By Jeffrey Smith
The Gilpin County Fair returns bigger, better and more family-friendly than ever, Aug. 20-21, with new events, rides, attractions and contests. While many popular aspects of the fair will return—including the Saturday night bonfire and Sunday morning pancake breakfast—this year’s fair also features bull riding, mutton bustin’, live music, craft beer, barrel racing, longhorns and an array of thrilling attractions and competitions.
The fair’s new coordinator, Heather Pearce, has helped organize the fair the past three years and looks forward to offering new events and bringing back old favorites this year. “I’ve been around and involved in fairs for nearly my entire life, so when I was asked if I would like to help coordinate the Gilpin County Fair—where I grew up—I was pretty excited,” Pearce said. The best part of doing the work, for her, is seeing everyone’s happy faces. “ I especially like watching the kids have fun and seeing our families and community get together.”
This year’s fair has several fresh things to do and see, and Pearce is happy to be able to bring these changes to fair-goers. “I’m excited about all of the new events and activities like the Colorado Beer and Cider Tent, ATV Rodeo, ranch bronc riding, Water Walkers ride, Meyers Giant Sandbox, Gilpin Gourmet Contest public tasting, all of the live bands… and the Barrel Racing Jackpot. I like new and exciting things,” she said. “One of the biggest misconceptions about the Gilpin Fair is that it’s same every year. We have lots of new and exciting things for all ages and even different events on Saturday and Sunday, so be sure to come both days.”
The Mardi Gras Bulls & Beads event, Aug. 20, takes over the rodeo arena at 2 p.m. with traditional bull riding, ranch bronc riding, mutton bustin’ and a sheep scramble. The Barrel Racing Jackpot takes place in the arena Saturday morning.
The fair’s first day also features a rare flag disposal ceremony, Timberline Fire Fashion Show, Misto the Magi magic show and contests including log splitting, dog agility, karaoke and talent show. An opening ceremony for the county’s new year-round BMX course takes place at 10 a.m. followed by various contests.
Don’t miss the live entertainment under tent featuring NoGo Gillbillies, Hot Spell and Canyon Creek Band throughout the day. Tae Kwon Do and robotic demonstrations are also planned. There will also be craft booths, Carousel of Happiness animals, vendors, Colorado peaches, rock climbing wall, giant slide, EKGs, helicopter, fire trucks and more.
When the fair closes on Saturday at 6 p.m., the annual bonfire and free hot dog dinner begins. A pie eating contest takes place an hour later and the Mardi Gras Bulls & Beads After Party and Awards including an awards presentation, cowboys, bands, food, drinks and more at the Mardi Gras Casino in Black Hawk at 8 p.m.
The fair’s second day, Aug. 21, features much of the same excitement from Saturday as well as slot cars, petting zoo, longhorn steer photos, large equipment, public judging of the Gilpin Gourmet contest, the Eagle’s Nest Fun Run and more.
Special events on Sunday include the Blizzard & Boo Longhorn Show, and contests including horseshoes, celebrity archery shoot and an ATV rodeo. Live entertainment includes the music of Todd Adelman & the Country Mile and The Bogans.
Day two of the fair also features the Gilpin Gourmet contest. Compete for ribbons and bragging rights in baked goods, preserved foods and new home-brewed beverage divisions. Entries are due, Aug. 20 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and will be judged on several factors of originality of recipe, appearance and taste. Judging will be open to the public, Aug. 21, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The first 50 people paying $5 can taste, judge and vote. A new home-brew category is included. Entries are accepted, Aug 15-17 in the Exhibit Barn.
Another new addition to the fair on both days is the Colorado Brew Tent featuring beer and cider created by several of the state’s breweries. Tivoli Brewing, the state’s oldest, most historic brewery and owned by Gilpin County residents, is sponsoring the tent.
While Pearce has been doing the “heavy lifting” when it comes to planning and organizing, “a fair like this can’t happen just because of one person, it takes a team of people to plan and make it happen,” she said. “The Fair Committee has been working since last September to put this event together. If you see someone in a yellow or white Gilpin County Fair T-shirt running around on Aug. 20-21, please stop and thank them for all the work they do!”
The Gilpin County Fairgrounds is located at 230 Norton Dr. north of Black Hawk. Visit www.gilpincountyfair.com or call 303-582-9106 for more details.
Originally published in the August 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly