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Sharon Richardson has been entering competitions at the Western Montana Fair for 50 years, and she notched another win on Wednesday with first place in the International Foods Competition for her Greek salad.

Richardson said she’s only missed a couple years at the fair since she moved here from Seattle as a young woman. She used to enter all kinds of categories, such as pottery, but she’s had to “slow down” a little bit lately.

“I entered in 38 categories this year,” the 78-year-old said, grinning and sitting next to her great-granddaughter with her ribbon. “And that’s not counting the cook-offs.”

The fair opened on Wednesday, and production manager Tom Aldrich said the unrelenting sunshine and soaring temperatures didn’t keep the crowds away.

“It’s hot, but it’s still hoppin’ here,” he said. “We’re expecting even more this evening once it cools down.”

After a young girl was injured on a carnival ride last year, the county hired a third-party inspector to go through all the rides this year.

“He did a walk-through this morning and everything looked great,” Aldrich said.

Northstar Amusements is still the ride operator, and the rides were in full swing on Wednesday afternoon. The fair has some new additions this year, including joining the city’s “Zero by ’50” waste-reduction program, meaning visitors can recycle, and workers are around making sure recyclables go in the right bins.

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There are more food vendors, updated bathrooms, and a “Rock the Red” awareness campaign for the Saturday night rodeo. The fair is asking everyone to wear red to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The fair also recently remodeled both the Commercial and Culinary Arts building.

Judy Blunt, the director of the creative writing program at the University of Montana, took home the Culinary Queen ribbon for placing “Best in Show” in five culinary categories.

“I made my mom’s ranch bread,” she said.

Blunt grew up in Malta where she said people take their cooking competitions seriously.

“There’d be 50 pies entered, and that’s in a county with a population of about 4,000 people,” she said. “The judge had to remain anonymous because they didn’t want to get all the phone calls.”

For a full schedule of events at the Western Montana Fair visit online at https://missoulafairgrounds.com/schedule.

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