The Boulder County Fair, with its deep historic roots, is the oldest fair in the state of Colorado. Started by a group of prominent ranchers and farmers, the first fair in the Colorado Territory was held on October 12, 1869. The vision of these early pioneers was to create a community event which would celebrate the rich diversity of the area, and reflect the activities of its citizens through exhibits encouraging the county’s basic economy.
In order to fulfill this dream, the Colorado Agriculture Society was organized and 40 acres of land was purchased between 28th and 30th Street, south of Valmont Road, for $600. Plans were immediately made for the fair to be held in mid October. A pavilion was erected, and there were refreshment stands and stalls.
This first fair ran for four days with displays of flowers, vegetables, cereals and hand-made articles. There were also five classes of exhibits: Class A - Farming: Livestock and farm machinery; Class B – Articles manufactured in Colorado: from dairy churns to cabinetry and jewelry; Class C – Minerology: displays of gold and silver bullion from mines in Boulder County, and minerals and geological specimens found in Colorado; Class D – Agriculture and Vegetables: all types of crops, included competitions for best acre or half-acre of grains; and Class E – Household and Pantry Goods. There were horse races daily, and the fair concluded with a mule race, for a premium of $5, and a walking race around the track, the slowest taking the premium. The cost to put on the first fair was $5,000 (approximately $165,000 in today’s dollars).
In 1870 a round house was built for the mineral and agricultural displaces along with a small judges stand, additional stalls, saloons and corrals. In 1875 a grandstand, with seating capacity of 1000 was erected at the site, and horseracing became increasingly the main attraction. By 1877, farm machinery attracted the greatest interest, particularly steam powered machines. This has continued to be a draw throughout the years.
Longmont had always been interested in hosting the fair, and by 1885, as the event in Boulder continued to deviate further from the original agricultural focus, the essential elements of the Boulder County Fair were moved to Longmont and named “Pumpkin Pie Day,” while the horseracing and gambling attractions remained in Boulder, along with a smaller exhibition. Finally, on October 5, 1899, the Boulder County Fair was officially moved to Roosevelt Park in Longmont (then called Driving Park). That year the fair lasted only one day, but featured such events as traditional horse racing, as well as livestock and home economics exhibits. The women of Boulder County honored Pumpkin Pie Day by making enough homemade pies to feed the entire fair crowd, free of charge.