Whether it is Indian relay racing, kids showing sheep or top notch all-around rodeo action you’re after, fairs in northwest Montana offer something for everyone in August.
The largest happens Aug. 16-20 in Kalispell when the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo offers thousands a chance to experience good music, fast-paced rodeo action, a demolition derby and exciting Indian relay races.
In between those main events, fairgoers can check out the more than 8,000 exhibit entries that range from everything agriculture to over 900 photographs and even a few scarecrows.
“I think it’s the personal pride that’s on display in the pride and talents of this community that make our fair the best,” said Northwest Fair and Rodeo Manager Mark Campbell.
The Kalispell fair will celebrate its 115th anniversary this year and the century mark for the first 4-H club in Flathead County.
The fair’s roots can be traced to 1902 when some locals came together to start a community event during the month of October. A bit over a decade later, the fair operation was turned over to Flathead County and continues to this day.
Campbell said the fair will again feature a night of top-notch music with Broken Bow Records' Dustin Lynch with a special guest performance by up-and-coming western artist Bailey Bryan. Flathead’s Got Talent winner Jael Johnson also will take a turn on the stage on Wednesday, Aug. 16.
That’s followed by three nights of PRCA Rodeo action, including Indian relay races that have been a tradition for nearly 30 years.
“I call it a demolition derby on horseback,” Campbell said. “When you put six teams made up of 24 people and 18 horses in the arena all at the same time, there will be (a) wreck.”
“The skills they display are something you need to see to believe,” he said.
For a full schedule, go to nwmtfair.com.
For those focused on rodeo, the Sanders County Fair in Plains is a good place to be over the Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 3.
The cowboys who travel the circuit ranked the Sanders County Fair rodeo 11 out of 400 held throughout the country, said fair manager Chris Williams.
Last year, the rodeo featured 15 of the top 20 rodeo performers in the country. It features Cowboy Hall of Fame announcer Bobby Tallman. And, to make sure the action is top notch, the stock contractors, Powder River DNH Cattle Company, bring their best bucking stock to the small town.
“They always bring their A-team,” Williams said. “The bulls that you’ll see buck here are the same ones you’ll see on television when you watch the NFR finals.”
In the past 16 years, the small town’s arena has been nominated for the “best footing award” 12 times by barrel racers. It has received top billing eight times and runner-up the other four.
This year rodeo fans will get a chance to see why barrel racers like the area so much on Thursday night when they’ll perform under the lights in between the bulls, broncs and young mutton busters.
“We’re calling it 'Bucking, Busting, and Barrels',” Williams said.
Something else that Williams is hoping will be new this year is a big screen TV that will give fans another view of the action happening in the arena.
“I’m working on that,” he said. “I think if we can get that, it will put us over the top and get us into the top 10.”
The entries for the fair portion of the four-day-long event are up a little year and 26 food vendors will be on hand to offer plenty of variety when it comes time to eat. There is no fee to get into the fair.
The fair has been a part of William’s life for as long as he can remember. He’ll turn 52 at this year’s event. He’s celebrated his birthday at the fair every year except one when he was off at college.
“I just love it,” he said. “I guess it’s in my blood.”
For more information, go to sanderscountyfair.com.
In Lake County, the fair focuses on community and agriculture.
The fair runs between Aug. 24-29, at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Ronan. It features a ranch rodeo and an arena dance. Fair Manager Tim Marchant said the most popular event is the Market Livestock Sale that’s held on Thursday, Aug. 27.
“By that time, all the market animals have been judged," Marchant said. “People show up from all up and down the valley. They are very supportive of the community’s youth.”
This year, Marchant expects to see 100 swine, 80 sheep and probably 100 steers entered in the fair. That doesn’t include all the goats, llamas, rabbits and poultry that will be entered.
“If someone wants to see real animals, this is the place to be,” Marchant said. “There’s no gate charge. Everything is free. It’s very agricultural and youth orientated. It’s really an old time kind of fair.”
Since 1909, the Lincoln County Fair in Eureka has been the place where old friends gather and new friendships are forged. Every year, hundreds hope to bring home a blue ribbon for their efforts in raising critters, plants and flowers or for their craftsmanship and good eye through a camera viewfinder.
This year’s Lincoln County Fair will be held Aug. 24-27.
Fair manager Lois Sciligo said this year fair will help the county celebrate the fact the Capitol Christmas Tree will come from the nearby woods on the Kootenai National Forest.
“We are going to have a special division devoted to Christmas tree ornaments that people have designed for both the large and 70 other small trees that will find their way to Washington, D.C., this year,” she said.
The fair has a couple other new twists with a competition for the best scarecrow and an addition to the photo contest that includes photographs taken by game cams.
“The game cam photos won’t be judged like the rest of the photographs,” Sciligo said. “It will be people’s choice kind of competition.”
“The Lincoln County Fair is a true county fair,” she said. “There are no large carnivals or anything quite like that. We like to keep it mellow.”
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some excitement thrown in.
For the past 15 years or so, some of the best bull riders in the country have made it a point to come to Eureka to participate in The Bull Thing on Saturday night.
And Friday night, the kids gather in the arena to take part in a host of old fashioned fun-filled events like sack races, tug of war and the action packed chicken scramble that sends youngsters racing in attempt to capture specially marked chickens.
“That’s a lot of fun to watch,” Sciligo said.
To learn more, go to lcfairmontana.com.
The Mineral County Fair, sponsored in part by Blackfoot Communications, kicks off Thursday, Aug. 3, and runs through Saturday, Aug. 5, in Superior. Fair entry is free, as are all events except for the rodeo performances Friday and Saturday night.
Food booths open at 10 a.m. each day, but for early risers there is a pancake breakfast provided by the Methodist Men from 7 to 11 a.m.
Thursday events include exhibit judging, live music, a dog show and bingo, and that evening features family night in the arena with a chicken scramble and pig chase, as well as music on the green until 11:30 p.m.
The Cabin Fever Quilt Show runs both Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Music will go on throughout the day, both before and after the Superior Lions Club “Go for the Gold” Rodeo at 8 p.m. in the arena.
On Saturday, the “Flat Broke Fair” parade will lead people through Superior to the fairgrounds starting at 11 a.m. The 4-H Livestock Auction starts at 4 p.m., and again there will be music provided by Kelly Hughes before and after the “Go for the Gold” Rodeo at 8 p.m.
Rodeo tickets are on sale at the Superior Auto Parts store and Westgate True Value, as well as at the Lions beer booth during the fair. Call 406-822-3302 for more information.