“County fair, county fair, everybody in town’ll be there. So come on, hey, we’re goin’ down there,” sings The Boss, calling you to head down to Calhan this weekend.

For 114 years, the El Paso County Fair has been celebrating agriculture and the Western way of life. It drew more than 30,000 people last year, with more anticipated this time as the rodeo, car show and carnival draw in visitors from across the state.

“Everyday is a fun day at the fair,” says programming director Stacy Starr, “and for the camels, everyday is hump day at the El Paso Country Fair.”

Camel Kingdom, one of three daily animal events, teaches kids about their favorite dromedaries and gives them the opportunity to engage with and ride the animals. Reptile Kingdom, hosted by three-decade reptile expert Dan Conner, encourages engagement and participation with the biggest and most interesting of scaly critters. Think snapping turtles, large snakes and even alligators. Don’t forget to stop by the petting zoo afterwards, where the kiddos can run wild with goats, alpacas, ducks and more.

“We try to keep things centered around our 4H and FFA kids and their projects. We have beef, sheep, swine, poultry, goats, rabbits, alpacas and llamas — all kinds of different animals that people can come out and see, that these kids work on all year as projects to bring to fair,” says Starr.

After your safari, check out Jay Matiolli and his electrifying magic, straight from “America’s Got Talent” and “Showtime at the Apollo.” And for the adults? Enjoy a concert, included with admission, at the end of each night. Mark Powell, Sandy Wells, Exit West, Ashlee & The Longshot Revival, Curtis Grimes and Fire Line are set to blow the roof off of their venues with new and exciting country music.

The fair is meant to offer something for everyone, and so it does. From the delicious food celebrating local cuisine, carnival classics and nontraditional fare, to the Classic Car show, auto races and rodeo, something is sure to catch your eye.

“It started as a celebration of the harvest,” Starr says. “We started as a potato festival, and it’s always been a celebration of agriculture and the agricultural way of life. Then it just grew by adding all of the special attractions and events to get lots of visitors to come out and learn.”

The nonprofit event runs for eight days in July, so break out your closed-toe shoes and head on down to the fairgrounds for a day of fun.

Kate Powell, The Gazette, kate.powell@gazette.com

Kate Powell is a recent graduate from the University of Denver, having studied Journalism and Socio-Legal Studies. She self identifies as a writer and a pet mom, and joined the Gazette Features staff in 2019.

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