Fair picking up steam | SteamboatToday.com

Fair picking up steam

Vendors, exhibits one day away

Shaelynn Salazar, 8, reaches for a cup of shaved ice from vendor Cecil Pearson, Monday afternoon at the Routt County Fair in Hayden. At right is Shaelynn's brother, Garrett Salazar. Garrett, 4, ordered a hot dog with extra relish.
Mike Lawrence

— Like heavy clouds before a summer rainstorm, the Routt County Fair is slowly picking up speed.

“There’s not too much going on today – mostly busywork and preparation,” fair coordinator Jill Altman said Monday, sitting in her office in Exhibit Hall at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden. “Things really start gearing up on Wednesday, then Thursday through Sunday is just crazy.”

Tables spread with white cloths and labeled by category filled the main room at Exhibit Hall, empty on a quiet Monday afternoon, but ready and waiting for the hundreds of displays that participants will set up Wednesday.

Outside, a few hay bales sat on the ground, ready for entry into the baled hay contest that Altman said most people enter for the scientific hay sampling and quality testing, rather than for the first-place ribbon.

“Most people are interested in things like the moisture content of their hay,” Altman said. “They don’t care so much about winning.”

Monday’s fair events featured a dog show in the morning and 4-H horse-riding competitions in the evening. In between, things were quiet – except for at Cecil Pearson’s concession stand.

Pearson, a strong-armed former college football player with bright blue eyes, said he has been coming to the Routt County Fair for 16 or 17 years to sell cotton candy, hot dogs, cool drinks and shaved ice.

“This is the only fair I do,” said Pearson, a 62-year-old Centennial resident who said he primarily sells concessions at large Denver events, such as the city’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.

He returns to Hayden every summer to see old friends, he said.

“I’ve been watching these kids grow up for years,” he said. “Now some of them come to me with kids of their own – it’s like one big family out here.”

With a grin, Pearson leaned over his counter and gave 10-year-old Belle Mazzola an affectionate rub on the head.

“I knew this girl before she was born,” he said.

Belle is Altman’s daughter, and is quick to tell you which flavor of shaved ice she likes to order from Pearson.

“Grape is, like, the best,” Belle said.

“Grape is my favorite, too,” Pearson agreed. A former voice and singing instructor at North Texas State University, Pearson sings the national anthem at numerous Routt County Fair events.

“I take what I do seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously,” Pearson said, turning to fire up the shaved ice machine again.

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