Life Lessons from the Park County Fair in Powell, Wyoming

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fina Blain has scratches on her bare arms. They are very visible on a hot Friday in July.

“They’re from my bunny,” says Fina, pulling on a sweatshirt despite the heat in the show barn at Park County Fairgrounds in Powell. The sweatshirt protects her from the fluffy bunny’s sharp claws that scarred both her arms, as well as her mother’s face.

Mom, Laura, dismisses any concerns about the two red lines on her cheek. Seems like this happens a lot when working with cattle at the county fair.

Preparation all year round

For the Blain girls – mom Laura, along with Josefina, 17 (Fina for short), and Tiegan, 16 – the county fair is on their minds all year round.

“We work on things all year round,” Fina said, explaining that their planning for next year begins as soon as they leave the fairgrounds at the end of fair week.

“The art (projects) we’ve been working on for the past year,” Fina said. “And the cooking we did the week before to keep them fresh and then froze them.”

Tiegan said they picked up their lambs in April and are raising them for this week’s show.

Laura told the Cowboy State Daily that this annual goal is a continuation of her own childhood activities.

“I showed here at the Park County Fair for 10 or 11 years, however many years you can show,” she said. “I started when I was eight and showed until I was a senior in high school in 4H and FFA with steers and the artistic stuff my girls do.”

Organization skills

Fina and Tiegan attend Cody High School and participate in 4H raising small livestock. Laura said the girls choose their own fairground projects each year – this week Tiegan shows her his lamb and bunny, ‘Buddy’, as well as art and baking submissions.

“I entered King Arthur’s Baking Contest for cinnamon rolls,” she said. “And then I took art and other dishes and rabbits and my lamb.”

Fina loves taking photos, but did not submit any photos for judging this year. Instead, she has two pencil sketches, as well as her baking projects. And to show in the little animal “Round Robin” Fina brought a real miniature zoo.

“I have to show my rabbit, a chicken, my dog, my miniature horse and my cat,” she said.

And Fina is resourceful – in preparing to show these different animals, she drew on a number of sources.

“I remember how I did it last year,” she said. “And then Google and ask a lot of other people.”

Laura said the girls had very different approaches going into the fair week – Fina is ultra-organized, but Tiegan waits until the last minute to prepare her submissions.

“It will be the last two weeks, and Tiegan is rushing to do his art projects,” Laura said, while Fina prepared everything in advance.

Tiegan said the bunny competition is tough this year.

“There are a lot of showmen coming up,” she said. “There are about 10 beginners, 12 juniors and 17 intermediates. It’s really exciting.

It takes a village

Preparing all of these projects is a group effort, Laura said.

“Their grandparents (Laura’s parents, Kurt and Donna) helped them down to get their animals and stuff,” Laura said. “And the girls do all the picking up of their own animals, and they organize when they’re going to work with them and how they’re going to look after them. And then I’m just kinda in the background going, “Hey, remember you gotta do this too,” or whatever. They do a lot on their own. »

The girls credit experienced county fair mentors with helping them learn the intricacies of herding.

“The person who now runs the rabbit barn is the one who really influenced us to show rabbits,” Tiegan said.

When the girls wanted something a little more challenging, their mother encouraged them to show lambs.

“We wanted to get into the big cattle,” Fina said, “but mum said, ‘You can’t jump straight into the steers, let’s take a small step and go over to the sheep, because you have to shear them.’ And we have some really good friends who’ve been showing sheep all their lives, and we’re like, ‘Hey, you wanna come help us with this?’ »

Fair week

Laura said the fair week was exceptionally busy. From Sunday to the following Saturday, each day is devoted to the installation, the maintenance of the animals and the presentation of their livestock.

“We spend a lot more time with the animals, working on them,” she said. “They feed. They spend a few hours in the cool of the evening working with the animals, practicing leading and showing and that sort of thing. Then they spend several hours shearing their sheep or brushing the rabbits, cleaning and preparing them.

But they make sure to enjoy the atmosphere of the fair while they work. Sitting in the tent on the free stage, Tiegan finishes an ice cream cone and laments the lack of food choices compared to previous years.

“(The food is) generally quite good,” she said. “It’s a lot of greasy food, but this year there’s not a lot of it here. It’s a bit sad.

Continuing the tradition

Fina and Tiegan say they want to continue attending the county fair, even after they graduate from high school in a few years.

“I think the way it works is you can do FFA after you graduate from high school, for a little while,” Tiegan said. “And I think I will do that as long as I can show my animals. And then, if I have children, I want them to start this too.

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