Blair cowboy Dylan Schmidt recently graduated from college and is beginning a career three hours from home in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

The distance hasn't made his return to the Washington County Fairgrounds any more special than it already was before he moved.

“I've always kind of appreciated it,” the 22-year-old said Thursday, two days before Saturday's first performance of the Granite & Marble Interiors Rodeo. “I just like the fair atmosphere.”

Dylan and his father, Rick Schmidt, were two of several Washington County cowboys and cowgirls competing for a purse during their county's fair — a special event for many of them who've competed in it for many years. Even more locals were scheduled to compete Sunday during the second performance in Arlington.

“We're not any hot shots, but we took home money last year,” Dylan Schmidt said.

The Blair native and his father fell short in Saturday's team-roping run won by Jeremy and Cody Johnson. Dylan, however, first competed at the Washington County Fair as a 16-year-old. He'd watched his father rope several years before, and that, too, was memorable.

Lauren Schwedhelm, a Kennard native who's about to be a sophomore at South Dakota State, has rodeo memories, too.

“I ride in the memory of my mom, and for my mom who passed away 10 years ago,” she said. “She always dreamed of becoming a barrel racer, so I strive to do that for her.”

Instead of barrel racing Saturday, though, Schwedhelm was announced as the 2019 Washington County Fair Rodeo Queen. She was competing alongside Taylor Curtis and Makenna Dirkschneider for the honor.

“I want to thank my family who supports me and has pushed me to this point,” the cowgirl said.

Other first-performance winners were Weston Winkers of Nelson in the steer wrestling, Tracy Paulsen of Primrose in the breakaway roping and Tyler Kimmel of Stoneham, Colo., in the tie-down roping. Deb Christy of Norton, Kan., won the barrel racing.

No one, however, was able to ride a bronc or a bull at the Washington County Fairgrounds on Saturday. Two cowboys tried in the saddle bronc riding, while five rode bulls.

Despite his lack of success — and a hoof to the head — Norfolk bronc rider Seth Johnson was smiling behind the chutes.

“Oh, I'm fine,” he said, holding pressure to his bleeding head wound. “You never know what's going to happen. Every horse is different and every ride is different.”

For a host of Washington County cowboys and cowgirls, every fair rodeo is a special event, too.

Lots of locals

The Washington County Fair Rodeo was loaded with talent from the area.

On Sunday, the Schmidts were joined in competition by Blair team-ropers Harry and Bradie Crouse as well as Zach Sloan and Wyatt Moore.

Stacy O'Daniel, Izabella Zuhlke, Shelby Kaup, Hailey O'Daniel, Karlene Kinney, Bailey Stoddard and Emma Bassler represented either Blair or Arlington in the barrel racing, too.

The fair program showed Fort Calhoun's Nick Schwedhelm competing in Sunday's bareback riding. Dirkschneider, Cassidy Arp, Schwedhelm and Annika Gaylord were set for the barrel racing.

Allen and Jason Arp, and Cameron and Jeff Shaner, were to compete in the team roping.

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