Posted: Aug 17, 2012 9:27 AM by Laura Wilson - KAJ News
Updated: Aug 17, 2012 10:33 AM
KALISPELL- The rodeo is one of the most popular annual events at the Northwest Montana fair, but it takes a special kind of maintenance to get the arena ready for the livestock events.
Reporter Laura Wilson found out that job happens to belong to one of the longest-standing employees in the fair's history.
Flathead Valley native Don Blasdel has been going to the Northwest Montana Fair every year, for nearly 70 years.
"I showed the first pig here when I was about 10 years old, and then I was a 4H leader after that," Blasdeo recalled.
Over the years, Blasdel stopped being just a spectator at the fair, and started becoming part of it.
"Don's kind of our dirt man. We call him our dirt man affectionately because he does all the rodeo arena work. He does a lot of tweaking and fixing, and greasing panels and gates, and things out in the rodeo area, so he comes back every summer for us," Flathead Fairgrounds Manager Mark Campbell told us.
"After I retired, they just begged me to come back and get the arena together for them," Blasdel said.
It's a dirty job, but it's one that's kept Blasdel coming back to work at the fair for over 30 years.
"There's a lot of different situations that we have to handle quickly at the fair, and Don just has a sense of calm about him. You just go forward with him and get the job done," Flathead Fairgrounds Maintenance Supervisor Tim Harmon observed.
"I get up and get to see a lot of people I haven't seen over the past few years. And you're always meeting newcomers," said Blasdel.
Fair staffers say they learn something new every year from Blasdel, a man who's come to be known around the fairgrounds as "Uncle Don."
"He is that family member. He's that one that everyone kind of connects to. He's just a fixture," Campbell pointed out.
"Uncle Don" says it's hard to know how many more years he can keep up his job at the fair, but he quickly added that he likes to keep everyone guessing.
"At the end of every fair since I've taken over, I'll say 'well Blasdel, I've got 350 days to talk you into doing the next one.' He always gets me back and says, ‘Well you better get started soon.' Harmon concluded.
Montana's News Station will be broadcasting live from the Northwest Montana Fair during Friday's 5:30 News.