Our View: Routt County Fair's 100th a birthday worth celebrating

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Hitting the century mark is an accomplishment for any person or business, and when a volunteer-driven event turns 100, it’s a huge milestone worth celebrating. This week, the Routt County Fair is marking its 100th birthday, and the annual event, which now spans a week, is already off to a great start.

On Wednesday, the Exhibit Hall at the historic fairgrounds in Hayden is expected to fill up with a record number of home arts exhibits, representing the best of homegrown and homemade items created by county residents, young and old, who are vying for purple grand champion ribbons.

At issue

The 100th annual Routt County Fair is being held in Hayden this week.

Our view

The fair is a valuable part of Routt County’s heritage and also represents agriculture’s future.

Steamboat Today editorial board — May to September 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Tyler Goodman, community representative
  • John Merrill, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

This event alone is impressive. According to fair organizers, there is no other fair in the state that attracts as many exhibits as the one in Routt County. It’s an annual bragging rights competition, pitting neighbor against neighbor, to see who can win best homemade soap, best apple jelly or best oatmeal cookie.

The exhibits also serve to open up the fair to anyone and everyone who wants to participate. There is a vast number of categories, divisions and classes, which annually attract upward of 1,000 entrants from every corner of the county, from every age group and from every demographic.

The fair also serves to showcase area youth through its daily 4-H shows and contests, culminating with the Junior Livestock Sale on Saturday night. At last year’s fair, businesses and individuals paid out $523,386 to purchase 159 animals, which represents a huge investment in our area’s youth.

Currently, Routt County’s eight 4-H clubs serve about 300 members who are supported by 94 adult volunteers. Just like the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club or school athletics, programs such as 4-H and FFA give kids an opportunity to learn responsibility, respect for adults and other important life skills that are critical to the development of our youth. And the Routt County Fair is an integral part of supporting and drawing attention to these important programs.

The fair is a valuable part of Routt County’s heritage and is worth continuing. It not only represents the county’s rich ranching roots but also serves to represent the future of agriculture.

Back in 1914, horse racing, aeroplane ascensions and fancy shooting demonstrations drew crowds, and 100 years later, the fair still is attracting thousands who now enjoy the junior rodeo, the bucket calf show and the annual wine and beer contest. Although some of the events have changed, the spirit of the fair remains in the young people who work hard each year to raise their show animals and create entries for the home arts exhibit and the adults who support those efforts.

And if you ask any Fair Board member or local rancher about the value of the fair, the almost unanimous answer centers on the fact that the fair is the one time each year when the rural community of Routt County and others come together and reconnect. In the words of fair historian and former Routt County 4-H agent Jim Stanko, the fair is the one place where agriculture and agricultural values are on display, and the one time each year when all of Routt County is reminded how important agriculture is to the community.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today salutes all of the volunteers who work tirelessly to make the fair happen each year, and we appreciate the Routt County commissioners and other community leaders who support the fair year in and year out. We also encourage area residents to make a trip to Hayden throughout the next five days to experience the fair in its 100th year.

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