I didn’t realize how much fun a small county fair could be until I went to the Park County Fair in Livingston last summer with my husband and our two children. For the longest time, I thought fairs consisted of a carnival, some pig wrestling, 4-H animals, and a bunch of quilts, cakes, and jams all boasting ribbons in a rainbow of colors.
To my surprise there are also fun arena events happening throughout ‘fair week’. Like Pig Wrestling, a Ranch Rodeo, where local ranchers compete with their neighbors on who has the best horse and animal handling skills, and one of my new favorites, the Sundown Showdown or Fun on the Farm. Last year we stumbled upon this event when I was desperately looking for a children’s competition that my 6-year-old daughter could participate in. I had screwed up the pig wrestling registration and had to find something ‘equivalent’. The Fun on the Farm event consists of a sack race, dash for cash, and mutton busting competition for kids of all ages attending the fair or sitting in the grandstands. There is an age restriction to the mutton busting however, which is regulated to 4-6 year olds. When I say regulated, I mean regulated! You have to register early and come with a copy of your child’s birth certificate in hand to prove that your child is not older than 6. I don’t think they are worried about a 3 year old competing. I could be wrong, but I think the reason behind it is because they don’t want the sheep to get hurt from an older kid riding it. After watching the contestants and the sheep bust out of the gate, and most kids falling off within seconds, I find it hard to believe that even a large 7 year old could hurt a big, woolie sheep.
The mutton busting is a riot to watch, some kids come decked out in full miniature bull riding ensembles, others like my daughter, wear their bike helmets and tennis shoes. It’s just like watching a bull rider, but with less form. They bust out of the shoot, and try to stay on the sheep as long as they can by holding onto a rope tied around the belly of the sheep. Some fall off instantly, others enthusiastically hang on tight and are dragged across the arena, something my daughter instinctually did. When the dust settled and all the kids ‘rode’, my daughter won first place, which was pretty neat because it was her first and last time she would be able to compete in our local mutt’n bust’n competition.
The best part of watching all those kids participate in these classic rural competitions was seeing their enormous smiles plastered across their faces, they were living in the moment…that perfect summer moment. I can’t wait to see all those smiling faces again this year, bust’n it at the county fair!
Park County Fair
July 29-August 2
Fun on the Farm Kids Event – Wednesday, July 29 at 6:00 p.m.