SHERIDAN — From visitors to participants, from livestock to families, there is something for everyone at the Sheridan County Fair, which officially opens Thursday morning at the fairgrounds.
Anyone residing in Sheridan County along with three counties from Montana can be a participant in the annual event, whether showing a photograph or a prize swine. Organizers anticipate this year will be bigger and better than ever.
An open class competition will be held in the Exhibit Hall and amateurs and professionals alike are welcome to register their submissions of art or the likes on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sheridan County 4-H Educator Liz Shaffer said many of the 4-H kids will be entering projects they have been working on all year from leather crafts to presentations on food and nutrition.
But the fair wouldn’t be the fair without the livestock and there will be plenty of shows, demonstrations and animals to take in during a visit.
As in past years, events will include mini horse events, equine therapy demonstrations, match bronc riding, pig wrestling, dog agility and more.
Every event is free and all activities are open to the general public, including two concerts and a few opportunities to chow down.
The 4-H participants are hosting a community dance this year featuring music by Justin Beasley under the grandstands Friday night.
Shaffer said the children were in charge of organizing the entire event including selecting the talent, decorating and determining a menu and chef for the dinner they will be serving at the dance.
Fairgrounds Director Jamie Ringley said though 4-H participants show their own entries and host their own events, their participation in the fair is all encompassing.
“They’re a primary part of it; it’s all interwoven together and they have put together some great animal shows,” he said of the 4-H and fair activities. “We have a very dedicated group of 4-H and also FFA participants and it’s very much a team effort. Everyone is there to support each other in any way they can.”
Shaffer said depending on how many projects a participant has the time commitment can be intense. For any person submitting livestock, participants are encouraged to stay with their animal all week, which can mean they are at the fairgrounds from at least 9 a.m. Thursday until 6 p.m. Monday when the buyers dinner begins.
For members of the 4-H Jr. Leaders Club the commitment is even longer as the teens volunteer at events including the open class exhibit, the Fashion Revue held last week and also serve breakfast daily at the fair.
“The younger kids look up to the older kids and want to be the Jr. Leaders when they’re old enough,” Shaffer said, adding that they are not the only ones benefitting from involvement in the fair. “I think the best part is just getting that experience raising an animal, caring for it, having the responsibility to provide a good product and market it throughout town. It is a lot of work and a lot of time not only in the raising and feeding but the showing up to the county fair where you go to get a good price.”
The market livestock sale will close out the fair on Monday at 6 p.m., preceded by a buyers dinner in the infield tent at 4 p.m.
In his second year as director, Ringley said though most of the events are the same as last year, there have been changes to the facilities and a couple changes to the schedule.
Recently the fairgrounds have seen several improvements including painting and reroofing several areas and putting a new awning over the ticket office.
The exhibit hall parking lot has been redone and the pavilion doors have been replaced as well.
“We’ve done just a ton of work with a lot more still to come over the next couple years,” Ringley said.
Though last year was his first and official attendance is not taken, Ringley said some long-time attendees told him last year was a bigger crowd than they typically see and he hopes to continue that momentum this year.
“People are coming and going all week and we’re hoping for great big crowds,” he said. “We encourage everyone to come down and see the shows and come to the events and we’re hoping that it will garner a lot of people coming up to the fairgrounds.”
Ringley said the event is a great reminder to the community that the fairgrounds are there to be used and hopes to encourage members of the community to come by to ride in the arena or just exercise their dog whenever an event is not scheduled.
“We’re open, we’re friendly, we want people to make full use of their fairgrounds; that is what this facility is for,” he said. “It’s a hub for the Sheridan community and we have a friendly staff ready to help anyone and we encourage them to come any time.”
Ringley added that this tone is resonated throughout the entire fair.
“It may be your typical county fair but we’re basically putting an important part of Sheridan County culture on display and it’s worth coming up and taking it all in,” he said.
The tractor pull scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. has been canceled and the pig wrestling that is usually on Saturday is on Sunday this year.
For more information call the fairgrounds at 672-2079 or the 4-H office at 674-2980.