By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
HALFWAY The Baker County Fair and Panhandle Rodeo promised three commodities this Labor Day weekend:
Kids. Kritters. And More.
All three were on frequent display all weekend long: kids leading their kritters into the pavilion to be evaluated by the unflinching eye of the livestock judge. A total of 189 exhibits, from delicate flower arrangements to a statue of a cowboy fashioned from barbed wire.
And more. At county fairs, there's always more than advertised. If there weren't more, there'd be no reason to hold them at the end of every summer. Or to attend them.
andquot;Super beer! I'll have another.andquot;
For the first time, fair organizers invited home beer brewers to enter their products. Nine Baker County brewers and nine from outside the county one as far away as Seattle took up the challenge.
Ted Hausotter took home the Best in Show ribbon, scoring 44.5 points out of a possible 50 points.
andquot;Thanks for entering. I loved your beer send more!andquot; wrote judge Kerry Carpenter on Hausotter's evaluation.
andquot;Super beer!andquot; agreed judge Tyler Brown. andquot;I'll have another.andquot;
Linda Collier, Fresh Foods superintendent, said she's wanted to hold the contest for years. Judging was held last weekend in Baker City, since the exhibit hall in Halfway has no refrigerator.
andquot;I brew with a bunch of friends,andquot; Collier said. andquot;I thought it would be fun to start a home brewing category.andquot;
The event was sanctioned by the American Homebrewer's Association as part o the group's 2004 national homebrew competition.
It proved educational, Collier said.
andquot;I learned that the foam that goes slowly down the mug is called Belgian lace,andquot; she said. andquot;I also learned there's such a thing as hot pepper beer, although I'm not sure how that would go with chips and salsa.andquot;
Accentuate the positive
If you broach the subject of the fair pavilion and possible bankruptcy, many fair goers and officials will express feelings ranging from sadness to outrage, but not for the record. Instead, Nellie Forrester, who's retiring this year after 10 years as fair manager (andquot;This time for good,andquot; she says) prefers to point out improvements in the exhibit hall: shelving has been taken down and recycled into useful display stands, and the Fresh Foods section now sports cheerful painted food panels.
Arts and Crafts Superintendent Jill Riley believes the reason that so many Pine-Eagle students enter their projects is that the practice is encouraged in the schools, where each student keeps a box they fill during the school year with potential fair projects.
One student made a barbed-wire cowboy wearing a cowboy hat and an old pair of work gloves. A woman painstakingly crafted a miniature scene of an Indian village with beads and pieces of jewelry. And there are papier mache masks that allow students to explore ideas that they otherwise might keep inside.
andquot;I'm always happy to see what the kids are up to,andquot; Collier said. andquot;Nellie got me into this job years ago, and I don't think there's any end in sight.andquot;
With kritters, be ready for anything
Cassie Sullivan, 18, of Hereford, is hosing off a heifer she plans to show for the Thomas Angus Ranch after completing the ranch sorting event she entered with her sister, Nicole, who's 22.
The Sullivans didn't place because a calf sneaked through the gate out of turn in part because Cassie was riding a borrowed horse owing to her own horse's knee ailment.
andquot;That's the way it goes,andquot; she says circumspectly. andquot;It was my fault. I couldn't get (the horse) to back up in time.andquot;
She had more success showing her steer, winning Reserve Grand Champion market steer behind that of Clay Phillips, a senior at Baker High School.
andquot;I like this fair because it's more laid back,andquot; she said. andquot;I walked into the show arena with my spurs on (for the upcoming ranch sorting event). The judge never said a word.andquot;
Sullivan is set to enter her freshman year at Eastern Oregon University, then transfer to either Texas Tech or the University of Nebraska, where she will learn how to manage a feedlot.
She plans an internship with Beef Northwest, which she's been offered informally. One reason she wants to get into the feedlot business is that so few are run by women, she said.
She said it's no wonder this year's ranch sorting competition drew more than 40 teams.
andquot;It's the kind of thing you can really get into,andquot; she said. andquot;You just send your kid into one time and they're hooked.andquot;
Two things of beauty
Back at the midway, Kate Ross of Richland and Bill Barnett, owner of the Cornucopia Lodge, are each in their own way trying to beautify Baker County's Panhandle.
Ross is an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics, and she's rented a booth so she can distribute samples and make appointments for facial treatments.
A few booths down is Barnett, the new president of the revitalized Hells Canyon Chamber of Commerce. He chats with Gordon Kaesmeyer, who's running for mayor of Halfway on the November ballot.
Chamber membership is up to 36 businesses, Barnett says, and there's a andquot;new spirit of cooperationandquot; being forged among business owners in Halfway, Richland and Oxbow.
andquot;People are starting to see the Chamber working for everyone,andquot; he says. andquot;We've identified 140 businesses in the Panhandle, and we're working to get more of them involvedandquot; in Chamber activities.
Ross springs to life when three teen-age girls stop by her booth. She fills a small trademark Mary Kay pink gift bag full of samples, including eye shadow (cotton candy pink and blues for young people) and Velocity perfume. Then she delivers the talk that made Mary Kay famous the one about how taking care of your skin is important if you plan to have it around for a while.
The girls seem happy to accept Ross' gift bags.
andquot;There's just something about pink that makes you smile,andquot; Ross says, smiling and extending the gifts to the girls.
The girls smile back.