2021 in Review: Happy days are here again | CraigDailyPress.com

2021 in Review: Happy days are here again

14 balloons lifted off on the last day of the 2021 Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Billy Schuerman / For the Craig Press

Of all the dejection and disappointment — and, surely, despair — that came with 2020, hardly least of it all was attendant to the absence of the vast majority of Moffat County and Craig’s signature events.

That changed in 2021, as safe and effective vaccination, a renewed — if at times misguided — sense of security and, generally, far fewer state-imposed restrictions allowed for the return of the events and entertainment that make Craig fun.

Grand Old West Days in May enjoyed its largest rodeo pool in the event’s history, and packed houses returned to the signature kick-off to the summer in Moffat County.

An aerial photo of the Moffat County Fairgrounds taken during this summer’s Grand Old West Days festivities.
Mountain Eyes Drone / For the Craig Press

“We used every available space,” said organizer Melody Villard in early June. “Had 106 indoor stalls for the fairgrounds, and put up 123 portable pens for animals. It was huge. Every inch of campus was utilized.”

The 30th anniversary of the event — though, thanks to the cancellation in 2020 it was technically just the 29th iteration thereof — boasted 218 rodeo contestants and saw about 1,000 attendees at the Saturday night concert. All in all, it was termed an unqualified success.

Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, perhaps the most Craig event of them all, followed a few weeks thereafter, and despite a smaller field of carvers than normal, the late-June event was again considered a hit.

Damon Gorecki of Salt Lake City won the carving contest with a bench shaded by the wings of a massive wooden eagle.

Carver Damon Gorecki sits on the bench he carved shaded by an eagle called "Freedom," for which he won the top prize in the Whittle the Wood contest.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

“We just come to have fun, but if I can get something out of it, then I’m happy,” Gorecki said at the time of his victory.

A robotic deep-sea fish took second place, as well as artists’ and people’s choice awards.

“It’s kind of a steampunk fish. I’ve seen some pictures of things like this, so I thought I’d try it,” its carver, Chad Stratton, said.

The outdoor concert brought Craig together in a way it hadn’t been in far too long to hear 1990s favorites The Verve Pipe and Everclear perform at Loudy-Simpson Park.

“Look at where we are; we’re in God’s country,” Art Alexakis, frontman of Everclear, told the cheering throngs during their concert. “We’re blessed to be able to play for you. Thank you guys so much for being here for us.”

The Moffat County Fair came as it typically does in early August, featuring its livestock and other shows, as well as the climactic livestock auction at its close.

The auction was the most successful in its history, buyers generously shelling out to benefit FFA and 4-H kids with their purchases.

The reserve grand champion in rabbits pulls his animals for auction at the Moffat County Fair livestock auction this August.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

“This community stepped up,” said Jason Bacon, treasurer for the Moffat County Junior Livestock Sale Foundation. “Amazing. Amazing. It was a really, really good sale.”

Overlapping with the fair was the return of the Moffat County Balloon Festival, a beautiful event that, despite fewer pilots than usual, was greeted with community appreciation and enjoyment.

Hot air balloon pilots arrived at Loudy-Simpson park at 5:45 a.m. to fly on the last day of the Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Billy Schuerman / For the Craig Press

Halloween downtown was a massive hit, with costumed revelers lining both sides of Yampa Avenue for hours. Fall Festival was fun, as was the Ghost Walk. The Parade of Lights to kick off Christmas season was another fun-filled return to a level of normalcy not felt a year earlier.

Batwoman and Comet, Superman's horse, pose for a photo during Trick-or-Treat Street in Downtown Craig Saturday.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

The year ended with Christmas events, including the Craig Chamber of Commerce Downhome Christmas. That was highlighted by a multi-school elementary choir singing in the Yampa Building for a packed house.

Craig's Parade of Lights downtown Saturday evening featured floats and vehicles decorated in a Christmas theme.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

In all, it made for a year of getting together and enjoying our home. It was a welcome change from a 2020 in which we did far less of that.

Children from all three Craig elementary school choirs perform Christmas songs for parents and friends at the Yampa Building during the Chamber of Commerce Downhome Christmas event Saturday.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

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