Community Agriculture Alliance: Routt County Fair dates through history
Text excerpts from Faster Horses, Younger Women, Older Whiskey. A pictorial Archive of the Routt County Fair 1914-1995 by Sureva Towler and Jim Stanko.
The first Routt County Fair was held Sept. 9 to 11, 1914 in Hayden. On the same tract of land as the first fair, the 2018 Routt County Fair will be held Aug. 16 to 19.
Back in 1914 according to The Steamboat Pilot, “Providence was good to Hayden and to the promoters of the first Routt County Fair for everything turned out even better than had been anticipated, and the weather was perfect.” Huge tents from Denver housed exhibits, and most of the activities were outdoor events. Special days were dedicated to each town in the hope they would declare a holiday and promote attendance.
By the 1915 fair, the tradition had been established. Festivities celebrated the end of the harvest, friendly competition, community pride and entertainment. Fairs continued to be three-day events held during the first — or at times the second — week in September until 1930.
The Association’s Board of Directors was forced to cancel the celebration when the Great Depression hit and there was no fair from 1932 through 1934, when 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.
In 1935, the Routt County Fair was a two-day event, awarding only blue and red ribbons, with no admission or exhibitor fees, no cash premiums and exhibitors were allowed to use their space to sell or promote products. This is the year heirloom and hobby exhibits were introduced — today’s “Home Arts” departments. After a successful 1941 fair, the war effort made a fair impossible, and it was canceled from 1942 through 1945. However, in order to meet the obligations of the deed, rodeo and racing events were held on the fairgrounds in 1944 and 1945.
In the early 1950s, the fair was expanded to a three-day event and moved to the third week in August to get ahead of the Steamboat Junior Livestock Show and eliminate conflicts with schools and athletic programs.
Despite controversy, the 1965 fair was moved back to the last week in August. In 1967, it was changed to the last four days in the first week of September. In 1970, it switched to five days, Sept. 2 to 7. In 1971, it became an eight-day event, the last four days of August and first four in September.
Frustrated by failed attempts to accommodate school activities, the Oak Creek Labor Day Celebration, Colorado State Fair and growing seasons, the Routt County Fair board in 1972 agreed to a four-day fair on the first Thursday through Sunday in September after Labor Day. This held until 1992 when concern about absenteeism, homework and athletic programming the three school districts prompted yet another move to Wednesday through Sunday of the third week of August.
Today, the county fair still clashes with state fair dates, school calendars and athletic programming, but it also must take into account the meat processors schedule and all the surrounding county fair dates. However, the Routt County Fair, at least for the time being, can be calculated as the third full weekend in August.
This year, meet your friends and neighbors Aug. 16 to 19 at the Routt County Fair. Find information about the schedule and activities on Facebook, at routtcountyfair.org, or text “2018RCFAIR” to 888777 for updates via text message.
Jill Delay is the Routt County Fairgrounds manager and Routt County Fair coordinator.
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