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Routt County Fair will be limited in wake of pandemic

Bailey Iacovetto shows off her steer during the livestock sale at the 2019 Routt County Fair. Every year young ranchers in Routt County look forward to the chance to show and sell their animals at on of the fair's biggest nights.
Derek Maiolo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Since October, Leah Allen and her younger brother Levi have been spending as much time as possible working to make sure the three steers they have selected will rise to the top of their class at the Routt County Fair this August.

“It does sound like we’re going to be able to actually show them in Hayden, which is super exciting,” said Allen, who is going into her junior year at Steamboat Springs High School. “It sounds like everything might come together, and I’m really excited for that. I’m glad that we’ll be able to keep our fair going on because I think that is a huge part of our community and teaching people about agriculture.”

Allen has been involved in 4-H for the past eight years and showing her steers and breeding heifers for most of that time. She is vice president of the Fairplay 4-H Club and was Routt County Fair Royalty’s first attendant in 2019.

“Every year, my goal is to do my best,” Allen said. “For me, that means placing in my market class, placing in my showmanship class and to do my best to win the market steer grand champion.”

This year, however, she expects the fair will be different.

“In February, when all this hit, it was kind of shocking for us,” Allen said. “We were like, ‘Oh, Steamboat is such a small town. It will all work out, and we’ll probably open by August.’ But right now, we still have no idea what to expect.”

She and Levi are still working with their steers as much they can, still getting them ready to sell and holding onto the hope they will be able to show them.

“The fair has only been canceled three times, and that was in 1932, 1933 and 1934 during the Great Depression,” Routt County Fair Coordinator Jill Delay said. “Otherwise, it has gone on in some form or another, which is exactly why we’re not cancelling the fair this year.”

Delay and the Routt County Fair Board have been hard at work planning on ways for this year’s fair to move forward. They also understand that changes might need to be made as public health orders change or if a COVID-19 outbreak should occur.

But the 2020 fair, which is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 8 to 14, will not include many long-running traditions, such as the professional rodeos, bull riding and the popular demolition derby. Crowds will be controlled, and there will be no vendors on the midway or home arts show.

“Our home arts portion of our fair is huge,” Delay said. “We’re bigger than all of our surrounding counties combined, and we rival the state fair with the number of entries we get. So, it’s really sad that that part of our fair is not happening.”

The livestock shows are slated to be in-person events, and for the first time ever, the junior livestock sale will be held virtually over three days.

“To me, the big intent is that we didn’t cancel the fair,” said Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who is also a rancher. “These kids got in their steers in December, so they’ve been working on those animals for months, and then all sudden March comes along and well, boy, that was fun.”

Delay said making the sale livestock sale virtual means it is guaranteed to happen.

“I’m OK with it being virtual because I think that there are so many restrictions as it is,” said Allen, who spends hours each day preparing and working with her steers for the show.  “The hard thing is trying to find businesses and people to buy our animals. … So many businesses have been hit really hard during this quarantine and coronavirus.

“It will be hard to find people to come to the fair willing to spend,” she added. “We’re hoping the community will come together to support the fair, even though they can’t come together in Hayden.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.


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