CASHMERE — Horse riding is a family affair for Nikki Ramirez.
The Cashmere native has been riding horses for longer than she can remember and now, as a leader with the Ponderosa 4-H Club in Leavenworth, she’s helping her 14-year-old daughter, Grace, prepare for the Chelan County Fair.
“I did this when I was a kid,” Ramirez said. “I was on horses before I could walk. And that’s part of the reason why I wanted to stay here and live in this town, provide that life for my kids.”
Ramirez, along with Heidi Swoboda, is a co-superintendent of the horse barn at the fair, which opens Thursday morning and ends Sunday evening.
Vendors and livestock owners swarmed the fairgrounds in Cashmere on Wednesday as they began setting up booths and stalls.
“It’s truly amazing, if you were in here (Tuesday) there was nothing here,” said Bruce Thorn, president of the fair board of directors, on Wednesday. “It was quiet, there was no noise yesterday morning early and then all of the sudden a city pops up. By tonight, this place will look like downtown Seattle.”
Thorn has been an active member of the fair since 1997 and has watched as the end of summer mainstay has grown.
“We’ve got a lot of main stage entertainment throughout the whole fair. A lot of good food vendors that have evolved over the years,” Thorn said. “This year we have a brand new beef barn. We just got that all built so the beef have a new home.”
For entertainment, country music singer Joe Diffie will perform Friday evening and the Pro-West Rodeo run on Saturday and Sunday.
While the entertainment and food has improved, Thorn said the livestock community gets bigger every year, as well.
“I think what’s noticed more than anything has been the support for the 4-H and the FFA – the kids and the livestock auction,” Thorn said. “That’s grown steadily every year. The amount of support is truly amazing.”
Ramirez has noticed that, too. This is the most horses the club has brought to the fair in years.
“Well, in our club we’re trying to strongly promote (the fair),” Ramirez said. She added, “We’re really trying to promote the kids doing this as an end of the season project goal.”
Jeff Hampton runs the poultry barn, overseeing chickens and ducks and geese. He was involved with the fair as a kid and then took over as poultry superintendent shortly after graduating from high school in 2007.
“Working with the kids is so much fun,” Hampton said. “There’s a couple clubs that I have been here long enough now that I’ve seen them as babies in strollers to graduating high school.”
The poultry barn has stayed about the same, size-wise, Hampton said; they’ll have roughly 60 birds this week.
For the horse kids, as Ramirez called them, fair week is a busy week. They get time off from school, but that time is traded for hours in the barn, cleaning stalls and feeding horses.
Her daughter Grace will show her horse at the fair, meaning she’ll take it into a ring in front of an audience and give the horse a series of commands. “They start as soon as the snow is gone riding,” Ramirez said of Grace’s horse training, “and the idea is to have a horse that is well trained so that when they take them into the show ring the horse does everything they ask them to do.”
Unlike many of the other livestock animals, the horses aren’t for sale.
For “a lot of these kids, there’s a bonus at the end,” Ramirez said. “And for the horse kids the bonus is you see progress in your horse and your relationship with them.”