Gilpin Fair blessed with sun, crowds

good mutton busterBarbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. Sometimes things work out as planned.

Seldom has the Gilpin County Fair gone the entire weekend without a thunderstorm. Last weekend was the exception. Sunshine and warmth, a slight breeze and more games for kids, many vendors, and even a bit of a rodeo all added up to an extraordinarily successful county fair.

Beginning on Saturday morning there was so much action in various parts of the arena –  the exhibition hall, the recreation center, the vendors in the gym, the big top, the food row, the beer booth, the parking lot displays and the grandstands –  that one had a tough time choosing which event to attend. Or what food to eat first: funnel cakes, burgers, hot dogs, burritos, kettle corn, Navajo tacos, or cheesy, gooey, scrumptious fries.


Politicians set up booths and gave away engraved pens, brochures, ice cream, and snow cones. They said howdy to the voting public while sitting at their booths under American flags chatting with each other.

The arena was the site of the big action. A long line of children from 3 to 12 lined up to enter the mutton busting contest. Many had competed before; some had just seen it –  but none of them could get totally prepared for the feeling of bursting out of the protective hands of the volunteers and careening into the center of the arena, clutching the recently shorn fleece of a panicked bleating sheep.

great kieraMost of the rides were short, ending in a small body dumped into the dirt. Helmeted, vested, and slightly bruised, most of the kids – at least 50 during the weekend – jumped up, a brave smile on their face as they ran to their parents. Everyone received a ribbon; most of them received a high five and a proud exclamation of praise.

In the afternoon, the Mardi Gras Casino-sponsored rodeo featured bull riding, bronco riding, team roping, and barrel racing. With many other rodeos going on the same weekend and many contestants unable to get up the Central City Parkway because of a rockslide, the contestants were few, but Miller Rodeo promised a bigger and better show next year. The saddle broncs and the bulls won.

great roping

All weekend long, determined mechanical bull riders clambered aboard the long-horned, soft-backed creature, and tried to hang on as the mischievous operator lulled them with slow, smooth moves and then abruptly threw them off with a quick reverse and spin. Many riders came back, determined to stay on for eight seconds.

Above the fair, flipping and somersaulting, soaring, high-flying bungee bouncers got an eagle’s eye view of the fairgrounds and beyond. Timberline Fire Protection District volunteers aided young wannabe firefighters with a real fire hose in putting out flames in the windows of a fake house. Later in the day, TFPD lit a fire in a small, built-for-the-fair room, complete with couch and table. When flames began backdrafting out the entrance, the firefighters quenched the structure fire with foam, inspiring applause from the audience.
firefighter and kid and hose

TFPD gave away firefighter hats, flashlight key chains, and advice on all aspects of fire safety. The volunteers also gave rides in the fire trucks, blowing the horn and sounding the siren as they circled the parking lot.

Vendors filled the recreation center gymnasium, booths offering a plethora of handcrafted items, gourmet foods, health and beauty products and artwork. The face-painting booth was possibly the most popular, having decorated more than 300 small and not-so-small faces by Sunday afternoon.

baby calf

Inside the exhibition hall, a pen of baby animals delighted children who, with a $1 cup of feed, got up close and personal with adorable, fuzzy, warm-eyed farm animals who have been handled since birth and allowed petting. They also demanded to be fed. The baby pot-bellied pig was a bit shy but that made it all the more special when the children felt the bristly hide. A miniature burro nursed a teeny weeny little burrito and brayed raucously every now and then.

The Gilpin County School Athletic Department sponsored a bubble bounce and myriad games for children, with prizes for all. Striped whiskered cat faces on cheerleaders advertised the face painting talent.

nother winner

A BMX course allowed bike riders to test their skills over obstacles and ramps. Dallas LeBeau, Tanner Anderle, Wyatt from Evergreen, Dusty LeBeau and Nathan all took first place in their age category.

On the other side of the fairgrounds, the dog agility course tested the skills of our canine competitors and their owners. The dogs crawled through tunnels, jumped through hoops, and did tricks for the judge. The two first-place winners were Lori Beach and her golden retriever, Coyote; and Madison Kennedy and her rescue dog, a Jack Russell named Hercules. Coyote is a certified Therapy Dog International who visits schools and hospices.

the picture

Under a tent on the midway, Mike and Barb Anderson of Denver donned hats, scarves, jackets and guns and posed for the Old Time Photos photographer as he gussied them up to look like the Wild West. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Barb. “We’re going to hang this picture on the wall for all to see.”

In the main tent, faces showing a red glow from the tent, kids and adults sang their hearts out into the karaoke microphone. Talent show contestants took the stage and performed for the crowd, shucking off their stage fright and getting into the competition. Aubrey Allen and Sarah Trujillo took first place in the Talent Contest.

gilpin students

The Gilpin Gourmet Contest is a crowd pleaser. After the judges choose the winners from each category, the luscious plates and pans of treats are auctioned off, with bidders paying amazing amounts for the goody of their choice.

Overall Best of Show winner and First Place for cakes went to Casey Newman for her Flourless, Gluten Free Chocolate Moose Cake, with a moose head made of powdered sugar on the top of the dark, rich chocolate. Heather Hart won first and second for her jerky and first and second for her peanut brittle.

classy chocolates

Linda Watson won first place for her Blackberry Jam, Madison Anderle took the blue ribbon for her Butter Baby Cupcakes with Irish Cream frosting, and Lili Cope’s Apple Cream Pie won the Youth Dessert category.

On Sunday morning, no one could resist the aroma of sizzling sausage and coffee from the High Country Auxiliary Tent, where rough tough TFPD firefighters donned frilly aprons as they scrambled eggs and flipped flapjacks. The breakfast is one of the district’s biggest fundraisers of the year, supporting the work of the firefighters the Gilpin Animal Rescue Team.


The finale of the Gilpin County Buckle Series Gymkhana took place on Sunday afternoon. After a summer of competition, those who entered the events in the monthly gymkhana had a shot at winning the coveted Buckle. Event results and photos will be in next week’s Mountain-Ear Newspaper.

Some years the fair is better than others and this year’s GC Fair is up there among the best.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.