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Eagle County fair crosses river

Kathy Heicherkheicher@eaglevalleyenterprise.comEagle, CO Colorado
Photo courtesy Burns Hole 4-HJill Schlegel, Vienna Sue Sours and Melody Bertroch Clark model their 4-H garments at the 1966 Eagle County Fair.
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EAGLE, Colorado -As the summer of 1960 approached, the organizers of the Eagle County Fair were scrambling.For seven years, the annual event had been held on a designated parcel of the Mayer ranch, on the south edge of Eagle. Most had assumed that location was permanent. When the ranch was suddenly sold to a corporation, the fair lost its home.That’s when the Eagle County Commissioners stepped up and purchased a 15-acre chunk of land from dairy rancher Ross Chambers on the west bank of the Eagle River, across from the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad depot.Led by County Agent Sam Kuntz, a squadron of local volunteers moved the livestock barn to the new site in sections. The Eagle Valley Roping Club was building a rodeo arena on the site.Due to the lack of an exhibit hall, the home economics exhibits remained across the river in the school gym. Elena Nottingham, Kathy Lewis (Macy), Sally Johnson (Metcalf) and Jean Seabry were among the blue-ribbon winners. Mallory Nottingham from Avon exhibited the Grand Champion beef.

The following year, Kuntz and his volunteers were determined to stage a fair with all of the exhibits in a central location. An all-steel, 100 by 50 foot building had been ordered to serve as the exhibit hall at the new fairgrounds. Delivery was due by Aug. 1; and the volunteers were certain they could have the facility functioning for the fair.Those hopes were dashed when the building didn’t arrive on time.Still, the fair was exciting that year. Grandstands had been built for the rodeo arena, and three rodeo performances were scheduled with the Colorado Amateur Cowboy Association. The rodeo offered a $150 purse. Local rancher Joe Dice was the go-to man.An extra day was added to the fair schedule.At Kuntz’s urging, a Fat Stock Sale was also added to the agenda.”The sale will be advantageous to both 4-H members and meat eaters. It will give the boys and girls a chance to sell their fat steers, lambs, and hogs at home; and it will give the people in this region a chance to buy some of the good meat our 4-H boys and girls are producing,” declared Kuntz.Thus began the still on-going partnership between the local business community and the 4-H kids. Local auctioneer Tom Pearch volunteered his talent. Stanley Cash Grocery, the local store in Eagle, spent $768 on the grand champion steer, exhibited by Ronnie Dodo of Avon. Other buyers at the sale included Joe Allen of the First Bank of Eagle, and rancher Martin Eichler, Ross Chambers, and Bob Havener.”The livestock sale was a big deal. Businesses and other ranchers were very supportive,” recalls Judy Burford, whose family operated a sheep ranch on Lake Creek.That much sought-after exhibit hall was ready for the 1962 fair, but again it involved a last minute scramble by a crew of volunteers that included Bonita Eaton, Alberta Norman, Zelda Hill, Millie Nottingham, Jerry Whittaker, Bill Stephens, Dean Walker, Vince Eichler, and Wayne Cowan.The Eichler brothers of Brush Creek cooked a lamb barbecue. Winners of the 4-H dress revue included Susan Chandler, Charlynn Oleson (Knight) and Shirley Eaton (Nolan).Pushed by County Agent Kuntz, the improvements at the fairgrounds continued. By 1964 the steel exhibit hall was wired for electricity. The wiring meant the facility would have not only light fixtures, but also the necessary power for cooking ranges and refrigerators. New restrooms and a water line were also installed. Denny Eaton was building a modern concessions stand.A fence was installed to separate the livestock sheds from the rodeo arena. Scotty Scott was hired as a caretaker for the fairgrounds. He lived in a mobile home moved onto the site.Carol Ann Davenport (Newby) was the champion in home economics judging. Karen Albertson won the purple rosette ribbon in the food competition. Lisa Shelton (Burton) had a champion chicken; and Joe Clark exhibited the top rabbit.The fair crowd had grown enough that the local sheepmen contributed six lambs for the barbecue.No doubt about it, the Eagle County Fair was poised to keep growing bigger and better.Kathy Heicher is a freelance writer who can be reached at heicher@centurytel.net.


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