Gila County Fair celebrates 50 years in 2019. Courtesy photo
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Gila County Fair Celebrates Golden Age Milestone

It’s Gila County Fair’s 50th birthday, and in celebration, this year’s fair promises to be the biggest show ever.
Exciting new events have been added to the lineup, including a Ranch Rodeo, World Series Roping, Trailer Team Roping and a BMX exhibition—plus a Fear Factor and wildlife encounter. A horse show returns to this year’s fair and the dog agility competition, held last year for 4-H members only, is now open to the public.

These events join familiar crowd favorites, the All-American Beef Cook Off, Brown’s Amusement Carnival, agriculture experience tent, old-fashioned fair night, go-kart racing and entertainment. This year’s entertainers include Shari Rowe opening for Waterloo Revival, Harry Luge, Southwest Surfers, Power Elite dancers and more.

Exhibit hall entries will run the gamut from quilts and jams to vegetables, photography, hobbies, and scarecrows. A continuous slide show of all previous years will be shown at the Exhibit Hall.

The BMX show comes to the 2019 Gila County Fair.
Courtesy photo

“The Gila County Fair is about generations of traditions and heritage being passed down to the upcoming children,” Fair Chairman Janet Cline said. “To inspire our youth to grow into responsible adults is what raising livestock helps accomplish.” 

The first Gila County Fair was held in 1970.

It all started when six kids—Grant Boice, Mary Boice Moreton, Frank DalMollin, Elaine Hagen McBride, Eric Treible and Jeff Mercer—wanted to begin showing steers.

This prompted Bob Boice, with the Slash S Ranch, to start the first 4-H Club in Globe, known as the Gila MonSteers, in 1964.

For many years, the Gila MonSteers kept their animals at the Globe Stockyards on Walliman Road, then owned by Buster Mounce. This was also where all the steers were shown and sold before Globe’s fairgrounds were developed. For several years before there was a scale at the fairgrounds, livestock owners and 4H’ers continued to use Mounces scales to weigh their animals.

Three years after the Tucson trip, then-County Supervisor Bill Bohme approached local rancher Kendrick Holder about acquiring the state land lease Holder held on what is now the fairgrounds.

Holder donated the 160 acres with the stipulation that it be used for agriculture for the fair and racetrack, according to Cline.

Bohme, along with Joe and Mabel Bassett and volunteers from the Globe Junior Chamber of Commerce, began working on the racetrack.

“The profits from our horse racing weekends helped develop the fairgrounds each year,” Cline said.

Gila County Fair Chairman Janet Cline.
Courtesy photo

Bob Boice—then-Gila County Fair and Racing Commission’s chairman—and former Globe Mayor Bill Lewis began making improvements to the fairgrounds by adding a rodeo arena in 1968.

Over the years, improvements gradually changed the look of things at the fairgrounds.

The first county fairs were organized by Bob Boice—a University of Arizona alum—along with fellow alumnus and local rancher Jim Tidwell, and the U of A Extension Service County Agent, Van Wilson.

Livestock judges were hired through the Extension Office.

“The livestock shows were held up on the racetrack back then, as there were no facilities like you see today down below the track,” Cline said. “Those were some exciting times as, occasionally, steers would get away on the track and have lots of fun being chased.”

The work begun more than 50 years ago to help 4-H’ers—and now Future Farmers of America (FFA) students—to humanely raise their animals and find businesses to purchase their livestock continues today, she said. 

“We are happy to keep the tradition going,” Cline said.

“We have kids coming from all over the county to compete at our 50th Gila County Fair and show off their hard work in all their projects,” said Cline. 

This year, Payson, Strawberry/Pine, Young, Tonto Basin, Globe, Miami, Claypool, Winkelman, and San Carlos will be well-represented, she said.

“We want to invite you all to come out and support our youth. We’ve come a long way from the original six kids selling their steers,” Cline said. 

Cline estimates that this year, somewhere in the neighborhood of 37 steers, 14 goats, 14 lambs, and 267 market pigs will pass through the livestock auction.

The fair will run this year from Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19–22. The 50th Junior Livestock Auction begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22.

Showing steers in 1970, members of the Gila County 4-H Club.
Courtesy photo.

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