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‘Lettuce Turnip the Beet’!

The Bonner County Fair and Rodeo bring local family fun this month

By Taylor Shillam

Photo Courtesy of Bonner County Fair & Rodeo

Celebrating all things related to local heritage and agriculture, the Bonner County Fair & Rodeo will return in full swing this month. The fair promises lighthearted family fun with its themed event “Lettuce Turnip the Beet,” following the return of the treasured Sandpoint Bonner County PRCA Rodeo.

For decades, the mission of the Bonner County Fair has been to promote agricultural heritage and the future of the county. Offering a space to gather and celebrate the heritage and accomplishments of the Sandpoint community, the Bonner County Fair and Rodeo are celebrated for their positive economic and social impacts felt throughout the local area. This year, the rodeo will be held August 6 and 7, followed by the fair from August 18 through August 21.

Sandpoint’s seventh annual rodeo event promises two nights of immersing in grit, adventure and strength. An event sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA), some of the top rodeo organizations in the world, the Sandpoint Bonner County Rodeo draws lively crowds and skilled competitors. In 2016, it won the PRCA’s Columbia River Circuit Small Rodeo of the Year.

Rodeo attendees will have the chance to see local rodeo royalty, barrel riding, bareback riding, and more, providing the perfect opportunity to have a blast with the whole family.

Last year, the Bonner County Rodeo committee was faced with the difficult decision to cancel the rodeo in the midst of the pandemic. Despite efforts to continue the event with precautions in place, it simply wasn't possible in 2020. Those who missed the local tradition can celebrate its return this August.

Following the rodeo, the Bonner County Fair will round out an exciting month of local festivities.

“We will have some great new food vendors and entertainment at the fair this year! We have great entertainment in the outdoor theater each night,” said Darcey Smith, Fairgrounds and Facility director. The fair’s top attractions of 2021 include a performance by the Copper Mountain Band, bull riding, and the Demolition Derby.

The Copper Mountain Band is known as a high-energy country and classic rock group appealing to audiences of all ages. They bring a selection of original tunes and a willingness to cover a wide range of song requests. The Copper Mountain Band is set to play on Thursday, August 19, at 7:30pm, with presale tickets available online.

Challenge of Champions Bull Riding will take the main event stage on the evening of Friday, August 20, promising to rock the outdoor grandstands with the area’s top bull riders. Saturday night will follow up with the Sandpoint Smash Demolition Derby, promising the chance to watch hard-hitting drivers compete for cash prizes.

For each of the fair’s main events, tickets are available online and at various locations across Sandpoint, including North40, Carter Country, and the Fair Office. Kids aged 5 and younger always receive free main event admission.

The Bonner County Fair was first held in 1927, with 20 participating communities gathering near War Memorial Park, where the original fairgrounds were located. Today, the fair continues to be a prosperous event for the community, with an unprecedented number of exhibit entries in 2019, and a modified event in 2020.

The Bonner County Fairgrounds itself takes pride in its beautiful Sandpoint location, bordering the Selkirk Mountains and the northern shores of Lake Pend Oreille. They have an incredible backdrop for their host of events lining the calendar year.

“There is always something happening on the fairgrounds,” they shared, including “rodeos, motor sports, horse shows, indoor soccer, volleyball, trade shows, fundraisers, reunions, weddings and, in August, the award-winning Bonner County Fair.”

Although the fair was able to continue last year through pandemic restrictions, they look forward to a greater comeback in 2021.

“It has been rough the last couple of years, and we were thankful to still be able to provide a safe and fun fair last year,” Smith shared. “The amount of people that came to our events and shared their exhibits and animals with us, even though it was a tough year, was so very heartwarming.”

The fairgrounds team has nothing but gratitude for the local community, noting the fair’s ability to bring together community members from all walks of life.

“We have farmers, crafters, car gurus, foodies, and much more that attend our fair each year,” Smith said. “The annual traditions are huge in Bonner County, and we are so very passionate about keeping these traditions alive.”

Each fair exhibit is designed to provide clean, old-fashioned entertainment for the entire family, with opportunities to reflect on great memories while creating new ones. The exhibits are also designed to promote friendly rivalry among participants while encouraging community engagement and the celebration of local achievements.

Admission to the Bonner County Fair is, as always, free of charge. A daily parking fee of $3 will be charged per car, with $10 weekly passes available prior to the fair’s opening day. A little-known fact among Bonner County residents is just where the proceeds from parking charges go.

“The parking fees at the Fair are 100 percent donated back to our high school students in Bonner County,” Smith shared. “Fifty percent of the fees collected go to the high school clubs who volunteer during the fair. The other 50 percent goes toward college and trade school scholarships for graduates.”

This year, the Bonner County Fairgrounds will continue to closely monitor safety recommendations regarding the pandemic and public safety. Attendees can expect to see the fairgrounds incorporating additional hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations, along with social distancing guidelines. A drive-through exhibit entry will also be available for anyone who may be uncomfortable entering the buildings onsite.

First-time visitors should have no trouble locating the fair, as the Bonner County Fairgrounds hold a prime location just under 2 miles north of downtown Sandpoint and 1 mile east of Ponderay, within minutes from lodging, food, shopping and Highway 95.

Although the annual fair is a highlight of the year, the fairgrounds are available for much more, including horse stall rentals and overnight camping. The grounds are scenic and spacious, hosting 32 dedicated campsites with available restrooms, showers, water and electrical hookups. The campground is open from April to October, with limited camping in the winter months. From the campgrounds, they offer free public transportation to downtown Sandpoint and Ponderay through the “Spot Bus.”

“We have been able to constantly provide a safe and fun environment for our community,“ Smith shared, with pride for all the fairgrounds have to offer. “The fair is able to bring the community together, and we are so very grateful for our community.”

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