El Paso County Fair butterflies will be released into the Colorado wilderness when the fair ends. The tigers will not.
The fair maintains an impressive menagerie. Fairgoers can feed butterflies in the Butterfly Encounter or cuddle the petting zoo's furry inhabitants. White and golden tigers perform in the "Eyes of the Tigers" show while the Burck family discusses training and living with the Bengals. Four-H members display their prized livestock.
"We have so many different kids that work so hard all year long to bring their animals to the fair and exhibit them," says Stacy Reavis, fairground program coordinator. "They love to talk about how they groom, feed and take care of the animals."
Animal encounters are only a small part of the fair's packed eight-day schedule. Many carnival rides pepper the skyline. Or watch a truck and tractor pull, rodeo, demolition derby and numerous concerts.
"I think it's important to find events and acts that are relevant to our area but are still very innovative and creative and reach a broad group of people," says Reavis. "We try to keep it interesting and fun for all ages and walks of life."
The fair has grown considerably since its inception in the Calhan schoolyard in 1905. Although the stage now attracts national talent ("The Voice" runner-up Jake Worthington performs July 20), county residents are still the core. A number of contests pull focus back to the community; people compete for prizes in home-brew, pantry, hobby and creative-arts divisions.
"The glamour is the carnival and the demolition derby," says Todd Marts, county recreation manager. "But the heart is 4-H and the opportunity to see what people have been doing throughout the year."