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Postcard from the past: County fair memories abound

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dick Perue

Memories abound as exhibitors and viewers recall fair time in Wyoming.

Some of those memories are recalled in the history of the Carbon County Fair.

The annual Carbon County Fair has quite a storied past. 

The fairgrounds were established in Saratoga in the spring of 1908, and the first fair was held that fall.

As early as 1910, the local weekly newspaper reported the events of the fair, and it has been going strong except for a brief period of unexplained cessation from 1917-26 and during World War II.

The fair was held in Saratoga in 1927-28 and then moved to Rawlins in 1929, where it has been held since.

Although the first year in Rawlins was a social affair with a small showing – similar to the fairs in Saratoga – in 1930, the fair buildings were built in Rawlins with county funding. This undoubtedly increased the size and scope of the fair.

Articles of incorporation for the fair were filed in 1908 “to establish and maintain parks, grounds and race courses, for the trial of speed, development and training of horses and to offer award premiums.”

Additionally, they were filed “to establish and maintain parks, grounds and buildings for the exhibition of all kinds of livestock, agricultural, mechanical and mineral products and to offer award premiums.”

The newspaper reported in 1910 work of preparing the track and building sites out on the fairgrounds east of town were progressing very well. The track was surveyed and leveled and put in shape.

The first payment of $750 was made on the 40-acre tract bought for fairgrounds purposes.

The first day of the fair opened cloudy and threatening. 

Rain set in about 10 a.m. and continued up until 1 p.m., and everyone believed the first day would be spoiled. But, the clouds broke away at about 1:30 p.m., and the entire afternoon was fine.

The first race was held at 1:30 p.m. sharp. It was a running race for Carbon County horses only, with an entrance fee of five dollars and a purse of $75 and $25. 

Don McPhails’ Mercadal won first with a time of 55 and one-fourth seconds, with English Lass second.

A Sept. 15, 1927 headline in the paper noted the “Local Dairy Association sponsors Platte Valley Fair, to occur Oct. 8.” 

The story stated the exhibit hall, cow barns and some other structures on the local fairgrounds will again come into use, after standing idle and deserted since the last county fair, which occurred in 1916.

In 1945, the event was called the “Annual County 4-H Fair” and was held in Rawlins Aug. 29-31, under the direction of County Agent Nels Dahlquist. 

Cash prizes and medals were awarded with the owner of the grand champion fat calf receiving $25 and the top local clothing project winner given $25.

Of course, the history of Wyoming’s county and state fairs is cherished, but the best memories are those shared with the many friends made while attending these events. 

May all your fair memories be good ones and keep telling them – over and over again – to all who will listen.

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