Otten family cherishes fair as one of many Sanpete traditions
By Robert Stevens
If the Sanpete County Fair is a celebration of Sanpete County lifestyle, then Clair and Arla Otten are a logical choice as this year’s grand marshals.
The couple live on Nine Mile Ranch south of Sterling and are lifelong Sanpete County natives.
“My dad was the mayor at one point,” Arla says. “Sterling is our home, even though we live just outside the city limits”
The Ottens don’t like to brag, so when the Sanpete County Fair Board called them to inform them they would be the 2019 Sanpete County Fair Grand Marshals, Arla’s initial response was “no.”
“But then we got to talking, and we’ve known Mike [Bennett] for a long time,” Arla says. “He kind of joked around and pretty soon it was all over.”
Clair jokes about the honor, saying, “I still want to know how they choose them.”
The Ottens have been living the Sanpete County lifestyle since day one, and Arla and Clair say they don’t think they have missed a single year at the fair.
Clair and Arla raised eight children on their family farm, and today they are blessed with 40 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
Arla says every year it was a family tradition, and for years the children, and eventually grandchildren, would enter show calves at the fair.
“It was always fun for us,” Arla says. “I’ve never been big on the rodeo, but I love the hide ride. Our kids were in that. It probably originated in Sanpete County and didn’t exist anywhere else. Plus when you go to the fair, you can’t leave without a hamburger.”
The county fair is far from the only tradition in the Otten family. Clair and Arla have been involved with Scouting for so long they can’t tell you exactly when they started, but between them they have more than 70 years of combined service.
“I always felt like scouting was a great way to be involved with your kids where you don’t have to be telling them ‘go clean your room,’” Arla says. “I never saw any sense in telling your kids ‘you’re in clean clothes, now go be good today.’ I think its ok to go and be outside and watch the squirrels and take the pictures.”
Arla has been the Cub Scout day camp director for more than 20 years.
Another Otten family tradition is education. Clair taught 4th grade at Gunnison Valley Elementary for more than 40 years, but is retired now.
“I miss playing with the kids,” Clair says.
Clair passed the education bug onto his family too. They have a son and a daughter-in-law who teach, and their youngest daughter is the principal of Gunnison Valley Elementary School.
In addition to her service, while Clair was teaching Arla stayed busy as a farm mom, taking care of the livestock, cleaning the barn and birthing calves.
Arla says that farm life is “part of her” and although the long-time dairy farm no longer has any livestock, she misses milking cows and other parts of the ranch lifestyle.
“I thought that it would be a day to celebrate when all the cows were gone,” Arla says. “But when it came and went, I kind of miss them.”
The couple have been active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Arla was primary president in her ward seven different times over 17 years, and Clair served as a Bishop for years in their ward too.
Years of Sanpete County tradition and service to the community have left Clair and Arla with good memories.
“Some of the fondest memories you have is the people that you work with in the community,” Arla says.
Arla says in all their years of service, she never regretted a minute of it, but sometimes “you can bite off more than you can chew.”