Colorado State Fair re-imagined amid coronavirus

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Fair goers walks the grounds on the opening day of the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo in 2011. While numerous county fairs have been scrapped this year because of the pandemic crisis, State Fair officials say they will attempt a modified event. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

PUEBLO |  Colorado State Fair organizers are moving forward with a re-imagined expo this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott Stoller, the fair’s general manager, received unanimous support last week from the event’s board of authority to move forward with a pared-down celebration that respects health directives limiting the number of people that can gather in one place at one time, the Pueblo Chieftain reported.

The board supported Stoller’s recommendation to cancel all entertainment events in the events center, grandstand arena and on the fairgrounds. The popular Crabtree Amusements carnival has not yet been ruled out, and organizers are considering spacing out the rides and attractions throughout the fairgrounds.

Keeping a carnival would preserve a portion of the “spirit” of the annual expo, which is slated to run Aug. 28 through Sept. 7, Stoller said.

All entrance fees would be waived at this year’s fair.

“Faced with an incredibly difficult decision, and with a deep understanding of its far-reaching impact, the board carefully considered state guidance that is being developed for outdoor events and potential health risk to our fair visitors, competitors and vendors before voting,” said fair board chair Paul Youngs.

The fair in Pueblo will focus on 4-H and FFA events that could include a modified Junior Livestock Show and Sale, FFA Heifer Wrangle, Catch-a-Calf, 4-H Horse Show, 4-H Dog Show, 4-H Rocketry and 4-H Static Exhibits. Some exhibits, as well as limited food and vendor booths and virtual competitive exhibits, have been proposed.

Fair organizers say they will limit the amount of people at indoor and outdoor events to comply with state and local health guidelines.

Modifying the fair is expected to have a negative financial impact of between $600,000 and $1 million, but Stoller and board of authority members argue it’s vital for the fair to continue to have a presence, even if it is limited.

“The responsible approach is to remain as relevant as possible,” said board of authority member Brian Coppom.

This is not the first time the Colorado State Fair has been modified due to extraordinary circumstances.

In 1917, the State Fairground property was used as “Camp Carlson,” with the horse stables and open space serving as a training facility for the Army National Guard during World War I.

Since April 22, the grounds have been operating as a drive-thru coronavirus testing site for Pueblo County.