2019 Citizens of the Year
Dedication to a culture of positive and rewarding experiences for children through 4-H and the Middle Park Fair is a characteristic that Caroline Smith modeled consistently in her nearly 20 years of involvement with 4-H in Grand County.
Caroline was first involved with the Happy Paws 4-H Dog Club with her daughter Katie and then her son Ryan. She was able to bring that passion to her job as county 4-H Coordinator and then as the administrative assistant for the 4-H program as well as the CSU Extension office. Smith served as the leader of Happy Paws and still enjoys working with her dog Ozzi through obedience training, teaching him tricks and in using the dog’s nose to find and locate specific items. Caroline and Ozzi compete in the National Association of Canine Scent Work trials.
All three of Caroline and her husband Steve’s children were involved with the Grand County 4-H program. Her youngest son Nolan, who graduated from West Grand High School this year, was involved with general projects like electricity, shooting sports and market swine programs.
Serving as the 4-H Coordinator for several years, Caroline said she really enjoyed taking 4-H education into both the East and
West Grand school systems. Due to the nature of the topics that she talked about, she was often referred to as the “4-H Lady” or the “Chicken Lady.” She remained involved with the 4-H program
and the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo as the administrative assistant and despite the pressure and stress of the fair week, she always
looked forward to the annual event. That week, she noted, was the culmination of a lot of time and effort by the 4-H members and, for many, it was a magical time of year.
She was involved with many of the children from their first experience as Cloverbuds to their last years as senior 4-H members. The children often enjoyed showing her what they had accomplished and she was thrilled and honored to encourage them for their efforts. “The 4-H Program is about the youth. Kids are fun. Dogs are fun. When you put them together you have a recipe for a great time. And, kids will teach you everything you need to know because they are fresh with ideas.”
Caroline and Steve have lived in Kremmling for over 17 years and they love the community. It has been a great place to raise their children. Ryan currently owns and operates a metal fabrication business with Austin Sherman in Kremmling and Katie is a branch supervisor of a bank in Clifton.
Caroline is a gracious person with a quiet and pleasant personality and it may surprise some people to know that she thoroughly enjoys driving in mud bog competitions. Utilizing a “pedal to the metal” style of driving, she finished second in her class at an MPFR Redneck Mudshuffle competition. She enjoys art and sewing and recently has been face-painting at events around the county.
She and Steve both have lived in John Day, Oregon but it was in Hermiston, Oregon that they met while they attended high school together and married after Steve was discharged from the Marines. She notes that it is Steve who has encouraged her over the years but has also kept her grounded.
Congratulations Caroline on your selection as Citizen of the Year by the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo Board of Directors. Your love and commitment to children was noticed and is very much appreciated.
Penny Hamilton has traveled and lived throughout the world, has published several books, is an aviator who set a world speed record with her husband Bill, is personally involved in numerous charitable organizations and she loves and supports the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo.
“Coming from a large Eastern urban area,” Hamilton says, “I was not familiar with county fairs. Our Middle Park Fair and Rodeo have something for everyone with a week of opportunities at a very low cost.”
Her favorite program is the Fair Princess program and she backs up that interest and passion by sponsoring the program. “These young women are smart and cute,” Hamilton says, “and they actually ride and rope, which is not for “fainting flowers. I am a very proud sponsor of the whole rodeo Princess program because of the many leadership skills taught and youth development opportunities.”
A founding member of the Grand County Pet Pals, she is also a co-founder of the award-winning Grand County Historical Association Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum in Granby. The museum just won the 2018 History Colorado Caroline Bancroft Award for its children’s aviation history programs and also won the 2015 History Colorado Honorable Mention Award as the best new Colorado history venue.
Hamilton was also awarded the 2010 Greater Granby Area Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hamilton’s involvement in the community is exemplary and she is a person that practices enjoying life to its fullest. Non-profits she has worked with include humane societies, animal rescue groups, aviation, historic preservation, heritage tourism, and breast cancer prevention organizations. A visit to her website provides a glimpse into one aspect of her involvement. Under the leadership tab is this statement, “Studies show if you volunteer at least one hour a week, you will be healthier, live longer and feel younger.”
Regarding the Middle Park Fair, Hamilton notes that her personal experience has been overwhelmingly positive. “I love baking, so earning Grand Champion in pie two years in a row was great fun,” she said. “I think the Fair Board should ask for two pies from
entrants; one to judge and one to sell for the many and varied youth programs. Hamilton also enjoys entering her recipes on her website, www.pennyhamilton.com. Hamilton also enjoys entering competitions at the Exhibit Hall with photographs and other art projects. “The quality of the items our country residents produce is overwhelming and often would not be shared, except with family,” Hamilton notes.
Penny and her husband Bill have chosen Granby as their home. “We chose Grand County over 30 years ago because of the natural beauty and friendly, small-town appeal. Yet, close proximity to Denver. Every day here is like ‘Living in a Postcard.’ Think about it, lots of tourists spend big bucks to visit here. They fling their car doors wide open to take yet another photograph of one of our incredible natural wonders. And we are blessed to live and work here.”
Thank you, Penny, for your passion and vision for Grand County. Thank you for rolling up your sleeves and making a difference in our community. Congratulations on your well-deserved selection as a Citizen of the Year for 2019 and we look forward to seeing you at the fairgrounds in August. You are always such a dynamic supporter of this county event.
It is a challenge to think of anyone that has a perspective on the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo that matches that of Lurline Underbrink-Curran, selected by the Middle Park fair board as a 2019 Citizen of the Year.
In addition to participating and enjoying the fair as a child, volunteering in a variety of capacities as an adult, Lurline had the opportunity as Grand County Manager to directly impact both the facilities at the fairgrounds and the operations of the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo.
Her experiences have bridged the time when the annual county fair was one of the top social events of the year for a region with an agrarian economy to a time when people are mostly disconnected from agriculture and when a rodeo competes with a diverse range of recreational opportunities.
"Cowboy Up" meant you did what had to be done at the time it needed doing with out complaint and, Lurline notes, without a thought of personal recognition.
Underbrink-Curran has a passion for preserving the heritage and to her, the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo is one of those "heritage events" that help to define a community. "When you start to lose your heritage," she says, "you start to lose your community."
As a member of 4-H, Lurline was involved in an active sewing group that had leaders like Mary Louise Tucker, Ilene Heeney, and Margie Breeze. The high point for the club was the Dress Review that was judged by a Mrs. Sherrod of Steamboat Springs and held at the end of the summer. The skills she learned in 4-H sewing served her well as she sewed clothes for her children and the wool outfits for her grandchildren as part of the Sheep Lead contest at the Middle Park Fair.
She remembers the train that would bring Denverites up for the barbecue and rodeo on Sunday. Running around the fairgrounds during the fair was a time, she said when children enjoyed the excitement of fair and felt safe at the same time. Her own children were involved with the fair, her daughter Kelly primarily with horses and her son Casey with swine.
Fast forward a few years and Underbrink-Curran found herself as the county manager looking at a fairgrounds facility that needed to be improved and an event that was facing a transitional period. Lurline is quick to credit the County Commissioners for their support as well as the Road and Bridge Department and fairgrounds manager Pat Pryor for their tireless efforts in helping to upgrade the facilities both at the county fairgrounds in Kremmling and the Flying Heels Arena near Granby.
The Middle Park Fair Board was faced with the challenges of maintaining the traditions and history of the fair and rodeo as well as meeting the entertainment needs of a community that was seeking new recreational opportunities. She helped the board pave the way to bring liability coverage for the fair board, the events, and the participants. In a changing world, contracts were required where once handshakes we considered binding. Events like the Mud Bog race ad the Demolition Derby are direct results of those efforts during this transitional period. Through those times, the fair board took the lead in making decisions and paving the way. However, the county was there with funds, with equipment and with manpower where needed. Though quick to deflect, Lurline was instrumental in keeping that safety net maintained.
Through it all, Lurline says, it was important to maintain the heritage and traditions of the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo. The fair still features livestock competitions that bring out the best in people and in animals. A rodeo still caps off the weekend and the jingle of spurs and shouts of cowboys and cowgirls are still heard in competitions throughout the week.
A conversation with Lurline about the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo quickly reveals a passion that isn't contrived or false. It matches the passion and courage she brought to battles to preserve a way of life for Kremmling and Grand County and to preserve the water that is the lifeblood of our region. In her work with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, she is still involved with protecting Grand County's water from outside interests.
Lurline has great respect for the fair board and for the volunteers who selflessly give of their time and talents to keep producing an event that 103 years old. As a volunteer, she was a key member of the committee that worked hard to make the Centennial celebration in 2016 a special celebration and memorable event.
Thank you, Lurline, for all you have done for the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo as participant and volunteer and in your role as County Manager. Your role in maintaining that should not be understated.