By Robin Young | PREVIEW Columnist
Thursday marks the opening of the 71st Archuleta County Fair, celebrating a timeless tradition.
During the months of July, August and September, counties across Colorado will hold county fairs, marking the end of the 4-H year and bringing people together to be entertained, see livestock shows and view local talent from youth and adults.
Fairs have been around since the Middle Ages. They were days set aside for leisure and religious celebration. These early fairs often consisted of games, competitions and other festivities. As time passed, fairs moved away from their early religious associations and began to focus more on agriculture, competition and education. In the U.S., agricultural fairs did not begin to catch on until the early 19th century, when the first American fair was held in Pittsfield, Mass. This early fair, organized by Elkanah Watson in 1807, was a small event consisting of only sheep-shearing demonstrations.
At Watson’s urging, other area farmers began to showcase their livestock at public gatherings, where they were then judged and awarded for the quality of their animals. Watson further developed his vision of what would become county fairs over the years, later including activities for men, women and children, and allowing merchants to sell goods at the event. 4-H became a part of county fairs in 1902, as youth began to partake in what is now the nation’s largest after-school program and a staple of county fairs.
The first American State Fair was held for two days in New York in September of 1841, and focused on educating attendees about agriculture, featuring animal exhibits and speeches. In addition to educating fairgoers, New York’s fair also featured samples and products for both farms and homes, again mixing the agricultural education and commerce that would come to define American fairs.
As their popularity grew, technology also became important at fairs, as they were large enough events to showcase new technologies like electricity and airplanes. For many attendees, fairs were highly anticipated summer events, and family farms would plan for months to be able to afford time off at the event. For these families that lived far from the city, the annual fair was an update on modern science, as it was often the first time technologies had been made available to them.
In addition to technology, entertainment acts also came to the forefront at fairs, with music performances taking center stage. These music acts were also accompanied by carnival rides, vaudeville entertainers and other general amusements. As a result, fairs became a time not only for educating the public on agriculture and for various competitions, but also a time for farmers to educate themselves on technology and the burgeoning American culture.
Today, there are approximately 2,000 county and state fairs nationwide. Some of these fairs, such as the State Fair of Texas and the Erie County Fair in New York, continually draw in more than 1 million attendees each year, making them some of the most greatly attended events in the country.
Since their early days of sheep shearing, agricultural fairs have grown vastly to serve many purposes. Focused on providing fun, education and engaging entertainment for all who attend, county and state fairs symbolize to many an exciting summer pastime.
We hope to see you at the Archuleta County Fair, celebrating 71 years of good, wholesome family fun. Thursday marks the opening of the fair.
Colorado State University Extension in Archuleta County announces an AmeriCorps job position for the new year of the 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) AmeriCorps Program. This year’s program will partner with communities across the state of Colorado, providing STEM education to youth in areas such as robotics, weather and animal science.
Do you have a passion for food safety and preservation? Then the Master Food Safety Advisors (MFSA) training is for you. MFSAs receive 30 hours of hands-on, research-tested food safety and preservation instruction. After completing the training and passing a written exam, MFSA volunteers give back 30 hours of service helping others practice safe food handling and preserve food successfully at home. Volunteers conduct demonstrations and assist with workshops, test pressure canner gauges, staff exhibits at county fairs and farmers markets, write articles and answer phone calls and emails.
Keep checking the Extension website, Facebook page and these articles for more information.
CPR and first aid classes
CPR and first aid certification classes are offered every other month (February, April, June, August, October and December) from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid, and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at (970) 264-5931 to register.
Visit us on the Web at https://archuleta.extension.colostate.edu/ or like us on Facebook and get more information: https://www.facebook.com/CSUARCHCTY and https://www.facebook.com/ArchuletaCounty4H.