By Jean Schurman
It’s only fitting that the first family to be honored by the Ravalli County Fair Board is the Cliff Trexler family of Corvallis. Trexler and his family have been avid participants in the fair since they moved here in 1958. But they have done more than participate; they have also helped put the fair on and worked to make it better each year.
Cliff and Jane Trexler moved to Victor in 1958. His winter job was teaching junior high and high school science but it was his summer job that got him to the fair. He raised purebred Shorthorn cattle and showed the bulls and heifers throughout Montana, ranging from Billings to Great Falls, Missoula to Kalispell, and winding up the show season each fall at the beef barn in Hamilton. Throughout the years while Cliff and his son, Larry were showing throughout the state and even a few trips to Calgary and Denver (the highlight of Larry’s showing career), they picked up many ideas they brought back to the county fair.
Cliff and Jane, his wife, were active 4H leaders for 18 years. During this time they put on many showmanship clinics to help young members with their fair projects. Larry remembers traveling to different ranches and members’ houses to check on steers for 4H members. Once he was in 4H, Larry went on to take several championships in beef and showmanship. One year, he took a sheep, pig, and steer. The next year, the fair decided 4H members could only sell one animal at the fair.
But Larry wasn’t the only Trexler child to show at the fair. Debbie Trexler Bush began showing as soon as she was able to join 4H and had a healthy rivalry with her older brother Larry. Younger brother, Dan, also competed in 4H, showing sheep and beef.
“We thoroughly enjoyed the kids and friendships made there at the fair,” said Debbie. “And mom and dad were very supportive.”
Cliff showed cattle at the fair until 1986 when he got out of the beef business. But he kept up with his lifelong love of horse racing, running horses at the race meet every year from 1978 until 1992 when racing was disbanded. His love of racing goes way back to when he was a youngster himself. His mother raced horses at the Great Falls Fair and he remembers cleaning stalls and watching the horses run then.
Cliff was a member of the fair board for about 13 years and was chairman for five of those years. During that time, the siding on the buildings was replaced and all of the buildings were repainted. Sprinkler systems were installs or improved and the Bob Horning Show Ring was built, allowing all of the livestock shows to be under a roof and in a more contained environment.
Cliff has been one of the auctioneers at the livestock sale on Saturday morning, imparting words of wisdom to those teary eyed 4H members who were reluctant to see their animal sold and quipping one liners to other members and the audience. He also has been the auctioneer for the Bitterroot Humane Society Pie Auction upon occasion. In both cases, he not only sold the animals or pies but also bought an animal or two or a pie.
Larry and his wife, Peggy, have carried on the tradition of working at the fair. Larry was a 4H leader for 25 years and the Beef Superintendent for 20 of those years. He and Peggy spent their days at the fair helping members. Their children, Reed and Karri, each showed throughout their grade school and high school years. In addition, both were very active in rodeoing. So after showing their steers, Reed would end up on a bull at the rodeo and Karri running barrels at the rodeo with Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa cheering them on. Larry and Peggy spent many hours helping kids in the arena through gymkhana, junior rodeo (they helped found that organization) and high school rodeo. At that time, all of these events were held at the fairgrounds so they would help with maintenance and upkeep as well.
Peggy also has had a history at the fair. She competed in many horse shows and rodeos there. She was also a member of the Junior Sheriff’s Posse, a drill team for the youth of the valley. They performed at rodeos and each afternoon at the fair.
Now, Larry and Peggy’s grandkids are getting interested in doing some competing. Reed and Kari Trexler’s son Cole, 8 years old, began competing in gymkhana but now competes with his dad in ranch rodeos around Western Montana. Cash, his younger brother, also rides. Karri Trexler Miles’ husband Dusty competed as a bull rider for years including riding at Hamilton. Their children, Haley and Wyatt, are just beginning to compete and will show in the kiddie classes and
Dan and his wife, Corrie, have two daughters, Meghan and Kelsey. Kelsey has the rodeo bug and has had quite a bit of success in high school rodeo and on the 4D barrel racing circuit. She will compete in the NRA rodeo this weekend. And, Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa will be on hand to cheer her on.
“This is a wonderful honor,” said Jane Trexler, the anchor of the family. “All of the fun times we’ve had at the fair, it’s really nice.”
Larry Trexler added, “it’s a special honor for us. Evidently we’ve contributed to the valley and to the youth of the valley.”