In some places, county fairs are on the decline.
Declining entries, declining attendance, declining interest.
Not so up in Box Elder County.
“The Box Elder County Fair is going strong,” insists fair board president Jan Rhodes. “Our attendance is strong — I think it’s actually growing.”
For example, Rhodes said the fair used to start on Wednesday night. Now, things get cooking the week before.
“Even our hamburger stands are opening early now — on Monday,” she said. “I think it’s to serve the people bringing in their fair entries.”
Equally telling about how popular this county fair remains: The long stream of trucks and trailers lining up the night before to unload their animals and other exhibits.
“It’s a tradition for some families to wait in line all night on Tuesday night to be in line to unload,” she said. “It’s turned into a tradition. They come up the night before and camp out in their trucks. Then, on Wednesday, they start weighing in.”
The Box Elder County Fair, which started in 1925, is now in its 94th year. This year’s theme is “Stirrup Some Fun,” and Rhodes believes they’re doing just that.
Activities associated with the fair get started with a Craig Campbell concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds Rodeo Arena, 320 N. 1000 West, Tremonton. Campbell is a Nashville-based country music artist who has had hits with “Family Man,” “Outta My Head” and “Keep Them Kisses Comin’.” Country singer-songwriter Katie Matthews will open for Campbell.
Tickets to the concert are $25, with $5 of each ticket donated to the Honor Flight Network, which raises money to allow veterans to visit the national war memorials built in their honor.
The week of the fair is chock full of events, according to Rhodes. Monday will feature the horse show speed events at 4:30 p.m., and on Tuesday a draft horse event will be held throughout the day. The fair will also begin receiving exhibits on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Box Elder County Fair officially begins with a parade at 5 p.m. in downtown Tremonton. The fair then continues from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, through Aug. 24, at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds.
The City of Fun carnival starts on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
Rhodes said the livestock show at the Box Elder County Fair is probably one of the biggest in the state. And then, of course, there’s the crops barn, where people bring “the pride of the summer out of their gardens,” according to Rhodes.
The annual antique tractor display is another popular event at the fair, as is the tractor parade on Saturday.
“And we have lots of handiwork on display in the home arts building — quilts and afghans and doilies and preserves,” Rhodes said. “I don’t know that a lot of fairs still do preserves, but people up here enter their pickles, peaches and jams.”
At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the free bandstand entertainment begins with Josie Payne and Erica Payne, followed by Grand Ole Opry performers Flying W Wranglers, and the 1960s cover band Endless Summer.
Headliner for Thursday night’s entertainment is the Beatles tribute band Imagine, taking the stage at 8 p.m. Friday’s headliner is Sage Junction, and on Saturday a traditional country-western performance by the Malad City, Idaho-based Rough Stock Band will conclude the fair’s entertainment.
“They close the fair down every year, and it’s really good,” Rhodes said. “The people hate to leave.”
Rhodes said the county has added 1,380 new bleacher seats to the rodeo arena this year, bringing the total number of seats in the arena to 6,230. They’ve also added new restrooms and a concessions stand.
The Golden Spike PRCA Bronc Riding Classic will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 21, in the arena, followed by the Golden Spike PRCA Rodeo on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 22-24.
A new event this year, according to Rhodes, is the Cowgirl Breakaway Roping.
Tickets to the rodeo are $6-$25, available through www.goldenspikerodeo.com.
Rhodes said the Box Elder County Fair is a throwback to the good old days of county fairs. Unlike many others these days, she said this county fair has no entry fees, no admission fees and no parking fees.
“It’s a good place to come, and bring your family,” Rhodes said. “A lot of people plan their vacations around the fair, and some plan their vacations at the fair.”