Greasy, sugary foods always an attraction at the Routt County Fair |

Greasy, sugary foods always an attraction at the Routt County Fair

Reid Sias

— Barbara Kelton had only one suggestion for the veteran American Legion cooks who were behind a grill Friday at the Routt County Fair.

"Keep these things really greasy," she said very seriously as she prepared to snatch up the hamburger, hot dog and basket of cheesy nachos from the counter. "I love the product."

The longtime Hayden resident has been hooked on the American Legion’s hamburgers now for 45 years.

She was only one of the dozens of people who flocked to the many food carts at the fair to satisfy a craving for something greasy or sugary.

No one was counting any calories.

No one would dare to.

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Besides, this type of food arrives here only once a year.

The Routt County Fair still is about celebrating the children and teenagers who spend so much of their time raising livestock and learning the agricultural trades instilled in their families for generations.

But the food vendors have their own lengthy histories with the event, and said Friday that they have enjoyed watching the kids grow up, albeit from their posts inside the food carts and behind the grills.

The American Legion has been cooking at the fair since the 1940s.

These vendors provide some much needed fuel for fairgoers during what always is a fast-paced week of events.

They also offer the rare treats that are hard to find when the fair is over.

Cotton candy.

Shaved ice.

And you can’t forget about funnel cakes.

Cecil Pearson likes to think the bags of cotton candy and plates of funnel cakes he has served at the fair for 24 years are edible time machines.

"This woman in her 80s told me the cotton candy she ate took her back to that time she went to the Iowa State Fair," Pearson said as he poured more sugar in a centrifuge that was quickly spinning up more of the fibrous candy. "Each bite takes them back."

To his left, his wife, Leatha, and his son Ty were serving up the shaved ice and the funnel cakes.

To his right, his grandson Noah helped package more cotton candy. By the end, the Centennial resident estimated he’ll have sold 400 to 500 bags of the stuff.

And he’s quick to point out each big bag contains less sugar than a can of soda.

Pearson — who started his food service in Garland, Texas, as a way to make his career as a music teacher more affordable — said he’s learned a lot while running his stand in Hayden.

"These ranch kids are some of the best in the country," he said.

Next door is one of the newest food carts at the county fair.

It’s here Doug and Darla Jones, from Longview, Tex., serve up their wildly popular smoked meats and sell such things as smoked meatloaf and "tamale slammers."

They’re away from home 11 months out of the year as they run their food and catering business that requires them to haul the food cart behind a Ford-F350, and all the stock and supplies behind a 45-foot camper.

Darla said she wouldn’t have it any other way.

"We get to travel, make new friends and make money all at the same time," she said. "We’ve met a lot of people here in Hayden. We just enjoy it."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

If you go

See a complete Routt County Fair schedule here.

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