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A fair-weather Old-Fashioned County Fair

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Gilpin community gathers together for some old-fashioned fun

By David Josselyn

Gloomy skies greeted the early light of morning on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Through the gloom, vendors hastily set up booths, equestrians exercised their horses, shepherds watched over their sheep, and emergency personnel assembled. Despite the gloom, spirits were high with many a “good morning!” and “I haven’t seen you since…” calling out around the fairgrounds. It has been a long 24 months since the last fair and folks were genuinely delighted to see each other on an occasion to gather for some old-fashioned fun.

This year’s fair happened only because several things fell into place. Voters approved a temporary tax increase specifically for the Community Center. New COVID cases have decreased, and vaccinations are readily available. Gabrielle Chisholm, Director of Parks and Recreation, and Norma Jones, leader of Friends of Gilpin County Community Center brought their teams together for organization. And the County Commissioners approved the proposal for the fair. Once everything fell into place, Norma and Gabrielle enlisted the help of the Public Works Department to get the grounds ready for the fair. Norma and Larry Sterling, who co-lead the GCART (Gilpin County Animal Response Team) team, along with Krystal Meyer, arranged many of the events with the assistance of the Gilpin County 4H team.

Although the day remained mostly overcast, the rains held off until the evening hours making it perfect weather for outdoor activity. The festivities began with a fund-raising pancake breakfast sponsored by High Country Auxiliary, followed by the opening ceremonies and dedication of the arena renaming it to the Allen Memorial Arena in honor of fallen firefighters Coby and Shelby Allen. Log splitting, sponsored by Axe and Snax, and gymkhana took up the mid-morning activities which were followed by wagon rides for all and stick horse racing for the youngest equestrians. A dog talent show was held in the barn during the lunch hour which led into a fan-favorite mutton bustin’ rodeo in the arena. Live music capped off the afternoon by Eric Stone from Boulder, Colorado.

One of the few drawbacks to the day was the lack of food vendors offering warm meals. JKQ BBQ was serving up pulled pork, loaded fries, and street corn with strawberry shortcake (a special treat from Chef Chris Herron) for the sweet tooth; their lines stretched across the lot, yet few complained as they eagerly waited for their order to be taken. A Kona Shaved Iced truck made its appearance around 2:00 pm inciting children of all ages to come running with glee.

The rains could hold off no longer, so as the skies burst open, organizers decided to end the fair around 5:00pm, nixing the traditional bonfire and the stargazing planned for the evening.

Overall, the fair was well-attended and a fun time for all as evidence by the smiles on faces, cheery greetings, lively conversation, and a general sense of community coming together for fun and socialization. As long as the health emergency abates, the one thing you can count on is the Gilpin Fair will be back next year.

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