Wild West Night at the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair was slated to start at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening. It was 6:15 p.m., and event chairwoman Jen Mayo had just been informed that the calves for the calf scramble, a key event of the evening, had gotten loose somewhere in Westminster and might not make it to the fair. She took it in stride.
"When you work with livestock, you learn to go with the flow," she said.
"It's total chaos around here," added Mayo's husband, Dave, who was the public address announcer for the evening. "That's just part of rodeos. Things happen, but it comes together."
Wild West Night is an evening of rodeo based entertainment that was first introduced to the fair four years ago to provide more opportunities for audience engagement, according to Jen Mayo. Not only are audience members engaged in games like a blindfolded banana eating contest, they can also sign up to participate in the rodeo events on the floor of the Buck Miller Arena.
"A lot of events are pre-register like the barrel racing, which is for all ages," Jen Mayo said. "Barrel racing is when they take their horses and race around barrels in a clover leaf pattern. It's a timed event where they compete for the fastest time."
Participation in barrel racing requires riding experience, according to Jen Mayo, as does the closing event of the evening, monkey in a tree, where one of two riders grabs a hold of a suspended trapeze-like hanger in mid-ride and then attempts to remount the horse on a second pass.
There are events to draw in younger audience members that cannot ride, however, including the calf scramble for ages 6 through 12, according to Jen Mayo.
"We turn the kids loose in the arena with 10 calves and five will have ribbons of different colors worth prizes if the kids can chase the calves down and grab the ribbon," she said. "Most of the time the calves run away pretty fast."
Since the status of the calves was in question, Wild West Night opened with the national anthem and then moved to an activity designed for audience members weighing 50 pounds or less: Mutton busting, where small children — wearing helmets — cling to the backs of sheep and ride them like adults might ride a bull, earning points if they hold on for at least six seconds.
Many of the two dozen or so riders fell off their sheep and into the dust fairly quickly, a few with tears, but most with smiles. A handful of the youthful riders clung on.
Kamie Jo Kipe, 8, of Finksburg, had a rough ride with her sheep — it bucked her and they both fell down, the sheep rolling over top of her, leading the judges to grant her a second ride. The second time, she held on tight and was awarded 73 points.
"I wasn't scared," she said.
Landen Willig, of Westminster, is 4 years old, but he held on to his sheep until a rodeo hand removed him and he was awarded 75 points. He said he had a secret.
"I hold on tight," he said.
Jen Mayo said that the mutton busting was one of the key ways the Wild West Night reached out to the next generation to cultivate an interest in 4-H.
"I think it's just about a lot of fun and keeping the little kids involved so that they are interested and when they are ready, they will join 4-H for the rodeos," Jen said. "It keeps that culture alive — 4-H is a really important part of Carroll County."
By 7:30 p.m., it became clear that the calf scramble was not going to happen.
"It looks like we will not be getting the cows," Dave Mayo announced over the speakers. "They are still out there. We heard they were going through the Burger King drive through."
Far from a failure, Jen Mayo said they would simply shift the events of the evening around. There were still children left to go mutton busting and the children who had signed up for the calf scramble would compete in a stick horse race.
"We still want the kids to participate and that way we are not disappointing 30 kids," she said. "Sometimes we don't get to decide. Stuff happens ... As long as all the kids are happy, I don't care."
Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or email@example.com.
Missing calves scramble?
What happened to the missing cows that were scheduled to appear at Wild West Night on Tuesday? They may have been interested in some groceries.
Sgt. Juan Bustos, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, confirmed reports that the animals were loose along Md. 140 and Md. 31, near Safeway and the International House of Pancakes between 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tuesday evening. He said sheriff's deputies were involved in tracking and catching the animals.
"They are still trying to get them caught," Bustos said at 9:48 p.m. Tuesday evening. "Right now, they are tracking one as far as I know. I don't know if there are any more or not … The [animal] owner is assisting us."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun