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A Combined $20,000 Toward Improvements to the 4-H Livestock barn area at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds

It was already a record-breaking year with more than $402,000 in livestock sales for the 4-H’ers exhibiting at the 2023 Chaffee County Fair and Rodeo. But what happened when 4-H’er Quinn Lewis sold her third grand champion animal, a grand reserve champion sheep, was beyond what anyone could have imagined. As she left the sale area, she handed a note to Tate Scanga who was calling the auction. Scanga was so moved, that he read it out loud to the crowd.

Quinn was dedicating the more than $3,000 in proceeds from her third animal to the Chaffee Fairground Committee to effect some improvements to the livestock building. It had a big impact on the crowd. Before the night was over, that $3,000 donation had turned into $8,087 with donors and county businesses stepping up to add to it.

4-H’er Quinn Lewis speaking before the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners during their Aug. 15 regular meeting. Photo by Jan Wondra

Endorsing her selflessness, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners  (BoCC) voted unanimously to add around $12,000 to that total bringing it to an even $20,000.

“I have been doing 4-H since I was eight. All I’ve known is raising these animals,” explained Quinn Lewis to the BoCC earlier this week.

“I think when we sit down at the dinner table it’s important to know where our meat is coming from … It’s really important to ethically raise and care for these animals.”

“I’ve also learned finances for my animals, and 4-H is hopefully going to put me through college,” she explained. “I’m nearing my final years in 4-H and want to give back to the organization. So I donated proceeds from my reserve grand champion sheep, and that was going to be it. But a lot of businesses liked the cause and continued to donate as well.”

Lewis went on to describe her thoughts on improvements, including the urgent need for a new livestock scale, and better livestock barn infrastructure.

The livestock scale is validated yearly, but it’s old and problems arose about weight this year, she explained. “Some families didn’t get to sell their animals because of the [scale] weight problems.”

Her second suggestion was to add infrastructure to the livestock barn, including hoses and spouts, fences and gates, and more security cameras. She noted that this year there were people feeding the animals things animals can’t eat, such as cotton candy, and being unkind to the animals.

The situation with the water and the fences and gates is also a priority. When the 4-H’ers are trying to wash their cattle on show days, she described a group effort to keep the animals in the washing area. “The gates and locks don’t line up and in the morning it’s a rodeo for everyone to get the animals washed” — and keep them from tearing out of the fenced area.

“Being in that space for that event, with a lot of community leaders in the audience, everyone is focused on these kids and their hard work. Clearly, there is enthusiasm for making sure every kid went away to feel rewarded,” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “What Quinn did was an amazing act of leadership.”

The BoCC agreed that the response to Lewi’s effort, which is now being called the Quinn Lewis Foundation, was organic, but totally logical, and tremendously impactful. They clarified that the commissioners were willing to add funding to top of the funding to $20,000.

The BoCC also noted they want the Fair Committee to work on the improvements with the representation of Chaffee 4-H youth, hopefully, led by Quinn Lewis, to make sure their voices and needs were heard.

“Not only did she change things, but you raised the bar. You had a huge impact on adults and kids,” added Felt. “I’m very supportive of this idea.”

He went on to make the motion to allocate an additional 11,913 and direct the fair committee to spend money wisely and work with a group of 4-H kids led by Quin, to effect change. P.T.Wood seconded it and it passed unanimously.