Consider this an open invitation to all Routt County locals and visitors. Entering its 98th 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.” It’s one of Routt County’s longest-running traditions, and this year the fair will be held Aug. 16 to 19 at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.
While sometimes confused with the rodeo grounds in Steamboat Springs, the Routt County Fairgrounds are in Hayden just south of U.S. Highway 40 on Poplar Street. It’s the same tract of land that has hosted each of the previous 97 fairs.
In 1914, many thought Hayden was the perfect place for a county fair. Although located in the western part of Routt County, Hayden 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 that celebrated 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 he proposed that land south of town — site of some ball fields and a crude race track at the time — become a permanent fair and racing track. The group that hosted Railroad Days, meeting informally in the back of a local store, organized the Routt County Fair and Racing Association in November 1913. The association was incorporated in August 1914. The location for the fair 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 race track, a 150-by-70-foot livestock shed, a large corral and a 32-by-60-foot Exhibit Hall that housed fair offices and was surrounded on three sides by a balcony for agricultural displays. Immediately before opening, the association decided to build another small building for restrooms.
When the Great Depression hit, the association was forced to cancel the fair 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 Aug. 16 to 19, the 98th annual Routt County Fair will be celebrated on that same tract of land. The fair celebrates the community’s heritage with several days of horse and livestock shows, home arts exhibits, horse racing, a demolition derby, a Rocky Mountain oyster fry, a beer garden, live music, a ranch rodeo, gymkhanas, barbecue, games of horseshoes and time to visit with neighbors and friends. And, the fair is always kid-friendly. The Open Horse Show runs Aug. 10 to 12, and some 4-H events and activities begin Aug. 13.
So we’ll see you at the 98th annual Routt County Fair, where locals have a chance to “Sew It, Grow It and Show It!” Stay updated with the latest fair information at www.routtcounty
fair.org or follow the Routt County Fair on Facebook.
Jill Delay is the manager of the Routt County Fairgrounds and the coordinator of the annual Routt County Fair. She can be reached at 970-276-3068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.