Few things remain constant in this 21st century of modernization and technology. Of those few things, the traditional celebration of the Routt County Fair is one. Enjoying success for close to a century, the history of the Routt County Fair is as colorful as the fair itself.
In 1914, Hayden (host of the 90 year old event) was the center of Northwest Colorado, which included Routt and Moffat counties. John Cary, a Yampa Valley native, was a state senator at the time and suggested that the fair serve as a means to promote the agricultural products of the region. Per his recommendation, the land south of town became a permanent fair and racing track.
The spirit surrounding preparation for the fair pervaded both counties during August and September. Countless volunteer hours were spent grading the racetrack, constructing a ticket office at the main gate, preparing temporary grandstands, and installing a water line. And though Routt and Moffat counties now celebrate annual fairs separately, that same spirit remains today, as evidenced by the tremendous volunteer work force and donations that resulted in the construction of a multi-purpose building at the fairgrounds in 2002.
In many ways, the Routt County Fair epitomizes the essence of the Old West and the Western frontier. The fair's success depends on assistance from hundreds of volunteers, just as many homesteaders' depended on neighbors in times of need.
For the first 15 years of the fair, the first morning and evening was dedicated to Northwest Colorado's pioneers. The event was billed as a social and economic event and was comprised of festivities celebrating the end of harvest, friendly competition, community pride and entertainment. Included were livestock shows and exhibits, sporting events and a variety of entertainment. Today's annual fair follows much the same pattern.
Perhaps one aspect that sets Routt County Fair apart from myriad small county fairs in Colorado is the fierce pride and treasured heritage of the Yampa Valley. For more than 10 years, the Routt County Fair has received more than 1,000 entries in the home arts division including categories such as art, baked products, canned goods, photography, flowers, quilts, crafts, crops and farm products. While many small county fairs are dwindling and even being discontinued, interest and participation in the Routt County Fair remains strong and steadfast.
In addition to the tremendous participation in the Home Arts Division, participation in the livestock program remains robust.
The 90th anniversary of the Routt County Fair promises to be fun-filled and action-packed. This year, for the first time in four years, the fair will include a carnival. In addition, entertainment slated for the week of Aug. 14 through 22 includes performances by the Westernaires, a professional clown, cattle dog trials, tractor pulls and a working ranch horse competition.
Much of the historical information was taken from: "Faster Horses, Younger Women,
Older Whiskey" (A Pictorial Archive of the Routt County Fair 1914 -- 1995)
written by Sureva Towler and Jim Stanko.
Copies of the book are available from CSU Extension Office, Tread of Pioneer Museum and The Exhibit Hall @ Routt County Fairgrounds.