The Routt County Fair is an event during which visitors are exposed to traditions of an increasingly endangered way of life; where everyone can find entertainment, friendly competition and celebrate the land's bounty; and where agriculture and livestock producers can exhibit the fruits of their labor in the fellowship of friends and neighbors.
"Alive At 95," the 95th Annual Routt County Fair, is where you can find the heart and soul of the Yampa Valley's Western heritage on display from Aug. 13 to 16 at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.
The first fair was Sept. 9 to 11, 1914, a year after the railroad arrived in Hayden, opening the valley to trade and tourism. State Sen. John Cary, of Hayden, encouraged using a fair to promote the agricultural products of the region.
A group met in the back of a local store and organized the Routt County Fair and Racing Association in November 1913, was incorporated in August 1914 and was supervised by a board of directors: B.T. Shelton, F.R. Carpenter, D.L. Sellers, S.A. Adair, S.M. Dawson, George Anderson and Stanley Brock. This group appointed Marshall Starr as president, Alva Jones as vice president, Clayton Whiteman as treasurer and R.E. Norvell as secretary and general manager.
The Routt County commissioners contributed $500 for advertising and premiums on grains, vegetables and livestock, suggesting the money be used to send a collection to the State Fair to promote Northwest Colorado.
The focus of the first fair was agriculture exhibits and education; however, the Fair Association was careful to include plenty of entertainment. By 1915, the fair was established as a celebration of the harvest, a source of community pride and a focus on raising improved livestock, encouraging agricultural production and promoting education.
After enjoying years of increased interest and times of prosper, the Great Depression hit and the fair canceled in 1932, 1933 and 1934. In 1935, trying to save the event, the Fair Association deeded the ground and fair management to Routt County with the stipulation that the land would revert back to the original owners if the fair was not held for two years. The commissioners contributed $500 to restart the fair and appointed new board members.
Between 1942 and 1945, involvement in the war made a county fair impossible, but rodeo and racing events were held to maintain obligations of the property deed. The excitement continued until 1951, when the commissioners canceled the fair because, according to both county newspapers, it represented too much expense and too little interest. During the year off, they appointed two new board members instrumental in reviving the fair in 1952 - Ben Reary, of Oak Creek, and George Simonton, of Hayden.
With continued support from the Routt County commissioners and thousands of hours from dedicated volunteers, today's fair is held on the same tract of land as in 1914. The fair commemorates our past and celebrates our future. It shows us where we came from at a time when we're not sure where we're going.