OLATHE – For the Gibson family, who operate the Rocking W Dairy in Olathe, there is no better way to spend time together – and honor their multi-generational business going back several generations – than by attending the Montrose County Fair, which begins today and runs through July 28.
This year, daughters Taylor, 16, and Tasha, 19, have put in long days with the common goal of bringing home top honors in a variety of livestock competitions beginning Tuesday.
Their mother, Caryn (Webb) Gibson, remembers participating in the fair each year with her older sister and younger brother in similar competitions, driven by a commitment to the agricultural "way of life.
"As long as someone in the family won it, we were good. We cheered each other on," Caryn said, recalling the livestock competitions her family competed in.
The Gibson family now operates the Rocking W Dairy located off of Colo. Hwy. 348, west of Olathe.
The Webb family dates back five generations in Olathe, beginning with a homestead in the Pea Green area (the name Pea Green comes from the color of paint delivered by the government for use on the town hall and schoolhouse).
Caryn's grandmother, one of the first students to ever graduate from the Olathe schoolhouse, remembers seeing pictures of her own father, participating in the county fair, many decades ago.
Growing up, "We were all in 4-H," Caryn said of the youth organization administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the United States Department of Agriculture.
John Gibson, who grew up in Denver, was never involved with 4-H activities – he claims he learned to ride a horse only because it gave him a chance to court Caryn, his wife of 26 years. Today he is a past president of the Montrose County 4-H organization.
Taylor, a student at Olathe High School, is in the running for the title of Montrose County Fair and Rodeo Queen – the same title her older sister, Tasha, a recent graduate of Olathe High School, claimed in 2010.
Tasha is competing in her last fair through 4-H, as members are only allowed to participate through age 18.
She and Taylor are taking on the huge task of showing a record number of animals next week. Each girl will show a pair of horses, and together they’ll show two dairy cows, four pigs, four sheep and two steers.
"It's kind of like they are truly making history because most people show one or two animals. They're showing in five out of the six” large-animal categories, Caryn said.
The sisters have been working each morning and evening to prepare the animals for show competition with not only basic food and water but exercise and instruction of basic commands, something judges will be looking for next week.
Beginning Tuesday, the sisters will be showing pigs. On Wednesday, they’ll display market lambs, and on Thursday they’ll finish with dairy cows and steers.
"It's really not about the winning, it's about the dedication, the hard work, the work ethic and life skills. It's making a well-rounded, whole person. We got into 4-H because you learn those skills," Caryn said. "It was a celebration of our way of life. Iit was how we made our living.
Caryn's oldest daughter Terria, 22, agrees.
"It's awesome. You learn so much about responsibility and respect for other competitors. It's fun, and you get to compete against your neighbors and friends. In our case, we compete family against family,” she said. "It's really important for our area. Our area's main focus is agriculture. If we’re not out there promoting it then people will forget about it.
Terria participated every year she could, and fondly remembers showing her animals, especially the horses and pigs.
"I loved it all," she said.
"I'm so proud that (Taylor and Tasha) continue to carry on the tradition. They have become champions, in my eyes. They work hard and do everything that needs to get done," John said.
Tasha and Terria have gone on to become World Champions in national horse shows. "Taylor worked her way into the top five and, hopefully soon, [will also be] a World Champion," John said.
The way John and Caryn see it, participating in 4-H teaches kids to "never give up" and to complete a task without quitting. John said 4-H members are "some of this area’s best youth,” achievers not only on the farm, but in the classroom. Of raising livestock, he added, "You work with what God gave you to work with. You nurture it, you feed it, you take care of it” the best you can.
The same way you raise three daughters, named Taylor, Tasha and Terria.
For schedule information, visit montrosecountyfairandrodeo.com.