Column: Grand County Library District and the making of a rodeo queen

Tallie Gray
Grand County Library District
2018 Middle Park Fair & Rodeo Queen Grace Johnson was all smiles with her horse in 2018.
Grace Johnson/Courtesy Photo

I have a blurred photo of my son at age 3 or 4, perpendicular to a sheep, holding on for dear life, mud splattering to all corners of the photo’s boundaries, at a Grand County rodeo during an evening downpour. What had started as a “Won’t this be a fun event?” turned into a 12-second fight for life moment, until his little arms slipped from the sheep’s neck, and his body splatted into the mud. Bo was fine. So was the sheep. But that was the end of mutton bustin’ for my son.

Yet, the Middle Park Fair & Rodeo remained a fun yearly staple for us. These visits tied us to our community, allowing us to cheer on our friends in their competitions and festivities. If you have never gone to the Middle Park Fair & Rodeo, established 110 years ago, I highly recommend it.

“Keeping Western Traditions Strong” is the caption under Middle Park Fair and Rodeo’s title on its website. Over a week’s time you can partake in viewing the grand accomplishments of 4-H and community members.

How does this awe over our western traditional way of life tie in with Grand County Library District?

I asked Grace Johnson, the 2018 Middle Park Fair and Rodeo Queen, if she could help me with this connection by sharing a memory about an experience or an idea that would tie together 4-H, the Middle Park rodeo and the library district.

I asked the perfect person.

“I didn’t have a computer or Wi-Fi, so I had to use the resources at the library to plan the 2018 Annual Jr. Princess Clinic,” she said. “At the library, I made the itinerary, created posters and put the listing up online using their computers.”

Grace is one smart rodeo queen. This was not the first time she had been to her local library. Here’s how Grace recounted her story.

“When I was about 8 or 9, I often had to take exams about the anatomy of the animals I was showing those years, which were pigs, steers and sheep. The books at the library were very informative on the anatomy of the animals, and also taught me nutritional values essential to correctly feed my animals. Honestly, I used the library a lot during my early years of 4-H, since Wi-Fi and the internet hadn’t yet become a big thing.

“At the end of every 4-H year, we had to create a fair book, which summed up our year with each animal. These were often tedious, especially when you were showing multiple animals. In these books, we explained what we had learned, the financial price of owning animals, and we wrote essays on how the 4-H year had improved us. In these books, we had to provide pictures and summaries of our year. Since we didn’t have a printer or computer, we would go to the library, use their computers and printers, and then the big tables to spread everything out and put our fair books together.

“When I began riding horses at 8, I would often find books relating to horses in the kid section of the library. I remember there being so many informative books. I learned through them how to hold my hands on the reins, how to properly saddle a horse, and how watching what they do with their ears teaches us what emotions they’re having. These books had lots of pictures and easy explanations, and they helped the 8-year-old me learn how to ride.”

As I gushed over Grace’s memories and all that she accomplished with a little help from the library district, Grace graciously said, “I’m so glad that it’s good. I know it’s a lot, but I have lots of memories associated with 4-H and that library.”

And what great memories they are. Thank you for sharing, Grace Johnson!
See how library resources and programs can help your dreams become a reality.

If you have memories of how Grand County Library District or other libraries have helped you, please share by emailing them to

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