Douglas County celebrated its 152nd year of existence by holding its annual fair Aug. 8-11, bringing in more than 20,000 town and country visitors to enjoy the rural heritage and traditions of the fast-growing region.
Although the county’s rapid growth leans more toward suburban demographics, everyone attending the fair relished the opportunities to stroll through the barns, observe the numerous 4-H projects, sample tasty dutch-oven cooking, watch a rodeo or hit the midway for carnival rides and all the unhealthy food a person could stomach.
What could be better?
“It went well,” confirmed Douglas County Fair coordinator LuAnne Lee about 2013’s version of the fair. “Even with the weather. We had rain on Thursday, Friday and some on Saturday, but it went well.”
In a previous interview about the annual attraction’s goal of blending city and country at the fairgrounds in Castle Rock, Colo., Douglas County Fair board member Todd Spencer discussed their progress.
“We’re real happy with it — the blend of the city life and rural life at the fair,” said Spencer. “I think it’s a great attraction. It sort of gives both sides a look and a taste of what the other one is like. The suburbanites who actually come to the fair ... have a great time seeing all the animals, especially when they bring all their kids.
“There’s nothing nicer than when you are in one of the livestock barns and some little kids see some lambs, goats or even a cow, and their eyes just light up in wonder, just looking at the animals.”
Walking through the animal barns is a combination of watching the pride and affection young 4-Hers have in their animals and the wonder of youngsters seeing a wide variety of farm animals up close.
This year’s crop of proud 4-Hers included Tate Welch of Franktown, Colo., who earned the Reserve Grand Champion Junior Showmanship ribbon in the swine category.
Asked regarding what he liked most about showing at the fair, Mr. Welch’s answer was sincere.
“I like taking them through the ring,” he said with a smile.
And what did he like most about the swine?
“I like their personalities,” enthused the youthful Welch.
It wasn’t just 4-Hers who enjoyed their time at the fair.
Some of rodeo’s top competitors showed up in Castle Rock and had a good time, as well.
Traveling from competitions in New Mexico and Oklahoma, tie-down ropers Scott Kormos (No. 3 in the world standings) and Trevor Thiel scheduled a stop in Castle Rock along their way north to Idaho.
It turned out to be a good plan, since Thiel picked up first with a time of 9.3 seconds and Kormos’ 9.4-second run earned second. With Kormos winning the Mountain States Circuit’s biggest rodeos this year (Greeley Stampede and the Cheyenne Frontier Days), it seemed only natural for him to do well at a smaller Colorado venue.
“A lot of times, the smaller rodeos try as hard or harder as the big rodeos,” said Kormos, after earning a second-place check in Sunday afternoon’s performance. “(Douglas County Fair’s) rodeo definitely does. There were people everywhere. It was a happening place that afternoon. It was a cool rodeo and an awesome place to be.”
Another “awesome” place to be was the dutch-oven cooking competition held on Sunday afternoon.
For the last three years, teams of traditional dutch oven cookers get together for a judged contest at the fair.
With categories ranging from appetizers and breads to meat dishes and desserts, the location on the grounds where they cook is popular with fair visitors.
Not only do guests observe traditional cooking over fire and coals in person, they also have a chance to interact with people who love history and enjoy passing it along.
With dishes served up that included short rib pot pie, beef brisket, stuffed turkey breast, jalapeno corn bread, chocolate cake and fruit pie, it was no wonder hundreds of people lined up for samples after the judging was complete.
“I think (county fairs) are still a really special part of our heritage,” said Mark Moore about interacting with the public at the fair.
Moore is a Douglas County resident and business owner, and he loves an opportunity to set up his chuckwagon and cook with his wife and friends.
“I think we need to do everything we can to keep our heritage out in front of people,” he summed up about the cooking contest.
On top of his Western chef responsibilities, Moore is also a member of the board of directors of the Douglas County Fair Foundation, whose mission is to “provide financial support to the Douglas County Fair Board for the management and operation of the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo.”
Along with those duties, they work to connect the fair’s past with its present and future.
For 2013, they initiated a Heritage Plaza project that included a shade area and a “wall of honor” to help commemorate people important to the history of the Douglas County Fair.
“We started this wall of honor, the very first meeting was in November,” revealed Moore about the timeline. “We decided we could build it in February and it’s finished for this fair. It’s super. Everybody put a lot of effort into it, the contractors did a very good job and it came out beautiful.”
With the Douglas County Fair holding tight to its past and tending to its present, the future of the Castle Rock venue looks bright. ❖