With the judging completed, the top ribbons awarded, and the bleachers filled to capacity, it was standing room only inside the Ag Building at the Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa for the 2014 Junior Market Sale.
One of many highlights at the Elbert County Fair, the Aug. 2 auction offered more than 150 animals, including market swine, beef cattle, lambs, poultry and rabbits, with the proceeds going to the 4-H'ers who spent the past year raising and caring for the animals.
Many of the animals, especially grand champions and reserve grand champions, sold at prices well above market as bidders, such as local businessman Rick Hunt and his wife Donna, paid premium prices in support of the hard work and expense that 4-H'ers put into raising their livestock.
Hunt, the owner of Hunt Construction and Full Rut Archery in Parker, said he planned to buy 10 to 15 animals this year and give the meat to his 50 employees as part of a bonus. In 2013, the Hunts spent over $30,000 on 4-H livestock.
For bidders interested in supporting 4-H'ers but not wanting the meat from their purchases, the Locker Plant offered a buyback program at market price. The plant also provided free transportation of the animals for processing.
Livestock was not the only thing appraised at the fair during the week. Judging for general 4-H projects, ranging from artistic clothing to model rocketry, began on July 25 and continued throughout the week.
According to Shelia Kelly, the county's extension director and agent for 4-H development, Elbert County is second only to Larimer County for general category projects qualifying for this year's state fair. More than 230 entrants will represent Elbert County Aug. 22- Sept. 1 in Pueblo.
In addition to 4-H activities, competitors displayed their skills in the Fellowship Hall. Local artisans competed in more than 30 open class general exhibits, including quilting and a variety of needle crafts; fine arts and photography; and, of course, an assortment of baked goods and deserts. Classes were open to both adults and children.
With a week of wet weather pushing out of the area, the fair moved into high gear the night of Aug. 1 with the Big Time Bucking Horse Futurity, a saddle bronc performance and a concert and dance, featuring the music of Honkytonk Voodoo.
In the arena on Aug. 2, dog handlers worked their stock dogs in trials, the handler and dog working together in a timed event to guide three sheep into a pen and around obstacles. By that evening, powerful horses took center stage in the arena for the horse pull.
Aug. 3 marked the final day of the county fair with all the pomp and circumstances of the parade down Comanche Street and the action of the Ranch Rodeo.
For many, the last day of fair is a milestone marking the end of summer. Exhibits are picked up and the doors to fairground buildings are locked by 5 p.m. There is the anticipation of the first school bells of the year on Aug. 6, of shuffling to class, and the excitement of a new 4-H project for next year's Elbert County Fair.