There were twice as many animal entries in this year's Jefferson County Fair as there usually are.
For Emily DeMayo, the mother of a first-time 4-H participant, she isn't surprised. "The way things were last year with sports being weird ... this was the only thing they had."
DeMayo said helping her son raise a pen of turkeys and a pig this year involved "learning on the fly the whole time."
Her daughter also participated, raising bees, which presented its own set of challenges, especially when their honey extraction efforts went wrong, seemingly drowning much of the hive in loose honey.
"We were picking bees out of the honey with chop sticks and trying to dry them off and get them back in the hive," DeMayo said laughing.
Luckliy the "zombees" seemed adept at reviving, cleaning themselves and proceeding to fly around the house.
But despite the chaos, DeMayo smiles when asked whether she thinks her family will participate in 4-H again next year, and says yes.
The fair returns
The county fair was back this year and open to the public, after an extremely limited 2020 fair that was completely closed to non-participants due to COVID-19.
This year's fair was a quiet affair. Gone were the festival elements of previous years, that Jefferson County tried to add to the fair in hopes of making it more of a public draw.
"This is more of a return to what it was, before 'fair and festival'" said Diana Solenberger, one of two 4-H Agents who help organize the annual fair. She described this year's fair week as calmer and with more of a family feel. "But we do miss the public."
The week of activities included a pot luck, dance, horsemanship show as well as competitions in baking, shooting, archery and robotics. Saturday's big event is a barbecue dinner followed by an auction for many of the fair animals, raising funds to help refund the cost of raising the animals, pay for next year's projects, or get a start on saving for college.
For Lilian Stavig of Golden, raising a snoozy spotted pig named Ripley has been a labor of love. She said she brought him home as a piglet back in April, and watching him gain an average of 2.1 pounds a week. He'd grown so well, that he'd been named Grand Champion for market pigs. While Stavig, 15, says she can't help but get attached to her pigs, she tries to keep the endpoint in mind throughout the process.
"I always try to remember the saying, 'you give a portion of your life to them and they give that life back to others."
On the final day of the Jefferson County Fair something a bit more wild goes on. Winners from each of the three age groups in 4-H, across all the animal categories, are eligible to compete. Each competitor goes from station to station "showing" several species, even if they have little to no experience with that animal.
For 18-year-old Faith Martin of Conifer, that means she'll get to show judges her award-winning goat Penny, but also animals with which she has far less experience, like an alpaca and a chicken.
"If anyone knows anything about rabbits," hollers Bailey Hennes. She's in the midst of feeding and watering her award-winning lambs, but that doesn't mean she knows how to impress a judge with a different animal. "I could use some pointers!"
Luckily, everyone in the event hall looking for some pointers seems to be finding help.
Elizabeth Schroeder, 18, of Evergreen says that's just how the Jefferson County 4-H community is.
"A lot of the people who aren't used to showing the larger animals might get nervous," said Schroeder, who is a previous Round Robin winner. "But everybody helps out, and everybody's happy for everybody here. It's not a cutthroat county."
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