New noise heard in fair’s wake

Ah, the fair is over. Without the chickens, hogs, carnival rides and packed Exhibit Hall, this place seems a little quiet. Kind of like when the teenagers go off to college – the silence is bliss, but then you start to miss the noise.

For those of you who visited the La Plata County Fair (or if you were like my children, demanded to go every day), I expect that you enjoyed the sights and sounds. And while it is probably easy for attendees to never venture away from the carnival, if you did, and found your way into the 4-H displays – both indoor and out – or the Exhibit Hall, or toward the animals, I hope you were able to appreciate the amount of hard work that went into the production of this event. From the 4-H kids, their parents, the volunteers and leaders, the Fairgrounds/Extension office personnel, and staff, thank you. Showcasing our kids and our facility is a proud moment for each of us who work here.

By spending copious amounts of time in the horticulture and floriculture room (yes, it’s good to spend your time in the coolest – literally and figuratively – room at the Fairgrounds), I also realized how many really fantastic gardeners are here.

The top vegetable entries were cheddar (what?) cauliflower (orange colored) and red-ripe tomatoes; a gorgeous melon and peaches (I love it when peaches work here) were judged as the top fruits; and the winner of the floriculture division was a perfect sunflower grown by Jennifer Wheeling.

We also had a record number of entries by juniors, so I will encourage all of you who have kids or work with kids to get them growing in the spring and summer in order to enter their prized possessions. With the prizes and premiums given out, their entries may provide some “seed money” for the next year.

Fortunately for me, the gardening celebrations don’t end with the fair. This weekend, we will be celebrating the sixth annual Tour de Farms, as always on bikes (Wait, really? We’re not the only bike ride in the next couple of days?), and while we may be short on spandex, we will be riding around the county and Durango visiting amazing gardens – such as Manna Soup Kitchen and Durango Discovery Museum – and progressive farms and ranches – like Twin Buttes, the Old Fort, and LB Brands Co-op – with a final destination of Ska Brewery, where we will enjoy local drinks, food from Zia Taqueria and music from Wild Mountain.

The next Saturday – Aug. 25 – will be the finale of the fifth annual Iron Horse Chef at the Durango Farmers Market featuring semifinal winner Warren Smith from Manna Soup Kitchen and Dennis Morrisroe, the defending champion who is currently a chef at Cosmo Bar & Dining.

Be sure to show up early to watch the chefs shop, cook and probably banter – all within an hour and a half. For those of you wondering what the “secret ingredient” will be, all I can say is: expect the unexpected.

Lastly, for you gardeners, we will be assisting the Durango Food Bank with its quarterly commodity distribution by soliciting donations of extra produce. We will be accepting donations from Sept. 14-16 at the Fairgrounds.

Fresh and tasty produce goes a long way, doesn’t it? or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.