Our View: It’s time for the Routt County Fair | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: It’s time for the Routt County Fair

Just more than a century ago, on a 37-acre tract of land just south of what is now downtown Hayden, the Routt County Fair was born. And beginning this week — Thursday through Aug. 16 — the fair returns for its 101st year.

In many ways, that inaugural celebration of community must have been a far simpler event than what we 21st-century folk have come to expect of our fairs. But in other, perhaps more fundamental ways, it is the same now as then.

According to the Routt County Fair website, the fair is still held on the same Hayden tract upon which it was born — a tract that has since, appropriately, been named a Routt County Historic Site — and the fair itself remains a beloved and time-honored staple, uniting people of diverse vocations and backgrounds in an annual celebration of community.

From the rodeo elements, livestock showings and equine events to the diverse entries that annually line the Exhibit Hall — baking, home brew, gardening, quilting, woodworking and photography — almost everyone has the opportunity to enter the fair and win a ribbon.

And through the course of the century separating then from now, that celebration has become something more than a chance for the county to come together in a spirit of shared traditions and common aspirations; it has matured into an opportunity to pass those traditions and aspirations along to the next generation, and in so doing, to actively foster education and excellence in Routt County's leaders of tomorrow and contribute to the overall economic foundation of the area.

With the formation of 4-H clubs in the 1920s and the addition of the junior livestock sale in 1959, the fair became a kind of training ground upon which youngsters could hone their agricultural and business skills and take hold of the traditions that built their shared heritage.

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Again, according to the Routt County Fair website, 4-H clubs are now generating in excess of $100,000 annually from the livestock sale. This money goes directly to the youngsters who raised the animals and is typically used by those same youngsters to purchase additional livestock or to fund college tuitions.

Consider the tremendous commitment of time, money, sweat and dedication that goes into raising an animal for exhibition at the fair. Consider the educational advantages afforded these young entrepreneurs through the extensive record keeping and careful budgeting required to successfully raise, groom and show an animal. Consider the positive difference the money from a successful sale can make upon countless young lives. And consider the positive financial impact of $100,000 in annual sales upon the local economy as a whole.

In short, this is important — both to the kids who devote their time, energy and talents to the endeavor and to the continued economic health of the region that has consistently stepped forward to support them.

It is our sincere hope this spirit of support — much like the spirit of community that has always defined the fair as a whole — will continue, particularly since, this year, it has become more vital than ever.

From 2010 to 2013, Peabody Energy and TIC were consistently the top two buyers at the junior livestock sale, but with the relocation of TIC's Steamboat office in 2013 and cutbacks at Peabody, the fair and 4-H members will this year be relying on both the return of more recent big purchasers — such as Flat Top Ranch Supply, Yampa Valley Electric Association and Carl's Tavern — and smaller purchases from a larger segment of the public. The latter can take the form of the outright purchase of an animal, adding money to another member's final bid or purchasing a buyback — which allows a member to pay the difference between the highest bid and the market value.

These livestock purchases benefit not only the 4-H members who raised the animals, but also contribute directly to the economy. A 2013 Colorado 4-H study stated that, between direct purchases and volunteer hours, 4-H projects across the state inject $76.5 million into the Colorado economy.

For most of us, late summer is a hectic and frantic roller coaster ride. USA Pro Challenge, Art Fest, the beginning of another school year: All these and more combine to make tremendous demands on our time, and it becomes easy to forget a century-old tradition is going on just a few miles down the road, a tradition that not only serves to bind us as a community, but also works to ensure the cultural and economic principles which undergird that community will be passed along to future generations.

We hope to see you there.

At Issue

In the flurry of late-summer activities in Steamboat, it’s easy to forget the fair is going on just a few miles down the road.

Our View

The fair is not only a beloved and time-honored celebration of community, but also a great opportunity to support area youth and the state and local economy.