Community Agriculture Alliance: Routt County Fair set for August
Entering its 99th 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 fair, which is one of Routt County’s longest-running traditions, is from Aug. 15 to 18 at the fairgrounds just south of U.S. Highway 40 on Poplar Street in Hayden. The Routt County Fairgrounds have been on the same tract of land for the past 99 years.
In 1914, many thought Hayden was the perfect place for a county fair, and although it’s in the western end of Routt County, it was the center of Northwest Colorado. 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 former 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, and 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-by-70-foot livestock shed, a large corral and a 32-by-60-foot Exhibit Hall, which housed fair offices and was surrounded on three sides by a balcony for agricultural displays. Prior to opening, another small building for restrooms was built.
When the Great Depression hit, the association was forced to cancel the event from 1932 to 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.
The 99th 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, a demolition derby, a Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry, lawn mower tractor races, live music, gymkhanas, barbecues, horse shoes, neighbors and family-friendly fun. The Open Horse Show runs from Aug. 9 to 11, and some 4-H events and activities begin Aug. 13.
We hope to see you at the fair, the theme of which is “Cowboy Boots ’N’ County Routes.” Stay updated with the latest fair information at http://www.routtcountyfair.org, or follow the Routt County Fair on Facebook.
Jill Delay is the Routt County Fairgrounds manager and Routt County Fair coordinator.
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