Fair & Rodeo

Contact Us


Eagle County Fair & Rodeo Turns 80 in 2019

Next year marks an exciting time for the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo - the 80th annual event! Check back in spring 2019 for more information on how we'll be celebrating this important milestone. 

The story of the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo

The Eagle County Fair & Rodeo celebrated its 75th year in 2014. The video below provides a more in-depth look at this celebrated event.

The first Eagle County Fair was held in 1939 and from all reports was a great success, drawing hundreds of people from throughout the county to Eagle for a day of competition and camaraderie. The organizers believed they had hit on the formula for an annual tradition. The fair was to be held on the grounds of the Eagle School (where the county administration building is now located at Sixth and Broadway in Eagle).

In addition to a 4-H exhibit competition and exhibits by local ranchers, the organizers were planning an exhibit competition for local farm and ranch wives. Community members were encouraged to exhibit canned vegetables, fruits, preserves, pastries, and needlework. But that was just a part of the celebration. The organizers planed a full day of entertainment, including a football game between the Minturn and Eagle High School teams (Eagle won, 27-0), concerts, a free local movie, a free lunch for all, and a big dance that evening.

In 1942, the community was feeling the impacts of the war. Most young men in the county had either been drafted or had signed up for military service, resulting in a farm labor shortage that seriously hampered local production. Shortages of products such as rubber and leather and mandatory rationing made it challenging for ranchers just to keep their operations going. By the mid-1940s, there was no mention of the county fair in the local newspapers, although there is coverage of 4-H activities and exhibits.

By 1950, the Eagle County Fair was suffering growing pains. The large number of exhibits overflowed the school gym in Eagle, and spilled out into the downstairs hall of the main school building. For the first time, local businesses manned commercial booths at the fair, featuring displays of various farm and home appliances.

In 1952 the fair, having outgrown the Eagle School site, was moved to the Gypsum school grounds—but that was the only time the event was staged away from the county seat.

As the summer of 1960 approached, the organizers of the 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 sold to a corporation, the fair lost its home.

That's when the Eagle County Commissioners purchased a 15-acre parcel of land on the west bank of the Eagle River, across from the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot. A group 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, and an all-steel, 100 foot by 50 foot building had been ordered to serve as the exhibit hall at the new fairgrounds. Grandstands had been built for the rodeo arena, and three rodeo performances were scheduled with the Colorado Amateur Cowboy Association.

By 1964 the steel exhibit hall had electricity. This 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.

By the 1970s the fairgrounds was settled in its new home and had plenty of room to grow bigger. The county was becoming more urbanized and more families in town were getting involved, which made the fair grow larger.

Beginning in the '80s the organizers got professional help with the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo. The Colorado State Rodeo Cowboys Association provided the amateur rodeo auction and concert acts. With growth and success in 1986, the county purchased a 145-acre tract of land from the gravel mines for future building.

In the 1990s Eagle County experienced a building boom and by 1999 the new grandstands were built to seat 2,650 people.

In 2006 Eagle County decided to build the 45,000 square foot Eagle River Center west of the Fairgrounds. The building was a huge success at its 2006 Fair & Rodeo debut. The center is also used for community and equestrian events, trade shows, fairs and tournaments.

Join us in 2019 as we celebrate 80 years of the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo.

Excerpted and updated from the July 29, 2009 edition of the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Kathy Heicher)