Community Agriculture Alliance: Hometown pride is county-wide at the 100th Routt County Fair

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We’ve come a long way since 1914, and the Routt County Fair is an event with “Hometown Pride County Wide.”

With continued county support and literally tens of thousands of hours from dedicated volunteers, today’s Routt County Fair is held on the same tract of land as it was 100 years ago.

Community Agriculture Alliance

This weekly column about agriculture issues is written by area farmers, ranchers and policymakers. It publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

The Routt County Fair was born of a time when “children did chores, arrowheads could be found on the back 40, and ice was cut from the river.” Since then, we’ve seen “the outhouse hauled away, the plow horse replaced by a John Deere and farm kids majoring in agribusiness.” This year’s fair honors the pioneers who gathered at the Routt County Fairgrounds 100 years ago to share laughter and lies.

In 1914, many felt 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 that 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 — the site of some ball fields and a crude race track — 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, which 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.

In time for the 1915 fair, the grounds boasted a 1,000-seat grandstand, an improved race track, a livestock shed, a large corral and an exhibit hall housing fair offices and surrounded by balcony for agricultural displays. Immediately prior to opening, it was decided to build another small building for restrooms.

The Great Depression forced the cancellation of events in 1932, 1933 and 1934. On March 13, 1934, in an attempt to save the event, the association deeded the fairgrounds to Routt County.

Today’s fair is organized by the Routt County Fair Advisory Board, a nine-member volunteer board appointed by the county commissioners. While this board works closely with the commissioners, it’s the board members who spend countless hours to produce the annual Routt County Fair for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. They truly deserve your thanks for a job well done.

The 100th annual Routt County Fair will celebrate the community’s heritage with several days of horse and livestock shows, home arts exhibits, demolition derby, live music, gymkhanas, bull riding, heritage arts demonstrations, neighbors and family friendly fun. A open horse show is from Aug. 8 to 10; the 4-H shows and festivities will take place from Aug. 11 to 16; and home arts entries are due Aug. 13. By Aug. 14 to 17, the fair is in full swing.

Meet your friends and neighbors at the 100th annual Routt County Fair, where the theme is “Hometown Pride County Wide.” For a complete schedule and the latest fair information, visit www.routtcountyfair.org or follow the Routt County Fair and Fairgrounds on Facebook and Twitter.

Jill Delay is the fairgrounds manager at the Routt County Fairgrounds and Routt County Fair coordinator.

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