Boulder County Fair history

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One hundred and fifty years after its first historic step, the Boulder County Fair is still going strong, still focusing on family-oriented activities and events, our agricultural heritage and tradition, and showcasing the outstanding work and projects of its 4-H and FFA youth and the community at large. The Fair remains one of only four non-profit county fairs in the State of Colorado, and drew a record 150,000 attendees last year! It is perfectly poised to celebrate its 150th anniversary!

History of the Fair

Celebrating 153 years: The oldest County Fair in Colorado!
The Boulder County Fair, with its deep historic roots, is the oldest fair in the state of Colorado. Founded 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 to 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. Forty acres of land was purchased between 28th and 30th Streets south of Valmont Road in Boulder 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.



Boulder County Fairgrounds on 28th Street 1890-1900 Boulder Historical Society photos 

This first Fair ran for four days with displays of flowers, vegetables, cereals and handmade 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 – Mineralogy: 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).

Round House

Round House

Boulder County Fairgrounds on 28th Street 1890-1900 Boulder Historical Society photos 

In 1870 a round house was built for the mineral and agricultural displays along with a small judge's stand, additional stalls, saloons and corrals. In 1875, a grandstand with seating capacity of 1,000 was erected at the site, and horse racing increasingly became 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.


Gail Zweck interview
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Roosevelt Park

Roosevelt Park

Horse Racing at the County Fair in 1919-22 Boulder Historical Society photos 

Longmont had always been interested in hosting the Fair. 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 horse racing 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 events such 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.
The early 1900s brought slow and steady growth to the Boulder County Fair as permanent buildings replaced the tents at Roosevelt Park one by one, with some costs being borne by the City of Longmont. In 1921 a record-breaking crowd of 2,500 attended the opening day. The Fair prospered.

The only break in the continuity of the Fair occurred in 1946 when it had to be canceled because of the polio outbreak. But eventually, with the continued success of the event, more room and better facilities were needed. In 1976, the County Commissioners purchased the Affolter Corner Farm, 130 acres of land at the northeast corner of Nelson and Hover Roads. In the fall of 1978, the Fair opened in its present location in the first building at the new complex, which would be completed over the next 15 years.

From the Times-Call photo archive: "Aerial view of the Boulder County Fair in Roosevelt Park. A lot of action is crowded into a small space as the Boulder County Fair and Rodeo is bigger than ever. Many exhibits and attractions are on the grounds at Roosevelt Park. Tonight will feature the last performance of the RCA Rodeo. The Little Wrangler Rodeo and the Amateur Rodeo performances will be held Saturday. The final judging and livestock sale will be held this afternoon" Originally published Aug. 18, 1972.

From the Times-Call photo archive: A Boulder County Fair and Rodeo Queen presents a trophy to a participant. Originally published Aug. 20, 1973.
From the Times-Call photo archive: Clarence Kneebone washes Jack the bull at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. Originally published Aug. 22, 1987.
From the Times-Call photo archive: A livestock show participant and her bull at the Boulder County Fair. Originally published Aug. 25, 1971.
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