Dozens gathered on the final day of the Kittitas County Fair around a trailer stacked high with hay bales to watch the first-ever bay bucking contest. Two teams of two men would each have 18 heavy bales of hay which they must use metal handheld hooks to unload entirely before re-stacking them. Whichever team won would go on to the next round.

Eight teams competed for a single prize of $1,000.

The idea for the event came from Fair Entertainment Director Jerry Jarnagin who used to be a hay buck over 50 years ago. Back then, agriculture was far less mechanical so loading and unloading hay bales was its own profession.

Many of those who came to the fair to compete in this event work in the hay industry, with nearly all of them bringing their own hooks. After three rounds of competing, two teams were left for the final round, Matt and Ethan versus Brett and Zak. The combination of the hot sun and fast and heavy lifting meant that the men were exhausted, but with their families cheering them on and $500 each on the line, they sprung into action once again when Jarnagin blew his whistle.

Neck and neck until near the end, Zak Tonseth and Brett Sheeley emerged as the winners, shaking hands with their opponents before being greeted by their families and plenty of bottled water.

“I’m a little bit out of shape, a little too much fair food,” said Sheeley, who has been loading hay for a long time.

Both men said that they would most likely be spending the prize money on their kids at home and at the fair, and Jarnagin said that he regards the event as a total success.

“It’s so popular, with the support of the fair board we’ll be doing it again,” he said.

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