One hundred and fifty years ago, farmers and community members gathered in Boulder for a little get-together. A town picnic, where they could share stories and agriculture secrets, talk trends, show each other their animals and make connections.
In 1869, that small group of people probably never imagined their gathering would turn into the oldest county fair in the state of Colorado and attract 150,000 people over 10 days. That’s how the Boulder County Fair looks today.
This year’s 150th Boulder County Fair runs Aug. 2-11 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont.
Tens of thousands of people flock to Longmont for the annual event that features a wide variety of action: a demolition derby, a professional rodeo, a Mexican rodeo, bull-riding, 4-H competitions, craft shows, carnival rides and even ballet on horseback.
But even if you’re not all about the roping and cattle and funnel cakes, in modern, Boulder County style, this fair even has a craft distillery festival where you can sample locally made spirits (they call it a “grain-to-glass” competition) and a farm-to-table dinner, highlighting local produce and dishes.
Then there’s a firefighters’ combat challenge, where local firefighters race through an obstacle course of firefighter-y events, like climbing up a five-story tower and dragging a hose through an obstacle course before shooting it at a target.
In celebration of the big 1-5-0, the fair is holding some special events this year. Big-name singer Lauren Alaina will be performing. Alaina competed on season 10 of “American Idol” and has since stormed the charts. Singer Tegan Marie, the youngest, major-label country artist since Tanya Tucker, is opening the show. This show kicks off at 8 p.m. Aug. 2.
Also for the 150th anniversary celebration, there will also be a full-armor, extreme jousting tournament; a self-guided historic tour throughout the fairgrounds; and costumed characters teaching about fairs of the past. You can pick up all kinds of commemorative goodies, too: a poster, belt buckles, a cutting board and a smoked sugar beet whiskey made by Longtucky Spirits just for the event.
Check the Boulder County Fair’s online events calendar for the full scoop of events and highlights.
Parking is free, and it’s free to get into the gate, so you can pop in and out any time of the day; you don’t have to book out a full day. No matter when you come, there’s something to see, even if it’s just horse-and-people watching. If you’re on a budget, check out the ticketed events that are only $5, a discounted senior day and a free kids day, in addition to the annual free educational activity. This year, the topic is “Bugology.” Learn about different kinds of bugs, feed butterflies and even (gulp) eat bugs.
Over the years, the fair has obviously changed. It was in Boulder for 30 years, before moving to Roosevelt Park in Longmont. Back then, that was the outskirts of town. As Longmont expanded, the fair moved again to its current location in 1979.
Although events and its size continue to evolve, some things remain the same, says Laura Boldt, executive director.
“In keeping with our mission, we have a competitive area for 4-H, youth and adults,” Boldt says. “We’ve continued our agriculture education in a fun-filled environment. We are trying to expand and truly celebrate agriculture and the people competing here, giving them something fun to come to.”
Boldt calls the fair a tradition. Many parents want to bring their kids because they remember going to the fair when they were kids. But beyond that, it’s an opportunity to learn something new, Boldt says.
“Whether that’s cake-decorating or quilting or about the animals, they can ask questions and feed that thirst for knowledge,” she says.