Fair wellAug 6, 2017 By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer
It's called the Fremont County fair but a team roper made the long trip from Honolulu, Hawaii, this year and the rodeo lineup was dotted with entries from Tennessee, Texas, Arizona and California.
Along with entries from the Cowboy State there were numerous Montana, Idaho, South Dakota and Colorado cowboys and cowgirls as well.
In the pulling venue there were only a handful of competitors from Wyoming with many contestants driving over a thousand miles just to compete here in Fremont County.
The kids showing animals in 4-H, FFA and the open divisions were all Fremont County residents, and it takes something like the fair to visualize the size of the county.
Entries from Riverton, Lander and Shoshoni dominated the agricultural portion of the fair, but Crowheart, Hudson and Dubois were also well represented.
Kaelyn Frable came from mountains of South Pass to show her goats in this year's fair, and the Lander FFA member placed third in showmanship.
Casey and Opal, her two goats, seemed to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the fair.
On a map the distance between Jeffrey City, Sweetwater Station and South Pass doesn't look like much but if you've driven the "road" that often becomes little more than a two-track trail between these small communities, you realized just how huge the county is.
Laura Dockery and Braxton Crofts both live on their parents' and grandparents' ranches along Graham Ranch Road that stretches from just east of the bridge over the Sweetwater River then back onto the highway a few miles west of Jeffrey City. The duo were the only entries from the once-prosperous mining town.
The ranch rodeo is growing in popularity, and many fair goers indicated it was their favorite event since all of the cowboys and cowgirls hail from Fremont County.
Numerous young men and women who have competed in football, basketball, wrestling, volleyball and track in another athletic venue were in the arena for the ranch rodeo.
Many of the teams used a more experienced hand as the roper in their group but the "Young Guns" (these kids much watch the same westerns) had the youngest competitor, 14-year soon to be Shoshoni freshman Lana Jordan on the business end of the rope. As a national junior high breakaway champion, she was a great choice.
Watching Levi Bain, Casey Albright and the Ruby clan from Crowheart was a trip down memory lane for small-school football fans as well.
Speaking of young guns, Levi Coyle of Shoshoni pulled off a move equal to any athletic play of the entire weekend. During the truck portion of the truck/tractor pull Friday night one of the trucks pulled away with a borrowed receiver hitch still attached. Coyle sprinted behind the truck, ran along behind, pulled the catch pin and then the main pin, removed the receiver hitch, and ran back with all three in hand. No sweat when you're a quick high school senior.
Among the most fun events were the canine agility and wiener dog races. In an era of dwindling revenues these two free events were by far the most entertaining that didn't require buying a ticket.
The fair would be impossible without the willing help of hundreds of volunteers and committee members that spend the entire year planning the multitude of events that constitute the fair.
Companies kick in as well. As an example, Brown Co. of Country Acres Road just north of Riverton donated the use of a brand new New Holland tractor to smooth the arena after each pull was made Friday night. That same tractor is scheduled for the same work at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas later this month.
Longtime fair goes note that the entries were down this year. Hogs, which usually dominate youth show entries, were down about 50 head from previous years. Cattle and dairy cow entries have diminished over the years while sheep and goats have remained relatively stable.
Small animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks and turkeys are on the rise.
While the number of entries may have dropped a bit in line with the depressed Fremont County economy, the quality of the entries remain the best or nearly the best produced in all of Wyoming.
As auctioneers Warren and Ty Thompson worked the livestock sale on Saturday they were quick to note when a youngster's animal was born and raised in Fremont County.
Nationwide it has become a fact of in many fairs that the animals come from thousands of miles away. Fremont County hasn't been struck as heavily as many regions of the state with this trend, but it is present here as well.
If you were to go to the Riverton Livestock Auction on any given Tuesday you would see thousands of largely black cattle going through the sale barn. Angus is in, thanks to a highly effective marketing plan that has many people believing that Angus is somehow different genetically from other cattle breeds.
While black is in on the beef market, it wasn't true with the animals entered in the fair this year. Limousin, Charolais, Maine Anjou, hereford and a surprising number of Shorthorns, the west's original cattle breed, were on display. Holsteins hold the dairy world like Angus cattle do the beef industry but Guernsey's and Brown Swiss were at the fair this year too.
The Saturday livestock auction is always a good measure of economic activity in Fremont County. With hogs selling for more than $2,000, lambs above $1,000 and multiple steers bringing $6,000 or more the county looks to be on the cusp of an economic comeback. Businesses other than banks and implement companies added to the bidding this year, a good indicator for the county.