Fair organizers boost entertainment for 100th celebration

Douglas County event has run consecutively since 1918

Posted 7/20/18

This is a big year for the Douglas County Fair & Rodeo — 2018 is the event's 100th celebration. The annual event kicks off on Aug. 2 and runs through Aug. 5 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, …

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Fair organizers boost entertainment for 100th celebration

Douglas County event has run consecutively since 1918

Posted

This is a big year for the Douglas County Fair & Rodeo — 2018 is the event's 100th celebration.

The annual event kicks off on Aug. 2 and runs through Aug. 5 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 500 Fairgrounds Drive in Castle Rock.

The key word is celebration. Organizers are careful not to call it the “100th anniversary” of the fair and rodeo.

County officials — a county spokeswoman, two fair board members and a county archivist — explained the fair began years before 1918, but thanks to multiple factors, such as wars, lack of organization and funding, the fair was not a consecutive, annual event until that year. One of the earliest known events was in fact a “butter fair” in Castle Rock, advertised in 1874.

Alyssa Carver, an archivist with Douglas County Libraries, said local government was still cementing itself in those early years.

Douglas County was founded in 1861 and drew the boundaries its maintains today in 1874. Before then, the county was a long, eastern-stretching stripe reaching to the modern-day borders of Kansas, Carver said.

“The school district didn't even organize until 1958, the way it is now,” she said.

Carver sifted through a box of historic fair programs, also called premiums, at the Castle Rock library on July 18. The collection is spotty before 1918, she said, but fairly comprehensive from that point on.

So, with 100 consecutive celebrations of the fair and rodeo, organizers are trying to make its centennial event the best yet.

Debbie Mills and Pam Spradlin, both fair board members, said they've worked hard to incorporate new forms of entertainment this year.

The 2018 vendor fair is now dubbed the “Vintage Marketplace” and will bring in more craft and specialty items than in years past. Mills said people can expect boutiques, artisans and a sterling silver and turquoise jewelry designer from New Mexico she is particularly excited to see coming to town.

They've also revamped the carnival and are near doubling the number of rides available for people, from eight to 14.

When people get hungry, Mills and Spradlin are proud to say they've thought of that, too. The fair will still offer traditional carnival foods, but organizers are also bringing in food trucks, a modern approach to providing healthier options. The women said this was a direct result of community feedback calling for lighter meals.

“They still want to eat the big turkey legs, but they want a salad with that, too,” Mills said.

The most exciting change in 2018 will be to the music concerts, Mills and Spradlin said.

“Our big thing is our new outdoor concerts on the new performance platform,” Spradlin said.

Past concerts were held in the event center, which they estimated could accommodate 2,500 people. This year, they're holding concerts in the outdoor arena, where they expect to hold up to 6,000 concertgoers in the arena floor and grandstand.

Douglas County Commissioner Roger Partridge said his favorite part of the fair and rodeo is “the enjoyment I see on people's faces and their demeanor while they're there.”

To him, however, the fair and rodeo in an important opportunity to showcase and uphold the county's roots in agriculture.

With livestock shows running each day, barns open to the public and hundreds of fair exhibits on display, it's an opportunity for families from the city and country alike to learn about the industry behind food, clothes and so many more facets of life, he said.

Partridge also gave credit to the fair board and foundation, and all volunteers who “put hours into this to make it a great event for the public.”

“That is truly,” Partridge said, “when the agricultural ranching and farming heritage comes to life.”

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