PHOTO ESSAY: 2017 4H Livestock Auction at the County Fair

The 2017 Archuleta County Fair is now history: the 66th Annual. Always held the first weekend in August, the usual start of monsoon season. This year the rains were especially prevalent, every day at about 4pm; a steady downpour filled the culverts and cooled the mountain air.

The rains did not keep folks away on Saturday night. The 4H Livestock Auction always has the biggest attendance of all the Fair events, and this year was no exception. The Livestock tent was packed.

At the start, 4H participants are anxious, this is where the fruits of their labor are rewarded. Starting with Showmanship awards for Junior, Intermediate and Senior 4Hers. Winners receive Belt Buckles and a Trophy. The benefits of all of this will be forever in their “head, hearts, hands and health”.

The Auction always starts with the Cake. It is tradition. Fair Royalty parades the cake to bids that reach well over $1000.

Then the Grand Champion Steer is the first to enter the ring. Huge. The talented auctioneer fills the arena with the forced stuttering and stammering of a choreographed dance with the bidders. Encouraging higher and higher bids.

Spotters watch the crowd for bids and hollers out to make sure theirs is heard. Then the Grand Champions of Swine, Goat, Lamb, Rabbit, Poultry and Turkey. The 4H youth who raised the champion species, displays the animals with infectious enthusiasm and excitement. Then the Reserve Champions are Auctioned in the same order. This year’s bids were at or near record levels and the kids could not have been more pleased. The Auction continues until the last livestock is sold.

The 4H program is still alive and well in this rural community of Colorado. The kids work hard on their projects all year long. It takes a lot of strong commitment. Thanks to so many dedicated leaders parents and great kids.

This was my 20th year to photograph the event. I am always excited to be in the ring with the participants and it is indeed a privilege to document it for them. For a brief time, I vicariously feel all the thrills, spills, joys, hardships, victories and defeats of these youngsters. I hope the pictures will give great pleasure for years to come when these kids loyally continue the traditions of 4H.

4H Pledge:
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community,
my country and my world.

Jeff Laydon

Pagosa Springs photographer Jeff Laydon shoots people, places and products — on location and in his studio. Learn more at