Equine event central: Schedule full of equine events at Hot Springs County Fairgrounds
Thermopolis – For over 80 years, the Hot Springs County Fairgrounds has been hosting agricultural events in the community of Thermopolis.
“The fairgrounds were built in the early 1930s,” says Hot Springs County Fairgrounds Secretary Valerie Mead. “They also built the rock wall around the grounds at that time through a work program, since it was built on state land.”
Now, the fairgrounds teem with activity throughout the year, holding a reputation for excellent equine facilities.
“We have an indoor barn, an outdoor arena, about 100 horse stalls and lots of parking,” she explains.
In addition to the grounds themselves, the Hot Springs County Fairgrounds also boasts a scenic location that attracts many events.
“Our facility is most sought out due to the location and some of the things our town offers, such as the mineral hot pools, golf, eating establishments and the fairgrounds itself,” comments Mead.
With events booked every weekend throughout the winter and spring months, the fairgrounds draws a significant amount of business to Thermopolis, says retired Hot Springs County Fairgrounds Grounds Manager Martin Bader.
“I did some figuring here a few years ago, and the revenue brought into Thermopolis is in the thousands of dollars when we look at motels, cafés and the filling stations to fill those pickups with fuel,” he comments.
One season when there was a high school rodeo and seven other events, Bader estimated the total amount of money spent over that time period.
“The total hit around $100,000 by the time attendees paid their motel rooms, food, gas and everything else,” continues Bader.
He notes, while many tourists visit Thermopolis in the summer months, the winter months are typically slower for tourism.
“The events at the fairgrounds bring the city a lot of money in the wintertime when we don’t have any money coming from regular tourists,” he says.
The equine facilities at the Hot Springs County Fairgrounds provide opportunities for both local community members and individuals throughout the state.
“Every weeknight during the winter months, our facilities are booked for practice and roping events with local people,” says Mead.
The first weekend of the month begins with team roping and team branding.
She continues, “We have ranch sorting the second weekend of the month, starting in October and going through March.”
The Central Wyoming Cutting Show fills the third weekend of the month from October to March, while Cowboy State Stock Horse Show is the fourth weekend of each month from November to March.
Both large and small rodeo events find their home at the Hot Springs County Fairgrounds, with team roping, team branding and barrel racing events hosted throughout the year.
“We host the Wrangler Championship Team Roping. They are usually scheduled every year,” she says. “We also have a Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) rodeo every June for two days.”
Other rodeo events include the Kick ‘Em Up Cans Barrel Racing, the Wyoming Junior Rodeo Association Rodeo and the Lions Ranch Rodeo.
Local youth programs and horse clubs utilize the facilities for events such as the Central Wyoming Performance Horse Club Show.
“Last year was the first for the Gymkhana Series, which is horse games and fun for the very young on up to older youth,” explains Mead.
In addition to the excitement and thrills of competitions, the Hot Springs County Fairgrounds is also used for educational opportunities.
“At the end of August, we have the Weaver Working Cow Clinic and Roping Clinic, which is a five-day event,” says Mead.
She continues, “Every year in June is a Connie Combs Barrel Racing Clinic that takes place for three days.”
The facilities are also ideal for numerous other equine-related activities including showcases, auctions and sales.
“Every third Saturday of May and every second Saturday of September each year is the WYO Quarter Horse Sale,” she explains. “This draws people from all over the country.”
Recently, the fairgrounds transitioned to a new management, says Mead.
“The new grounds manager is Cahill Nettles,” she explains. “Martin Bader retired in April 2017 after working here and building up these events for 28 years.”
Mead notes that, after years of building a reputation as an excellent equine facility, in combination with other opportunities available in Thermopolis, the schedule for the fairgrounds stays full.
“The grounds are scheduled pretty tight, and many people love coming to Thermopolis,” continues Mead.
As such, one of the long-term goals for the fairgrounds is to expand the facilities.
“A goal one fair board member has in mind is to eventually add another indoor barn,” she concludes. “That would give us more room to book many more events.”
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.