By Jenny Paulson – The Colorado State Fair is one of the state’s largest summer events, and the fairgrounds hosts a number of other events in Pueblo throughout the year. Pueblo’s first state fair was in held 1872, before Colorado even became a state in 1876, and is a tradition that now over 500,000 people attend each year.
Official state agricultural fairs were started throughout the United States in the middle of the 19th century. In Colorado, the Agricultural Society held its first fair northwest of Denver in 1866 but by the end of the 1860s rural farmers in Colorado were dissatisfied and began to organize societies and fairs of their own, including the Southern Colorado Agricultural and Industrial Association, established in Pueblo in 1872, which sponsored a three day fair just north of Pueblo. About 1,400 people attended the fair that year, especially for the popular horse races.
The fairs continued for 15 years and incorporated as the State Fair Association (SFA) in 1886. They moved the fair site to Pueblo city limits, where Mineral Palace Park is now located. In 1890, the SFA sold the property and moved to a new site west of Lake Minnequa, where a grandstand, exhibition hall and race track was built, however it proved to be an unpopular site, too far from the street car lines and the train station. In 1900, the SFA purchased an 80 acre site where the fairgrounds is now located, and by 1901, built a new race track, grandstand, exhibition hall and stables , and the fair increased to 16,000 people. Amusements and rodeos became especially popular in the day.
The Colorado State Legislature designated Pueblo as the permanent location of the fair in 1888 and in 1917, the SFA deeded the fairgrounds to the state, and a state commission was created to organize and fund the fair’s operations. The 1930s through 1950s were the golden years for the fair and attendance rose from to 200,000 by the early 1950s. As the Front Range became more urbanized, the fair began to emphasize more entertainment for those less interested in agriculture. Eventually the race track was removed and a rodeo arena and grand stand built.
Now an eleven day event, the Colorado State Fair attracts about 500,000 visitors per year. The fairgrounds are located at 1001 Beulah Avenue, Pueblo, Co 81004 and events, concerts and all activities are listed on the fairground’s website.