Another county fair, another ‘big success’ |

Another county fair, another ‘big success’

Ryan Hoffman

The 2016 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo in Rifle wrapped up last week and continued the ongoing trend of offering a fun-filled time with little in the way of hitches or major obstructions.

“Very few issues … there’s always something, but overall the fair was great, it was a big success and we look forward to getting ready to wrap up … and move forward to planning the fair in 2017,” said Levy Burris, fair board president.

“I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from citizens about how good the fair is, and it keeps getting better and better … ”

Of note, the weekend entertainment, starting with the Friday night concert, continued to be popular with fair-goers.

This year’s concert, which featured the country music musicians Chris Janson and Josh Turner, sold out Friday afternoon — faster than last year’s Gary Allan concert.

By 5 p.m. Friday — two hours before the scheduled start time — the line of eager country music fans stretched outside the concert area and into the “Midway of Family Fun.” By 5:40 p.m. the line ran outside of the fenced-in area and down the walkway leading out to Railroad Avenue.

Sitting in folding chairs at the front of that line were Agellee Pilkerton and Nancy Lombardi.

“You have to be first in line to get the best seat,” said Pilkerton, a Rifle resident who spent most of the week at the fairgrounds with her children competing in various 4-H contests.

Lombardi, a country music fan, traveled from Meeker for the show, and spoke favorably of both Janson, the opener and a rising name in the country music scene, and Turner, an established fixture on country radio stations.

In recent years, fair organizers have made a concerted effort to bring in acts with broad name recognition.

Last year’s Allan concert, of which Pilkerton spoke favorably, set a record with $79,055 in ticket sales. That was more than double the $33,270 collected from the 2014 concert.

After a rocking show at the fairgrounds Friday night, the fun picked back up Saturday morning with the annual parade, which drew hundreds of people, including the Weekley family from Collbran, to Railroad Avenue in Rifle. Burris noted that the crowds of people seemed to be larger than in previous years.

Following the parade, the junior livestock show generated thousands of dollars for local participants in 4-H and Future Farmers of America, and the evening culminated with the demolition derby.

Fair organizers have noted the continued popularity of the derby, which set attendance records in 2015 with 1,847 tickets generating $25,320, compared to 1,727 tickets sold and $23,250 in revenue in 2014.

Burris did not know an exact number for ticket sales to the demolition derby, which has sold out in recent years, but said attendance was right around what was expected.

Hoping to capitalize on the derby’s popularity, organizers added a monster truck show to the fair lineup on Sunday, a day that has served as a “tear down” day in recent years. With 1,400-1,500 people attending the monster truck show, Burris said he was very pleased with the event and hopes the fair can continue to offer it in future years.

While the marquee events on the weekend tend to generate a lot of excitement, the entire week went well.

The family rodeo started things off with a new two-day format intended to meet the growing popularity of the event.

“It worked well,” Burris said last week. “They were busy both days. There’s just so much community support for it, and it’s phenomenal the number of people who come out and fill the grandstands and watch their kids and grandkids and family.”

In sharing his excitement for the Friday night concert, Strong said the entire week is one big opportunity for “good family fun.”

Fair-goers were not the only ones to notice.

“I’m just very proud of the job our fair board has done putting on a bigger and better fair,” Kevin Batchelder, Garfield County manager, said Friday evening.

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