The bounty of Boundary County Fair
By Abigail Thorpe
Every summer since 1920, growers and livestock owners have met to display their goods, learn from and socialize with one another. It’s formed an annual tradition of community spirit, appreciation and kinship that is the Boundary County Fair.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of a county tradition that remains at its heart a celebration of the community, the individuals, and the commitment to family and land that marks our northern community.
The first fair, held in 1920, reminds us of why we continue the tradition every year. “The officers of the fair association desire to call attention to the importance of holding an annual fair. The exhibitors are brought together in friendly competition and thus are stimulated to grow better agricultural products and raise better livestock. Each man sees what his neighbor has produced or raised and, if interested, may learn what methods were pursued to accomplish the results attained. Every farmer of the county should endeavor to bring in exhibits and to work to make this, our first fair, a grand success … Remember, this is your fair,” - 1920 Boundary County Fair Book.
“The fair serves the community by providing a summer activity that everyone can get involved with,” says Boundary County Fair Administrator Paula Burt. It provides a space for anyone to enter an exhibit in a wide array of categories— it’s not only a venue for 4-H and FFA students. “Fair seems to be the one event the county looks forward to every summer. It’s a time when friends who haven’t seen one another during the year seem to catch up with each other,” adds Burt.
Every summer the fair is a time North Idaho communities can gather and share their talents, pass along helpful tips, celebrate community and farming, and enjoy some simple, old-fashioned fun.
Many board members and attendees have participated in the fair for years—if not generations. Board Member Glenda Poston’s mother served as a flower superintendent and then general super for the Boundary County Fair for decades, and Poston herself has been involved for 40-plus years. “One year I would see all of these beautiful cakes, pies, cookies [and] breads go to waste,” she recalls. “So I thought, ‘Let’s auction them off.’ Well, you know the rest of the story. The proceeds from those auctions have assisted in many improvements within the exhibit hall.”
In past years, they would dedicate the fair to an individual who was a sort of figure head or “fixture” of the fair, before a fair “queen” or “fairest of the fair” became the tradition. Poston’s mother was one such individual honored, in addition to many other beloved locals. “Doris Howard was so excited the year she won, and then there was Irene Rice and many more,” recalls Poston. “A lot of these folks have left us, but the memories that we have from them are priceless.”
Besides the livestock exhibitions, the fair always includes local growers and artists exhibiting their goods, and the fair food is always a favorite for fairgoers. This year the Boundary County Fair anticipates adding new vendors to provide more variety for visitors.
In light of the current health crisis, the fair board is working hard to provide a safe, clean environment for everyone for the fair anticipated to be held August 12 through 15 at the fairgrounds in Bonners Ferry.
Board members don’t expect the fair can be postponed: “We have animals that need to be sold, garden crops only last so long, etc.,” explains Poston. But the board is prepared to change plans or address issues as needed as the fair date approaches.
There will be a free concert this year on Thursday night sponsored by P1FCU and Coldwell Banker Northwoods Realty, featuring Christy Lee and Marshall Catch Band. Children can look forward to the magician, who will be performing throughout the fair weekend, and there will be games for all ages on Saturday, along with a parade.
For years the fair has been a fixture of the Bonners Ferry community and an anticipated event to celebrate and have fun. “It brings people together; some people will only see each other on a yearly basis while at the fair,” says Poston.
This year the board and community hope things will be no different—though slightly altered to allow for the safety and health of all attendees. “Our senior community so loves the fair, and I enjoy seeing them there taking in all the different exhibits and events, but I certainly want to keep them safe from these health concerns,” explains Poston.
The fair board will do everything they can to make this year’s fair possible—and safe. Look forward to celebrating 100 years of North Idaho’s beloved fair at the anniversary of the Boundary County Fair: “From Pioneer Days to Modern Ways.”
*Due to current health concerns, dates and event information may change. For updated information, please visit BoundaryCountyID.org/site-page/pioneer-days-modern-ways-boundary-county-fair-celebrates-100-years-2020-august-12-15th.