Sheep wagon fun

If you go

What: Ninth Annual Sheep Wagon Days

When: Thursday to Sunday

Where: Wyman Living History Museum, 3 miles east of Craig on Highway 40

Cost: Free

Contact: Melody Villard, 824-9302 or www.villardranch....>

— Sheep Wagon Days had to be saved from passing into history last year, and Melody Villard answered the call.

"We've got to keep it going to educate the children about the sheep industry in Craig," she said. "For eight years, the community has made this a free event with an all volunteer staff, and this year it is going to be better than ever."

The list of new events found at this year's ninth annual celebration includes a dozen first time displays and performances.

A Scottish bagpiper, a sheepdog demonstration, concerts and a flap jack feed, as well as Ute Indian dancers and shearing demonstrations.

Beginning as an educational event first organized by the Museum of Northwest Colorado and Colorado Northwestern Community College, Sheep Wagon Days will again have the children top priority Thursday and Friday as elementary schools visit throughout the day.

Adults are welcome on those first two days, but the youngsters take priority until the weekend arrives.

The new location at the Wyman Living History Museum allows room for many new events to entertain visitors.

"Hands on stations" will allow children to make butter in an old butter churn and create projects out of wool.

A petting zoo includes llamas, sheep, horses and a buffalo, along with Mary Martinez's Shetland sheep miniatures.

The progression of sheering tools can be followed from early hand clippers through old electric clippers to modern machines.

Visitors can touch a wooden brand used to stamp the sheep with a paint brand, or stand next to one of the tall wool sacks once used to ship the product to market.

During the weekend, an antique tractor pull is scheduled for both days, along with concerts to entertain the public.

A farmers market will offer produce to shoppers, and craft and food vendors are available at the museum.

Not to be overlooked are the sheep wagons.

The century-old design has been improved with propane and solar panels throughout the years, but the efficient shape of the wagons has changed little.

Utilizing every inch of available space was vital to herders living on the range for months, and the wagon's stove provided heat and light, as well as cooking for the nomadic lifestyle.

Canvas tops gave way to tin and wooden wheels were replaced to rubber tires in many cases, but the "sheep camp" as it was known back in the day, is still vital to the industry today.

"We have two working sheep wagons now," Albert Villard said, "and the two I'm hoping to restore."

Albert's grandfather first ran sheep in Moffat County in 1928, and his father Clair followed suit.

The Villards will be happy to watch the "mutton busting" rides that will signal the end of Sheep Wagon Days on Sunday, because they have sheep to round up and lambs to ship off by next weekend.

"I'm really excited that it's finally here," Melody said.

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