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Tip of the hat to tradition

When the first major migration of non-native people to Pagosa Country began in the late 19th century, there were few occupations available for the new arrivals.

There was, of course, the Army, which established the short-lived Fort Lewis here. There was also work in a small commercial community, catering to the needs of settlers and Army personnel alike.

And there was the livestock business. Cattle and sheep roamed the ranges. Ranches were established.

Until the timber industry came to the area, the “ag industry,” as it is now called, was critical to economic stability and growth in the area. After the timber industry arrived, ag continued to flourish, with many of the original ranches passed down to the next generation. Livestock and agricultural production remained a major part of the Pagosa Country economy and the lifestyle and practices associated with it contributed to the area’s identity well into the latter half of the 20th century.

Today, there are still a number of large, working ranches in the area. Some sheep still graze lands in the high country. But, as the century closed and this new century began, many of the large ranches were no more; a few became private retreats, others were subdivided. All of the prominent subdivisions in Pagosa Country occupy what was once ranch land. Today, many “ranches” are 35 acres, if one judges them by the signs on the gates.

And yet, the significance of the ag industry, especially as a link to the past in this part of the world, remains.

One of the best events at which to glimpse the current incarnation of this link is the annual Archuleta County Fair.

This year’s fair begins today and continues through Sunday at the fairgrounds on U.S. 84, just south of the intersection with U.S. 160.

What one finds when one visits the fair is that, despite the changes in Pagosa Country over the last half century or so, the spirit of the West, and its habits and practices, are still strong here.

Go to the fair and you will find livestock. Check out the steers, the lambs, the poultry, the goats and pigs in the Livestock Tent and watch as judging takes place. The kids in 4-H work hard to raise the best animals they can, and hope their efforts result in a win in the livestock competition. The annual Junior Livestock Auction, held in conjunction with the 4-H Chuck Wagon Dinner, gives you the opportunity to purchase animals and meat of the highest quality. If you’re not in the mood to purchase an animal (or to purchase it for donation), place an add-on, providing additional cash that, most likely, will help finance a college education.

Do you like rodeo? If so, check out the Ranch Rodeo — a competition true to the skills of the rancher and the livestock producer — or the Kids Rodeo.

Horse lovers will enjoy Parelli Natural Horsemanship demonstrations and a horse show.

Browse the fair building and check out the locally grown produce and flowers, homemade baked items, and preserved foods. Admire the artwork, craft items, quilts, 4-H projects, and the entries in a plethora of contest categories.

Need some entertainment this weekend? Try the Texaco Country Showdown, music by Bixby, a boxing match, quick draw shooting, a skateboarding competition, an escape artist and the Fair Dance, featuring the High Rollers.

The annual Horseshoe Tournament is on the schedule. A Home Brew Contest will be held this year and your tastebuds will be on alert at the annual Lee Sterling Chile Cookoff.

There’s plenty to do, so get in touch with Pagosa Country tradition … at the fair.

Karl Isberg

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