Plans move forward to hold Garfield County Fair with some big events eliminated, scaled down

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A cowboy grabs the horns of a steer during the Pro Rodeo steer wrestling event at the 2019 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independentv

The pro rodeo and bull riding circuit will not be coming to Rifle. And, there will be no concerts, no demolition derby, no monster trucks and no carnival at the Garfield County Fair this summer.

But, “we have not canceled the fair,” county Fair Board Chairman Levy Burris emphasized in a meeting with the county commissioners Tuesday morning.

Fair organizers want to emphasize that they’re working to make sure the show goes on when it comes to many of the other traditional local events during county fair week, July 27 to Aug. 2, he said.

Among them: a virtual 4-H show and livestock auction, plus the on-site car show, the family rodeo event, and possibly the open class home canning, baking and crafts exhibits.

“We did have a lot of requests not to cancel the fair,” Burris said. But, after a Fair Board meeting last week to discuss things, he said it was recommendation of the board to cancel the big-draw contract events due to uncertainty about contractual obligations and ongoing public health concerns over large gatherings as efforts continue to prevent new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Many of the smaller events are still being discussed, he said, and may be possible if crowds can be limited to 200 or 300 people, compared to the grandstand capacity of 1,800.

“A lot of the community is still looking forward to fair, and hoping that things will transition and move forward over the next two months,” Burris said. “And that, hopefully, they’ll be able to have some sort of gathering, some sort of relief from COVID-19 and be able to gather as a community and as families to enjoy the smaller events.”

County commissioners voted unanimously to cancel the premier ticketed events for which contracts are necessary, and agreed to have the Fair Board continue working out details for staging the other fair events.

Burris said the youth 4-H program, which is run by CSU Extension, had already decided to conduct many of its shows in a virtual setting, rather than on site, though live judging will still likely happen at the fairgrounds, Burris said.

4-H youth who want to continue to participate can do so, but a drop date of June 1 has been established.

Other related events are organized by other entities, such as the Rifle-area Chamber’s Garfield County Fair parade, and a strong man competition. Decisions about those events will be up to those organizers, Burris said.

“We don’t want to send the message that ‘fair is canceled,’” he said. “We want people to understand that a lot of these things are going forward, and we need to support that.”

County Commission Chairman John Martin noted that the exhibit halls are now being used for the twice-weekly LIFT-UP food distributions, so that could be another consideration come late July in terms of facility use.

Commissioner Mike Samson said he would also like to keep the conversation going about a possible concert or other type of fairgrounds event in September, depending on where things stand with the public health orders at that point.

Commissioners were advised by county staff not to commit to any replacement events at this time, however.

“Some sort of celebration in September is a great idea,” Fair Director Cassidy Evans said during the special Tuesday meeting. “It’s just a matter of how logistically we can pull that together.”