The Douglas County Fair is vastly different this year for those deeply involved in organizing and participating in it — because Bob isn't there.
Bob Thomas, who grew up on the family ranch south of Larkspur — and for much of his life was an essential part of the fair, taking on many roles including being fair board director, manager, treasurer and rodeo director — died unexpectedly after last year's fair.
But he is far from forgotten, as this year's fair goes on. A couple of the participants in the July 2 hometown rodeo dedicated their performances to him.
And a crowd of a couple hundred people, longtime ranchers and others who participate in and support agricultural pursuits in the county, recently honored Bob and his wife, Betty Thomas, who still lives on the ranch. The pair was named this year's Legends of Agriculture honorees July 2 at the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) fundraising dinner, held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
This annual CALF honor is meant to honor people who best represent the values embodied by the first people given the honor, John and Bea Lowell. The Lowells, now deceased, were the original benefactors of CALF, which is an organization on the Lowells' ranch dedicated to introducing children to agricultural pursuits.
Bruff Shea, president of the Douglas County Fair Foundation and the dinner's master of ceremonies, told Betty Thomas during the presentation that the values being talked about, such as commitment, accountability, responsibility, giving back, “a handshake is your word,” lasting friendship, faith and family, “defined your life with Bob.”
Betty Thomas said in before the presentation that Bob's passion was “the Western lifestyle and agriculture.”
And she said she couldn't have made it after Bob's death without the support of many of the people in that community who were attending the dinner. In her remarks after receiving the award for both of them, she told the crowd she is sharing this award “with all of you.”
Bob Thomas and his brother grew up on the Green Valley Ranch south of Larkspur, according to a CALF-provided history. Their parents raised registered Black Angus cattle, operated a small dairy and were longtime 4-H leaders. Bob and Betty met in 1964 while both were attending Colorado State University. They married shortly after graduation, and moved to the Thomas family ranch.
They soon were volunteering for the Douglas County Fair. Bob Thomas had a love of horses and rodeo and a background in the Douglas County 4-H program. Betty Thomas volunteered in addition to her administrative work at the Douglas County Extension Office and later for the Douglas County assessor.
The two helped with local and professional rodeos held in Douglas County, and with the 4-H Livestock Sale. After their two boys were born, Bob and Betty Thomas became 4-H leaders. Bob Thomas also served as the assistant sheep superintendent for six years and was a fair board director. For a time, they lived in Nevada, but returned each year to help during fair time.
After moving back to Douglas County, Bob became the Douglas County Fair Board secretary in 1997. He soon moved on to the fair manager position and was treasurer and rodeo director through 2012.
Betty Thomas' commitment to the fair continues. She continues to serve as a clerk for the fair's junior livestock sale