The County Connection: Reasons to go to the County Fair

By Sallie Clark
El Paso County Commissioner, District 3

       The Westside is steeped in history, as is El Paso County. Traditions such as the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo (est. 1938) and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (est. 1916) are long-time events that tie into our western roots. This year, our community's theme surrounding Western Heritage Days includes both of these events, as well as the El Paso County Fair.
       So why should someone from "our" side of town take the drive out east? Well, here's why I recommend you hitch up the buckboard and make a trip to Calhan July 19-26. This year's 103rd fair is proof of a great public-private partnership, enticing rural and city dwellers alike to participate.
       According to historians, the El Paso County Fair began its long-running history in 1905, when people arrived by covered and conestoga wagons, surreys and on horseback, to gather at the first fair held in Calhan's little country schoolyard - a Thanks-giving festival to celebrate a bountiful potato harvest. It was simple - a potato and bean bake with improvised entertainment and horse races. The potato bake was so much fun that a similar event was planned the following year which included home economics, agricultural exhibits, races and its first rodeo. By 1906, the fledgling event had a three-person board of directors.
       In 1909, the first charter was granted, authorizing the Fair Board to hold a county fair in the State of Colorado. In 1911, the event had outgrown the school yard, but thanks to the county commissioners, land was donated to the fair, from property reclaimed for unpaid taxes.
       Potatoes and wheat were the predominant agricultural exhibits until 1915, when beans stole the spotlight. Then for the first time, Model T's, Maxwells, and Buicks were parked next to wagons and horses and gate admission was a whopping 25 cents! Its history lives on 103 years later, thanks to operation by our El Paso County Parks Department. It's a self-sustaining western tradition, financed through private sponsorships.
       Dates this year include July 19-26 and on Saturday, July 19, our 2008 Fair Queen, Caitlin Kern of Colorado Springs, the Board of El Paso County Commissioners and the Fair Advisory Board will offer a special welcome at 11 a.m.
       Favorites include the Wagon Train July 20; 4-H culinary, arts, crafts and animal exhibits; and a first-time appearance by the Aussie Kingdom with kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, lorikeets and kookaburras. Beekeepers, rodeos, auto and bike races, demolition derbies, 4-H shows and model trains, provide something for everyone. You'll find great food, lively activities and shopping at our many vendor booths. And, plan a visit to the nearby Paint Mines Park for a guided interpretive hike.
       For more information on the El Paso County Fair and a complete schedule of events, visit the website: www.ElPasoCountyFair.comor contact the Fairgrounds office at 520-7880.
       I look forward to seeing you there for "Summer's Hottest Ticket"!

Clark, a Westside resident, represents District 3 on the Board of El Paso County Commissioners and serves as its chair. You can reach her at 520-6413 or sallieclark@elpasoco.com.