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Animals, Athletes, Machines Will Keep The Crowds Busy

Lasso your seats for the rodeo early.

The rodeo at the Kootenai County Fair is one of the fastest-growing in the Northwest and the stands will probably fill up a good hour in advance of the three shows. Friday night’s rodeo starts at 7:30; the Saturday afternoon event is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.; and on Sunday, the rodeo starts at 12:30 p.m.

“The Coeur d’Alene Rodeo compares with the caliber of any in the U.S. And you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting,” said Pat Beard of Beard Rodeos - a familyrun company from Ellensburg that provides rodeo stock and personnel to fairs throughout the Northwest.

Clown and barrel man Butch Lemkuhler - a veteran of the national finals rodeo in Las Vegas - will appear along with bullfighters Danny Newman and Mark Nichols. American-style bullfighters don’t gore bulls, but instead save cowboys thrown from horses and bulls.

Rodeo announcer Randy Schmutz is one of the best young voices in the business, a good candidate for announcing the national finals before long, according to Beard.

Several cowboys appearing in Coeur d’Alene this week will be heading for the national finals, too.

The grandstand also will be the setting for the North Idaho Truck and Tractor Pull on Thursday at 8 p.m. And on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the Draft Horse Pull will showcase two-horse teams pulling as much as 8,000 pounds of cement blocks, said Karleen Meyer, superintendent of the fair’s draft horse department.

Also at the grandstand, draft horse performance classes, with contestants ages 6 to 70, are scheduled to compete Friday at 1 p.m.

“Watching little kids control the teams is really fun,” Meyer said. “Some of the smaller ones can’t even reach the footboard. They brace their feet on sacks of sand or grain.”

Other shows to catch at the fair are the photography slide show in Building 1 daily, the Coeurly Que’s Square Dance Exhibition at 6 and 8 p.m. on Friday, and the North Ida-Ho Down Cloggers at 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday.

Lake City Gymnastics will also perform on Saturday. Find them on the South Midway at 1:30, 3, and 6 p.m.

Hazen’s Petting Zoo is open all day every day on the North Midway.

One of the more unusual events at the fair is full contact kick-boxing, Sunday at 2 p.m. in the show ring. This is Spokane Karate and Boxing Center owner Matt David’s 15th year at the fair.

A pioneer of kick-boxing in America, David was invited to Coeur d’Alene in 1980 when plans for a boxing tournament fell through.

The karate center’s event proved so popular that David has been invited back every year since, with contestants fighting in front of standing-room-only audiences.

The matches will be refereed by Robin Webb, a stunt coordinator and boxer who was Mohammed Ali’s sparring partner for more than a year. “He’s awesome. He won’t let anyone get hurt,” David said of Webb.

Grandstand events end with a bang on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. with the North Idaho Championship Demolition Derby. Cars slam into one another until all but one vehicle stops moving.

Now and then, a car actually catches on fire, although no driver has ever been hurt in the derby’s eight-year stint at the fair, said John Goedde, who spearheads the event with his buddy Ron Branson.

President of Panhandle Insurance, Goedde seems an unlikely person to be arranging car wrecks.

“It’s just such a great way to take out your aggressions,” he laughed.

The derby is sponsored by Kootenai Charities, which will pass along proceeds to causes such as the food bank and scholarships at North Idaho College.

“Everyone likes to see the money go back into the community,” said Goedde. “That’s what it’s all about.”