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For groups like the Wy’east Wranglers, fair is the highlight of summer

July 23, 2011

The Wy'east Wranglers galloped through the river with their horses; hair blowing in the wind, water splashing on all sides and sand flying behind the finely groomed animals as horse and rider fade as one into the sunrise.

No, this is not the last page of a cheesy wild west paperback.

The Wy'east Wranglers, a 4-H club based out of Odell, took a field trip of sorts to the Hood River Marina Wednesday morning. The group of 10 young girls is preparing for the Hood River County Fair, and to highlight the theme this year of "From the Mountain to the River," the group spent the morning galloping around the shallow, sandy water in front of the marina.

In reverse order to avoid people at the marina beach, the group then headed up to Parkdale, to a property on Allen Road, to frolic around a field with a towering view of Mount Hood.

The girls, ranging in age from fourth to eighth grade, have been working all year to prepare for the excitement the fair brings to their summers.

"Fair is the highlight of the year for the club," said Jodi Jones, group leader. "It's a lot of hard work and they are pretty busy during the week, but they get to camp out, spend time with friends and compete in something they've been working hard on."

"It has given me the confidence to try new things," Calli Achziger, 12, said about the Wranglers program. "I'm excited to see how my horses are going to do because I have been working hard with them all year."

The Wy'east Wranglers have been a 4-H club for about 15 years; and before that for about 40 years under the name Gilhouley Gauchos. Members of the club participate and compete in events all year; but for many, the Hood River County Fair is the time to shine.

"For our Intermediate and Senior riders (grades 7-9), they are trying to qualify for the state fair, which is the biggest event and the culmination of the entire season," Jones said. "We usually have a high number of girls who qualify, and for ones who don't, it's often because they just aren't old enough yet."

The Oregon State Fair, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5 in Salem, has been one of the largest annual gatherings in the state since its inception in the 1850s.

"Eventful," Harleigh Knoll, 16, said of her fair experience. "My favorite part is spending time with 4-H friends and competing in a fun environment … I have learned aspects of a team sport though horses, which typically isn't a team sport. It is a great experience and I would definitely regret it if I had not gotten involved."

Jones explained that, like many who participate in the fair, the girls will be busy with a variety of events and activities. Within the equestrian schedule, events include showmanship, gaming, jumping, ranch riding, trail class, dressage, roping, barrel racing and more. Riders generally compete in multiple events, and many have entirely different entries to keep track of as well.

"The girls get up early, clean out the stalls, take care of their horses, get ready for their events and compete," Jones said. "Courtney (Casteneda), for example, will be showing a steer, goat and pig in addition to her horse, so she's going to be a busy girl."

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