state. From visiting the livestock area to looking over exhibits ranging from foods and gardening to welding and woodworking, it is a rare opportunity to learn about Wyoming agriculture.
Visitors receive a warm welcome at the Wyoming Mercantile, which is a store that showcases Wyoming-made and hand-crafted products. Opening the doors of the small, wooden cabin, visitors can spend time smelling the soaps and lotions made from dairy goat milk, to admiring the jams, jellies and salsas displayed for sale. The Mercantile also has jewelry, knives, pottery and other hand-crafted items. "We bring in more new vendors every year," said Terri Barr, who is the business coordinator at the Wyoming Business Council. "Vendors who are part of our Wyoming Made program receive the opportunity to present their goods at the state fair and at the Denver Mart. We do a number of marketing efforts," she said.
Several commercial exhibits, a carnival and youth activities are centered in the same area of the fairgrounds. Emery Brannon, Laney Brannon, Kalynn Sasser and Kiele Harmeyer stop to shake hands with a clown on their way back to the livestock area. Emery comments that what she likes most about attending the Wyoming State Fair is everything there is to see and do, as she giggles at a face the clown makes at her younger sister, Laney.
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Outside, in the beef show arena, Carol Nash leads in a calf from one of her breeding females at Nash Farms. The calf, who was less than excited to be shown at halter, gave Nash minimal problems in the show ring and captured second in the class.
Youth judgers from across the state competed most of the day in a livestock judging contest, where the winners were awarded the prize of being named the state's top livestock judging team. At the end of the competition, Goshen County 4-H was declared the winner. The senior livestock judging team, coached by Brodie Mackey, was made up of Paige Miller, Caden Malm, Jacob Chapman and Kendall Haas.
In the sheep barn at the Wyoming State Fair, there was a whirl of wool flying as youth scrubbed, clipped, and put the final finishes on breeding ewes and market lambs that would show later that day. Austin Butler of Hulett, Wyo., was one of those competitors. After thoroughly washing his Dorset ewe lamb, he put her on a trimming stand, where he spent hours trimming and fitting her wool with hand shears and electric clippers to improve her appearance. "Of course, it all comes down to what the judge decides," Butler says.
Sheep took their turn at being center stage. During the opening weekend, a sheep wagon contest and dutch oven cookoff were held in Energy Lane. According to the Wyoming State Fair premium book, "The sheep wagon is a unique part of western history in the Rocky Mountain states and the sheep industry. Since the mid-1800s, these prairie homes have been a part of the sheep the industry, and its design has proven efficient for over 130 years."
New University of Wyoming Sheep Extension Specialist Whit Stewart spent most of Wednesday judging fleeces in the wool building. "Without a doubt, Wyoming produces some of the finest wool fleeces I have ever laid eyes on," Stewart told producers during the Cattlemen's Conference late that afternoon. "It will be an honor to see what I can accomplish for these producers as the new sheep extension specialist," he said.
In addition, some of the best cattle dogs in the state came to Douglas to compete in the Sheep Dog Trials Tuesday. A partnership between the dog and handler, the trials demonstrate how well the dog listens to its handler, and the control the handler has over the livestock, according to Dottie Packard, who is the trial superintendent. "There are multiple components of an ideal stock dog," she said.
During the week, visitors could also view the top-winning exhibits in 4-H and FFA from each county. FFA students have welding projects, in addition to other projects they construct from materials like wood. There is also an FFA museum, which provides visitors with a glimpse of how the FFA program started in Wyoming, and how it has progressed through the years. ❖
— Teresa Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.