A man in a blue lab coat listened intently as contestants explained their rabbits’ characteristics, including fur, health and personality.
Family, friends and curious onlookers stood in a semicircle, some waiting for their turn to present, as the judge took notes on his clipboard. A rooster’s crow occasionally drowned out the conversations between judge and contestants.
This was the scene Friday at the La Plata County Fair, a day that featured backyard livestock like rabbits, hens and roosters.
Madison Mortimer, 17, of Durango said the county fair is a mix of being in the moment and thinking ahead to prepare and grow for future competitions.
“You learn a lot from the fair,” said Madison, who owns 20 to 30 rabbits.
Judges check for illnesses, missing toenails and teeth alignment, among other standards. The La Plata County Fair abides by the Standard of Perfection 2019-20 because many of the contestants go on to state and national competitions.
Sandy Wade, superintendent for rabbits and cavies, has been to nine national competitions. They are good experience for kids, she said.
“It’s just a good thing, I think, for these kids to see other parts of the country,” Wade said.
Grace Howell, 10, who lives near Elmore’s Corner, has been raising her rabbit, Gizmo, since April.
For her, like many competitors this week, presenting was a rush of emotions.
She said she felt good, but it’s strange to have the judge staring at her and evaluating her every word.
“It’s really nerve-racking, but you have to keep your cool or else the rabbit will feel those emotions,” Grace said.
While city kids have a hard time competing in the livestock competitions, they are able to raise rabbits, as long as conditions are kept clean, Wade said.
Owning a rabbit can teach responsibility and some of the same skills as working with larger animals, said Angela Fountain, the 4-H program assistant.
Six of the 16 contestants during Friday’s 4-H/FFA rabbit showmanship show live in town on property that is not a farm or a ranch, Fountain said.
Rain clouds put a damper on outdoor activities Friday afternoon, but indoor events, including livestock competitions and exhibits, went on as usual.
Forecasters are calling for a chance of rain Saturday and Sunday, with a 50% chance Saturday and a 30% to 60% chance Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Temperatures will remain average, with morning lows of 55 degrees and highs in the 80s.
Saturday highlights will include a rooster crowing contest at 10 a.m. outside the “bunny barn” between the Exhibit Hall and the Livestock Arena. Gates will open at 10 a.m. for the Demolition Derby, which will start at noon. The derby features cars smashing into each other in a show of destruction. The Demolition Derby is always the fair’s biggest moneymaker and usually sells out, said Amy Peterson, president of the fair board.
Tickets for the derby are $15 and are available starting at 10 a.m. at the gate.
The Jr. Livestock Auction, which gives children the chance sell their animal, will start at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The La Plata County Fair closes Sunday; exhibits close to the public at 2 p.m.