Nothing speaks to ‘small town atmosphere’ like a county fair and rodeo. And, according to Kathy Black, Fairgrounds Manager, the Gem County Fair Board has been continuously hosting the Gem/Boise County Fair & Rodeo since 1950 at their current 35-acre location.
In today’s information rich technological world it is a wonder to think back about the start of county and state fairs and their purpose. Not much written information was available to farmers and ranches about ‘best practices’ and only the wealthy could afford to experiment with ‘new’ technology in farming. Dating back to the early 1800’s, the first state fair was held in New York and sponsored by an agricultural society. Their purpose was to share information and techniques to promote the best farming and ranching methods. Educational classes were offered and prizes were offered for the “best” practices. Special events like racing, dances and entertainment were offered to attract families to the fair.
“The county fair and fairgrounds help to promote our rich agricultural history and teach new generations about farming and ranching,” said Black. “This years’ attendance was awesome. Given the recession, this was truly a comeback for the fair and rodeo. We had record numbers in the stands.”
The Gem/Boise County Fair & Rodeo is held the first week of August. While it is the largest event held, the fairgrounds are responsible for many other events, is open year-round and is available for rental.
“We host pari-mutuel horse racing over two weekends at the end of April each year,” said Black. “We’ve also hosted all kinds of special arena events like rodeos, bull riding, roping events and even jousting. People may not realize they can rent the facility to put on these types of public events. Our buildings are available for rent as well for private or public events. Winter archery, the Hospital Auxiliary’s Festival of Wreaths, auctions and gun shows rent our buildings annually and we rent to private parties for weddings, reunions or other events. Everything is for rent. We’ve even rented the show pavilion and held the Project Graduation Haunted House.”
In addition, the grounds have 150 stall plus tack rooms and a shower available for long and short-term rentals. The sand arena located on the highway is open to the public from dawn to dusk at no-charge.
“I have a dream that we someday remodel and insulate the Expo building to turn it into a community building that can be utilized year round,” said Black. “I love what our county fair and fairgrounds stand for. Our focus in on agriculture and also that hometown feel and I love that.”