Welcome back, Winter Fair!

2022 celebration highlights Montana agriculture
Deb Hill
Friday, January 7, 2022
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A skijoring participant is airborne during the 2020 skijoring event at Montana Winter Fair. The event will be back Jan. 29 during the 2022 fair.
Photo by Matthew Strissel

After a year off due to COVID precautions, the Montana Winter Fair’s annual celebration of Western life styles and agriculture, promoted as a “cure for cabin fever,’ is back with some new twists. The 2022 Winter Fair includes 21 different events promising multiple days of cold weather fun.

“Everything is hopping and going pretty well,” said organizer Chris Cooler. Cooler and colleague Jennifer Saunders, along with Winter Fair board members and a host of volunteers, plan and produce the event.

Crowd favorites, the Ranch Rodeo and Skijoring have added levels of competition this year, and, even better, it appears there will be enough snow for Skijoring to take place.

In skijoring, a skier pulled by a horse races across a course for a timed event. This year’s course is in a new location, north of the Pavilion and fairgrounds campgrounds. With more room available, the course will be curved instead of just straight, making it a bit more difficult for both horses and skiers alike. 

“They are already piling up snow for the course and the ramps, every time they plow at the fairgrounds,” Cooler said. 

Skijoring will be held Saturday, Jan. 29 and Sunday, Jan. 30. The deadline for team signups is Jan. 20. There is a fee for spectators this year.

The Ranch Rodeo, also an event that draws a crowd, will be held in the afternoon on Saturday, Jan. 29 at the Pavilion building. A pair of two-man (or woman) teams will compete at the same time, with the winner advancing and the loser eliminated. There are four rounds: Team Doctoring, Tie Down Steer, Branding and Three-Head Scramble. The event superintendent is Bill Plouffe; new this year there is a fee for spectators.

Bring your appetite to the Trade Center Friday for Savor the Flavor, a dinner buffet celebrating locally grown foods. 

“This Montana-made dinner features value added products from local farms and ranches, as well as Montana spirits,” Cooler said.

Ticket buyers will sample lamb, beef, pork, poultry, grains, breads and pastas, lentils, baked goods and ice cream, along with beer, wine or hard spirits served by Gally’s Brewing out of Harlowton.

“There will also be an open bar, so if people want more than one drink they can purchase those,” said Cooler, who is the superintendent of the event. 

Cooler said dinner tickets are limited to 100 people and are going fast, so she recommends advance purchase through the Winter Fair website.

Between 25 and 30 vendors will be displaying their wares at the Western Expo Trade Fair, held Friday and Saturday at the Trade Center. 

“There will also be a competition put on by the Montana auctioneers,” Cooler said. “We expect lots of local arts and crafts, as well as food products for sale, and Wally World drones from Park City. Some of the booths are selling things and some are informational.”

Saturday the Trade Center is also the location for the ever-popular Rabbit Agility competition, as well as a variety of cookoff competitions, including chili, cinnamon roll and dutch oven cooking. Following each cookoff, viewers can taste the entries…but don’t be late, as the amounts are limited and the crowds are hungry.

This year’s Winter Fair also includes a fun dog show, fiddle contest, fiber arts workshop, stickhorse rodeo and more. For all the details and schedules, visit the Winter Fair website: montanawinterfair.com.