Moffat County’s 100th Fair: A look back at the fair’s earliest days
Much has changed in the 100 years since the first Moffat County Fair opened in Maybell on Sept. 2, 1918, the same day the Bank of Maybell opened its own doors. This is a curious bit of trivia; according to an article in the Dec. 26, 1919, edition of the Moffat County Bell, the fledgling bank was a major driver behind that inaugural fair, which was described in the article as “a small fair, held in tents.”
According to coloradofestivalguide.com: “The whole community turned out. With flags flying, the Streeter Mine surprised everybody with a parade, and the Craig band (performed). Huge tents housed the displays of local crops, with babies being the biggest crop.
Within a year of its humble beginnings, however, a “splendidly organized” Moffat County Fair Association had been formed, and Maybell had been named “the permanent fair town in the county.”
That “permanent” location lasted for the next four years, until, in 1922, the fair was moved to Craig, where it has been held ever since.
In commemoration of the 100 Year Fair, the Craig Press has compiled the following clippings from historic newspapers to offer a glimpse into the beginnings and earliest days of the Moffat County Fair.
Early fair efforts win state support
Moffat County Bell: July 23, 1920
By the time the Moffat County Fair made it’s third appearance in 1920, the event was already attracting support, as well as funds from state agencies, as reported by the Moffat County Bell:
“Secretary John B. Willis of the Moffat County Fair Association says that he has received $800 from the state Board of Stock Inspection commissioners for use for livestock premiums at the county fair in Maybell,” the newspaper reported. “The county has more than $500 available for premiums and the fair association as much more, which makes close to $2,000 for premiums. This is considerable more than twice the amount available last year and assures some good exhibits.
Promoting the big event
Craig Courier: July 27, 1927
Drawing bigger crowds to the fair was already a concern only nine years into the annual event, as this clipping from the Courier demonstrates: “Tell your friends: That Moffat County is going to have the biggest fair ever on Labor Day and the day following.”
Fair financially solvent after only 9 years
Craig Courier: Oct. 5, 1927
Under the headline “Moffat County Fair has three hundred dollars; bills paid, the Courier wrote of a successfully growing fair, then less than a decade old. “The the fair this year had a surplus of $300 is the satisfactory information gleaned from an examination of the receipts and expenditures of the Moffat County Fair, held in Craig September 5 and 6. For two consecutive years, Moffat County’s Fair has shown a surplus. Last year, the fair committee had a surplus of $250; this year’s report shows a surplus of $300. The Moffat County Fair has accumulated a surplus of some $500, which is available for a permanent organization.”
Search for permanent fairgrounds
Craig Empire: May 16, 1928
Though by 1928, the fair was being held in Craig, a permanent site for the event was still in the future, as evidenced by the following article, which appeared under the headline, “What about a fair ground.” The article also included some interesting prognostications regarding the county’s anticipated future air travel needs.
“Not many more months until county fair time and as yet nothing definite has been done to secure a permanent fair grounds. The Moffat County Fair Association has been regularly incorporated, the directors selected, the dates set for the fair and a tentative premium list prepared. So far, so good.
“But most important of all is a home for the fair, and there is not a great deal of time to secure it. If the Moffat County Fair is to become the institution it deserves to be, a permanent home must be provided.”
“At the same time, it might be well to make arrangements for an airplane landing field in conjunction with the fair grounds, as the time is not far distant when Craig will be on regular plane routes. There are, in fact, several private plane ventures in prospect, were proper landing fields available in this section.”
Joint Routt/Moffat County fair abandoned for lack of funds
Craig Empire Courier: June 4, 1930
Despite its early financial successes, the fair has not been immune to budgetary challenges, which put the brakes on plans for a joint Moffat/Routt County fair in 1930. Under the headline “Joint fair abandoned through lack of funds,” the Empire Courier reported the following: “The plan of holding a bi-county fair for Routt and Moffat counties must be abandoned for this year was the decision today of the Moffat County Fair Board and the Board of County Commissioners. The decision to abandon the joint fair for this year was made necessary because of the lack of funds to enter into a cooperative plan with Routt County.”
The article explained that, during bi-county negotiations, Routt County officials proposed “that a joint fair be held in Hayden this fall and suggested that Routt County would furnish a sum of $2,000 to be matched by a fund of $1,000 to be furnished by Moffat County.
Though county commissioners decided “Moffat County did not have such a sum available,” the board expressed the opinion that a joint fair “would be a splendid thing for the two counties and suggested that by next year, Moffat County might be in a position to cooperate.”
Ultimately, no county fair was held that year in either county, though the Great Divide Fair did go on as planned.
Fair board pushes plan for permanent fairgrounds
Craig Empire Courier: April 6, 1938
By the late 1930s, plans were underway to build a permanent fair pavilion in Craig, as the Empire Courier announced under the headline: “Committee for fair named by county board.” The article was published after the project had been dormant for almost two years due to lack of funds, but a half-mill levy had resulted in “a considerable sum of money (being) accumulated.”
“The board of county commissioners today appointed a permanent Fair Board committee to proceed with plans for a fair grounds and livestock auction pavilion in Craig,” the newspaper reported. “… The committee is authorized by the board to complete plans for the fair grounds, race track and auction pavilion, to settle on the question as to the location of the fair grounds and to proceed with the construction work on the project subject to the final approval of the board of county commissioners.”