Community Agriculture Alliance: Routt County Fair is 97 years young

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— Entering its 97th year, the Routt County Fair is an event so rich with heritage and local lore that we like to say, “You can’t call yourself a local until you’ve experienced the Routt County Fair.”

The Routt County Fair Advisory Board cordially invites all locals, neighbors and visitors to one of Routt County’s longest running traditions, which this year runs from Aug. 18 to 21 at the fairgrounds in Hayden.

While sometimes confused with the rodeo grounds in Steamboat Springs, the Routt County Fairgrounds are on Poplar Street just south of U.S. Highway 40 in Hayden. The fair has been held on that same tract of land for the past 97 years.

In 1914 many thought that Hayden was the perfect place for a county fair. Although located in the western end of Routt County, it was the center of Northwest Colorado, which included vast areas of Routt County and the newly formed Moffat County. The success of Railroad Days (an event in 1913 celebrating train cars full of the best steers and hogs) coupled with the town’s enthusiasm for hosting an annual celebration led to the birth of the Routt County Fair in September 1914.

State Sen. John Cary, of Hayden, encouraged using a fair to promote the agricultural products of the region and proposed that land south of town, site of some ball fields and a crude racetrack, become a permanent fair and racing track. The group that hosted Railroad Days met informally in the back of a local store and organized the Routt County Fair and Racing Association in November 1913. The association was incorporated in August 1914. The location became permanent when the association purchased 40 acres at $50 per acre from Wilson Cary, who took half the payment in association stock.

By the time the 1915 fair rolled around, the grounds boasted a 1,000-seat grandstand, an improved racetrack, a 150-foot by 70-foot livestock shed, a large corral, and a 32-foot by 60-foot exhibit hall that housed fair offices and was surrounded on three sides by a balcony for agricultural displays. Immediately before opening, it was decided to build another small building for restrooms.

When the Great Depression hit, the fair association was forced to cancel the event in 1932, 1933 and 1934. On March 13, 1934, in an attempt to save the event, the association deeded the fairgrounds to Routt County for $2 on condition that the land would revert to the original owners if a fair or rodeo was not held for two years.

This month, the 97th annual Routt County Fair will be celebrated on the same tract of land. The fair celebrates the community’s heritage with several days of horse and livestock shows, home arts exhibits, horse racing, demolition derby, a Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry, cowboy poetry, live music, a ranch rodeo, gymkhanas, barbecues, horseshoes, neighbors, chainsaw carving and family friendly fun. Pre-fair and some 4-H events and activities start Aug. 12.

We hope to see you at the 97th annual Routt County Fair, where you will find “Something Old, Something New, Forever Red, White and Blue!” Stay updated with the latest fair information at www.routtcountyfair.org or follow the Routt County Fair on Facebook.

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