Saying goodbye to the old fairgrounds

Jordyn Jensen, 11, shows her market lamb at the Bonneville County Fair on Aug. 10, 2016. Jordyn, of Firth, raised the lamb, which the family planned to sell. Kevin Trevellyan / Post Register file

The final Bonneville County Fair to be hosted on the outskirts of Tautphaus Park will commence Friday.

“The preparations have been tremendous,” fair board chairman Stan Boyle said. “We’ve had great help from the kids.”

“All the events will be good,” said Casey Perez, a leader in the local New Sweden Livestock Club 4-H chapter. “The fair is always a lot of fun. We have great junior showmen in the county. Most of our livestock classes are very competitive all the way from the novice classes to the seniors.”

The fair has been held in the area since 1911 — though they may have been held in a different area near Tautphaus Park. The Idaho Register, a forerunner of the Post Register, reported that year that a fair board had been incorporated and planned to begin horse shows at a new fairgrounds near Tautphaus Park.

But after more than a century in that area, a new fairgrounds near Sandy Downs is under construction to replace the existing ones, and the 2019 fair will take place there.

It’s a bittersweet moment for many longtime participants.

“I’ve got mixed feelings,” Perez said. “There’s a lot of history at those fairgrounds. For as long as I’ve been around, there’s been a lot of fairs and a lot of memories shared. But it’s a blessing to know that we’re moving to new fairgrounds because we’ve outgrown the old ones.”

Boyle, who has been active in 4-H for 38 years, said when he started all the animals raised by local youths could be housed in one of the barns at the fairgrounds.

“Now, we have two barns completely full and we’re having to erect a huge tent in the parking lot to house the rest of them,” he said. “That shows how much it has grown.”

The new fairgrounds will have newer buildings, much more space and a variety of amenities to support diverse 4-H activities from livestock raising to cooking.

But the old grounds hold many memories, Boyle said.

Like the year a steer broke loose and charged toward heavy traffic.

“One day we were there at the fair and a beef animal got loose, and it got out there on Rollandet,” Boyle said. “It was headed for 17th Street at a run. The poor kid who owned the calf — it was about a 1,200 pound steer — was scared.”

Boyle said a 4-H leader, Cuco Cervantes, had to jump into action. Cervantes, “a good man with a lariat,” jumped in the back of a pickup truck, which chased the steer down the road.

“He roped that steer out of the back of a pickup just before it reached 17th Street,” Boyle said.”Boy, that youngster was happy to see Cuco leading his steer back to the fairgrounds.”

And there was the time a girl suddenly became seriously ill and had to be hospitalized. The other participants rallied and showed the girl’s animals before they were sold off.

“All these kids took over her job and did her job while she was in the hospital,” he said.

It’s time to say goodbye to the old digs, Boyle said, but it won’t be easy.

“We sure have had a lot of great times at the old fairgrounds,” he said.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.