Community Agriculture Alliance: Routt County tradition begins with the fair

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When it comes to history and tradition, few entities in Routt County can compare with the Routt County Fair. We are celebrating 93 years in 2007, when the fair will take place Aug. 10 to 19 at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.

Before there was a ski mountain, condos, vacation homes, Triple Crown tournaments, mountain biking, kayaking and all the other activities that the Yampa Valley has 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 annual Routt County Fair rightfully honors the agricultural heritage and traditions of those settlers. Held every year on the same site since 1914, it is one of the longest-running events in Routt County. Spectators would travel from Steamboat Springs to Hayden by train to view their neighbor's exhibits and livestock, making the fair the event of the year. In the past century, it has grown into an enormous undertaking, spanning 10 days and offering a wide array of contests, exhibits, livestock shows and entertainment for the entire community.

The Routt County Fair is not just for spectators. The fair is built on local participation and entries. Thanks to this exceptional participation, the Routt County Fair is among the best in Northwest Colorado - and possibly the state - for open class entries. It makes for a jam-packed (pardon the pun) and beautiful exhibition hall. Routt County residents can enter just about anything they've made, including decorated cakes, Lego creations, scrapbooks, photographs, wool, hay, jelly, terrariums, leather crafts, wine, beer and quilts. Oh, the quilts! It's easily the most breathtaking exhibit when you first enter the hall after judging. Beautiful cloth painstakingly crafted into works of art through much time, effort and knowledge. After you've oohed and ahhed over the quilts, you can make your way through the other exhibits.

It's easy to participate in the fair. Gather your goods and head to the fairgrounds anytime between 1 and 8 p.m. Aug. 15 to fill out an entry tag. Open class judging takes place Aug. 16. The hall is open during judging, and it's always exciting to see the red, white and blue ribbons start popping up all over with great anticipation for the much-coveted purple ribbons representing the grand champions in all categories.

Along with the open class exhibits are the many contests at the fair. Dig out your best brownie recipe and enter the Mayors Brownie Contest, in which mayors/city officials from Routt County pick their favorites. Or the Commissioners Cookie Basket contest, in which Routt County commissioners eagerly taste-test cookies from kitchens across the county and award their favorite.

Rounding out the fair's exhibits, contests and livestock shows are the entertainment and events. Can Can, Nac Nac, Hart Attack, Superman Seat Grab, Kiss of Death, Cliff Hanger, Heel Clicker. What do all these have to do with the Routt County Fair? Well, it's not your grandma's horse and buggy! It's outrageous, it's loud and it's amazing. It's freestyle motocross, baby! An extreme motorcycle stunt show is at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17. After the show, meet the riders and get their autographs at the Planet Powersports booth.

Freestyle motocross is a recent variation on the sport of motocross. It concentrates not on speed or racing, but on the acrobatic ability of the rider in the air. Riders perform jumps and stunts ranging from 80 to 150 feet in length.

Presale tickets for the fair cost $15 for everyone 10 and older; $10 for children 3 to 9; and free for children younger than 2. Tickets are $2 more expensive in each category if purchased the day of the show. Tickets are available at Planet Powersports and the Routt County Fair office.

You can't really call yourself a "local" until you've experienced the fair, so strap on your boots or your sandals and be part of this valley's rich tradition and heritage, a good old-fashioned block party, the 93rd annual Routt County Fair.

Look for all the latest fair information at www.routtcountyfair.org or find a fair book around town at libraries, the Extension Service Office, the courthouse, feed stores or by calling me at 276-3068.

Altman is the Routt County Fair coordinator.

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