Montana Range Days concludes interrupted Beaverhead County run

Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Montana Range Days concludes interrupted Beaverhead County run

Stylin’ Montana Range Days Top Range Hand Laura Power picks out a pair of boots at Atomic 76 as part of her prize package. Sales associate Brooke Frazier helps with the fitting. J.P. Plutt photo

The Harlowton family has earned a new nickname – The Power Range Hands. The top award at Montana Range Days is the Top Range Hand designation, a level reached by the participants in the 15 to 18 years age group after a series of tests and presentations are scored. This year’s Top Range Hand is Laura Power, 16.

“I’ve been going to this range competition for a while, so I knew some stuff and then going to workshops and studying helped,” said Laura of her title effort in the agricultural competition.

One key element in the Top Range Hand scoring is the illustrated presentation. The soft-spoken Power focused on weed management in her delivery. She summed up her message while trying on boots at Atomic 76.

“It is hard to manage weeds so we need to do all we can so they don’t spread more,” said Power before leaving Dillon for the home place near Harlowton.

When Laura arrives home, she knows exactly where the Top Range Hand traveling trophy will sit. There has been a place of honor already used for that purpose on a shelf in the Power living room. That is of course where it has rested for the last two years after her sister Melanie won Top Range Hand in Dillon in 2019. The event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID and returned to Dillon this year. Younger sister Cindy could very well lay claim to the traveling trophy next year when Montana Range Days moves on to Shelby for a two-year stay. Of course, older brother John first brought home the traveling trophy in 2015.

Dillon’s host role of Montana Range Days concluded last Wednesday with the awards ceremony at Beaverhead Fairgrounds. Dillon took over as host after Montana Range Days spent two years in Red Lodge. As with Shelby going forward, the local Dillon committee took on the event with the idea to improve upon Range Days and leave it better than they found it.

According to Dillon’s Koy Holland, a spokesperson for the local committee, the Dillon group was determined to introduce electronic scoring into the Range Day mix. In previous competitions, the gap between the conclusion of the competition and the awards ceremony would be awkwardly long as volunteers would add by pencil the bubble sheets that determined standings. Folks were anxious to get out of town and back to their home places after spending three or four days away from home.

“The kids got to experience Montana Range Days through Scantron,” said Holland of the electronic scoring system. “In less than a minute you can score 50-some pages. Range Days came to Dillon and we made some nice changes and brought it to the future and passed it on to Shelby for hopefully another 45 strong years.”

The Dillon committee also had to navigate the uncertainty this year of COVID protocols after having to cancel the event entirely in 2020. Throw in a couple of other hurdles and registration was down slightly to around 100 registrants.

The Montana FFA Ag Teachers Association conference falls in conflict with Range Days every so often and this was one of those years so there were people lost to Range Days due to that event, and the drought played a part in a reduced adult contingent.

“Tours were a little bit down,” explained Holland. “Part of what is happening in the western half of the United States being in drought, there are a lot of individuals where water is a little tight and they’re scared of being away from home and they’re trying to stay on top of their livelihood.”

In 1988, Holland won the Top Range Hand award when the competition was last held in Dillon. The memory of going down to Quality Supply and picking out a free pair of boots is one that has lived in his mind as a highlight of Montana Range Days. He was determined to try to again establish the tradition and ensured at least for the two competitions in Dillon, the tradition would return.

“We pray it continues,” said Holland last week. “We reintroduced it two years ago and it happened again. Atomic 76 stepped up and helped us keep the boots on the ground for Range days.”

Like a cowboy in a boot store, Holland looked the shelves of Quality Supply footwear over in 1988 and picked out a pair of chocolate elephant skin boots.

“I still have them,” added Holland. “They’re the best boots I ever had.”

A year ago, Laura Power accompanied her family to Atomic 76 as her sister picked out her new boots. This year, Laura pondered a turquoise and tan Hondo bull hide boot similar to that of her sister’s pair, but then selected a dark blue Hondo boot.

Thad White, the ag teacher in Shelby, will be the point person for Montana Range Days the next two years.

“We’ve been to Range Days multiple times through the last few years and that is kind of the inspiration to host it,” said White as Shelby’s officially took over last week. “Lessons learned from every event, including this year. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Dillon did a heck of a job getting things organized and making things a little more streamlined. I think we’ll have a nice handoff and give it a little bit of a Shelby flair.”

2021 Montana Range Days at Dillon, Beaverhead County

Youth/Adult Top Range Hand – 1, Laura Power, Wheatland. 2, Wyatt Isaacs, Miles City. 3, Cindy Power, Wheatland. 4, Zora Holt, Stillwater.

Superstarter– 1, Hanna Braaten. 2, Adelaide Meyer. 3, Page Maddox. 4, Grant Holzer.

Wrangler – 1, Kade Oblender, Yellowstone. 2, Clair McKamey, Cascade. 3, Linden Holt, Montana FFA, 4, Kaylie McCaffree, Forsyth.

Youth/Adult Top Greenhand – 1, Cindy Power, Wheatland. 2, Faye Holland, Beaverhead. 3, Taya Perkins, Carter. 4, Lina Sturman, Stillwater.

Open Adult – 1, Kalten Hendrickson, Missoula. 2, Sierra Holt, Sweet Grass. 3, Julie Power, Wheatland. 4, Christie Mitchell, Wheatland.

Illustrated Talks – 1, Zora Holt. 2T, Faye Holland, Beaverhead, and Cindy Power, Wheatland. 4, Laura Power Wheatland.

Range Display – 1, Zora Holt, Stillwater. 2, Faye Holland, Beaverhead.

Range Plant Collection – 1, Faye Holland Beaverhead.. 2, Cindy Power, Wheatland.

Weed Collection – 1, Taya Perkins, Carter. 2, Laura Power, Wheatland.

Team competition

Wrangler – 1, Montana FFA. 2, Forsyth. 3, Valier FFA. 4, Yellowstone.

Open Youth – 1, Stillwater. 2, Miles City. 3, Beaverhead. 4, Whatland.

Open Adult – 1, Wheatland. 2, Missoula. 3, Sweet Grass. 4, Powell.