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Three days remain in one of the biggest county fairs in Colorado, this year celebrating 100 years of blue-ribbon cows and pickles and rodeo queens.

A lot has changed since 1905, when Conestoga wagons brought fairgoers to the first El Paso County Fair, held in Calhan, east of the Springs. That event featured a bumper crop of potatoes for baking and a horse race.

"The first one was more about displaying merchandise and determining who had the best apple pie," says Debbie Galle, the fair's assistant manager.

These days, people can go aquarium trout fishing, watch an ATV rodeo or judge a wiener dog costume contest. Carnival rides such as the Gravitron, the Tilt-A-Wheel and the Dizzy Dragons (pictured above) swirl into the evening.

Many events combine old and new; an "Extreme Bikes and Broncs" rodeo and motocross event will be held Friday and Saturday nights. "Motocross fans will walk up and say, 'Wow, that's a pig,'" Galle says.

Some things remain the same: Row after row of cattle, hare, swine and fowl preen for a coveted blue ribbon. And the fair still is focused mainly on agriculture, Galle says.

"We're here to teach the young people how to grow food," she says. "That's what the county fair's here for."

But it's not just for farmers.

"This is for all residents of the county, not just the folks out east," Galle says. "You don't just come and watch it, you become a part of it."

For more information, go online to elpasocountyfair.com, or call 520-7880.

-- Dan Wilcock

Photo by Sarah Jane Griesemer

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