Jed Fitch named parade marshal

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Jed Fitch, standing in Harry Andrus Arena, hands a pig string to a calf roper after untieing the calf during the tie-down roping at the 2019 Dillon Jaycee PRCA Labor Day Rodeo. Fitch will serve as this year’s Grand Marshal at the Dillon Jaycee Labor Day Parade. J.P. Plutt photo



Dillon’s Jed Fitch can fill a resume. The Beaverhead County Attorney is a former Dillon Jaycee president and rodeo chairman, a veteran of a foreign war as a marine, a regular carrying a flag in the Jaycee Labor Day Parade and calling cadence for the American Legion, 4-H booth and rodeo arena volunteer, a proud father, loving son and active member of the Dillon community. When you stack all of that up, the Dillon Jaycees found Fitch to be the perfect candidate as the Dillon Jaycee Labor Day parade marshal. The parade will start at 10 a.m. on Monday with the theme “A salute to our armed forces.”

Shortly after Fitch first accepted the position of Beaverhead County Attorney in May of 2008, Beaverhead County Commissioner Tom Rice took him to an event at the Elks Lodge where he met some of the Dillon Jaycees and within six months he was an active member of the service organization. By 2013, Fitch was the rodeo committee chairman and he would also serve as president of the organization.

He would remain an active member until he aged out at 40.

“I was older than some of the brand new Jaycees,” said Fitch of his quick ascension into leadership positions. “I had been a company commander in the marine corps so I had the basic idea down of how to lead people into situations and how to manage and organize tasks. I enjoyed the hell out of it.”

After aging out, Fitch stayed active with the Jaycees during the rodeo, flipping burgers in the cowboy booth – the concession stand behind the chutes. In recent years he made the move to arena work during the rodeo, untying calves during the tie-down roping, and opening chutes during the bucking events. Jed was in the mind-set of his Jaycee work when he received the phone call from a Jaycee that turned into a shocking invitation.

“I volunteer to pull the chutes for the rodeo,” recalled Fitch of the parade marshal call. “In my current physical condition, I asked for somebody else to untie the calves this year. I’m not going to go out there and get my butt whupped by a little calf, but I’m still pulling the chute for the bulls and broncs. So I thought that is what he is calling about. I was totally shocked when he invited me to be parade marshal. It is an honor and I was taken aback by it.”

Jed joins not only the distinguished list of former Dillon Jaycee Labor Day Parade Grand Marshals, but he will now be included in family lore on the subject. His parents were the grand marshals of the Riggins Rodeo Parade, his grandfather was the grand marshal of the Grangeland Border Days Parade, and his grandparents were the grand marshals of the Johnson County Rodeo Parade.

Family lore and tradition are an important aspect of the Fitch family. Jed’s great-grandfather Scott M. Fitch fought with the Nebraska National Guard in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and with the Idaho National Guard chasing Poncho Villa in Mexico. Woodrow became a teacher (another Fitch family tradition), but in 1941 after Pearl Harbor he signed up and served as an officer with the Army Airborne Division in the Pacific theatre. Jed’s dad Ward Fitch served with the Idaho National Guard from 1965 to 1980.

Out of high school, Fitch had appointments to both West Point and the Coast Guard Academy and chose the academy because they had more slots for helicopter pilots, and Jed had dreamed of becoming a pilot since his youth. As a college freshman, Fitch was fitted with glasses, thus ending his hopes of flying choppers, as 20-20 vision is a requirement.

He left the academy and went about his life, graduating from College of Idaho and earning the choice of choosing between law schools in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. He chose Montana and graduated in 1999. While working in Bozeman as a law clerk for judge Tom Olson, a former marine judge advocate, Fitch applied for and was accepted to Officers’ Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia.

“I got commissioned Aug. 10, 2001, with great plans of being a prosecutor in the marine corps, being a trial lawyer and getting all of this great experience,” recalled Fitch. “Thirty days later, 9-11 happened and I ended up in Iraq with an infantry battalion, so I am living proof that every marine is in fact a rifleman.”

Fitch served with an infantry battalion in Iraq on the Syrian border and left the marines at the end of his contract in 2005. He had stops in Helena, Butte and finally Miles City when the job in Beaverhead County opened up. He interviewed, was offered and accepted the job, and started in Dillon on May 5, 2008.

During his youth in Riggins, Idaho, Jed was enamored with the family stories about his great uncle Ralph Buell, the 1962 world bareback riding champion. Jed says the stories include versions with another world champion, a traveling partner named Benny Reynolds from the Dillon area, the 1961 world all around champion. Fitch has a poster of his uncle and Benny squaring off in a matched bronc ride in 1963, down in Johnson County, Idaho.

“Rodeo is something I tried to do,” said Jed. “I wasn’t any good at it, I thought I would be. I tried riding bareback and a little bit of saddle bronc, and I rode steers as a kid and I did some chute ‘doggin. I never won a buckle. My kid (Finn) is the 2019 champion in the junior steer riding at the Beaverhead County Fair and he won a buckle when he was 9-years-old.”

Finn will be defending his title this year and Jed’s daughter Darby will board a sheep and hold on in the mutton bustin’. Both of his kids will be showing hogs in the fair.

“I showed lambs in 4-H for a while, but my 4-H group folded,” recalled Fitch. “We weren’t in the county seat, I was in the town like Lima, 48 miles from the county seat.”

At Salmon River High School in Riggins, Jed Graduated in a class of 20, played varsity sports throughout high school, and lived a rural lifestyle that was very similar to the pace of Dillon.

“I love going to the rodeo and I’ve got arguably the best seat in the house pulling the chute open, so that I love,” explained Fitch of the joy Labor Day weekend in Dillon brings him. “I go to the fire hall breakfast, during the slack I eat the EMT breakfast and I love the fair. I look at every exhibit and I always buy an animal at the 4-H sale.”

The livestock sale at the fair, which will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at the fairgrounds, features poignant moments for Fitch.

“Those are good kids,” he said. “Some of those kids are crying as they say good bye to their lamb or whatever. I love eating at the buyers lunch that they have and the 4-H kids are bringing you another water or ice tea or whatever. I love watching all of the dedicated members of this community compete with each other to see who can buy this steer, or that lamb. The last kid to bring in his red ribbon hog gets a great price too. That is one of the reminders of how great it is to live in Dillon.”

With his kids in 4-H, Fitch spends his time in the 4-H booth, flipping burgers. He enjoys watching the kids – nervous and excited - taking orders and learning first hand about service to community.

“I’ve loved my 13-plus years in Beaverhead County,” concluded Fitch. “This town has welcomed me with open arms. I’ve obviously got a job that there is controversy around sometimes, but the support of this community has been excellent for myself personally, for my family, for justice, for law enforcement. It is a reminder of how great this place is to live and how much I have loved living in Dillon for most of my adult life.”