Fair times are good times
“It’s time for the county fair,” reads the headline of the Aug. 14, 1980, Aspen Times. The full-page cover photo is of a blond, freckled little girl hugging her lamb. The inside feature is about the myriad events and activities that made up the once popular three-day event.
“A bake-off contest, a 4-H market livestock sale, a two-day rodeo, all kinds of cooking and sewing and garden exhibits, pickin’ and fiddlin’ contests, games on horseback, a catch-it lamb contest, and even a cow-pie throwing contest, are just some of the events planned for the fifth annual Pitkin County Fair Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15, 16 and 17, at the Snowmass Rodeo Grounds in Snowmass Village,” the article reads.The Pitkin County Fair has gone the way of most ranches, affordable homes and dive bars in the upper Roaring Fork Valley – its last hurrah was about 1985 at the Snowmass rodeo grounds. Anyone interested in livestock, bake-offs, rodeos, kids’ contests and all that can visit the Garfield County Fair, which runs Aug. 5-13 at the Rifle fairgrounds.
That’s what Aspen’s version of its 4-H club is doing. The Four-Leaf Clovers, a club of 18 kids ages 10 to 16 from Glenwood to Basalt, are bringing their summer projects to the fair next week. The club is participating in the horse, dog and sheep/goat shows, and presenting its veterinary medicine project on Monday, Aug. 8.
“Everybody used to come to the county fair; it was so much fun,” says John Cooley, who with his wife, Joan, ran the Pitkin County Fair from 1978 to 1984.Cooley laments the passing of such a tradition because of the community-mindedness the fair represented – many local parents volunteered to run it, while their children spent weeks preparing to show their animals. Cooley clearly remembers Sandy Munro’s fiddle contest, lots of booze and the biggest fair in 1979 that he estimated attracted 10,000 people.
“It was big deal back then,” said Don Lemos, whose daughter, Trishka, and her lamb graced the cover of The Aspen Times that week. Given total care of young farm animals, children would grow attached to their charges, even though one of the purposes of a county fair was to sell livestock for slaughter. In fact, one of the Lemos’ sheep was named “Lambchop.”
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