When it comes to history and tradition, few entities in Routt County can compare with the Routt County Fair.
Before there was a ski mountain, condos, vacation homes, youth baseball tournaments, mountain biking, kayaking and all the other things we have become known for, there were men and women who came to Routt County to carve livings out of this rough, mountainous terrain. They farmed. They ranched. They survived and laid the foundations for the communities we enjoy today.
The fair rightfully honors the agriculture heritage and traditions of those settlers. Held every year in the same site since 1914, its is perhaps the longest-running event in the county.
In the past 87 years, it has grown into an enormous undertaking, spanning nine days and offering a wide array of entertainment. There's the usual fare pie contests, a queen's pageant, livestock shows, a rodeo, music and dancing. There's also the unusual fare, such as a blind man's tractor race and something called a musical freestyle dressage demonstration.
Taken together, the events comprise a community celebration whose appeal is very basic good food, good fellowship and a good cause.
At its core, the fair is about the youth of Routt County and rewarding them for the hours of work they put into projects ranging from designing and making clothing to raising a show pig.
Throughout Routt County, and the rest of the country for that matter, the amount of land being used for agriculture is on the decline. So too are the number of people farming and ranching the land.
Longtime ranchers wince as they near retirement age, knowing there is no one to continue what they have spent lifetimes building. Most have to accept that their own children simply can't afford to take over the family farm or ranch. Each time that happens, we lose a small piece of our agriculture heritage.
The fair is one of the best tools we have for reversing that trend, introducing a way of life to hundreds of young people who might not have given agriculture a second thought otherwise.
So many of the events in our county are designed to attract people from all over to come and spend their tourism dollars here and help our economy. The fair is different it was designed by us for us, to help our youth and to celebrate an important aspect of our culture and heritage. Those are good reasons to carve out some time this week for a trip to the fairgrounds in Hayden.