Organizer returns to his roots at the Summit County Fair
August 5, 2016
Cliff Blonquist grew up just outside of the Coalville City limits and doesn't recall a summer when he didn't attend the Summit County Fair.
Blonquist, who is 72 years old, said he would ride his bicycle three miles into town to spend the money he had made hauling hay throughout the summer at the carnival. He especially remembers when he was around 12 years old and spent all his earnings to win a silver, engraved bracelet.
"It had my name scribbled on it and it was so inexpensive and cheap," Blonquist laughed. "But that was kind of my first lesson about working and losing money. One of the worst lessons I learned.
"But I still have that bracelet," he said.
Blonquist has been helping others create similar memories at the fair for more than 35 years. In the 1980s, he became a Summit County commissioner when county officials were beginning to explore the possibility of revamping the event. He has rarely left the scene since.
"The fair has been a big part of our lives," Blonquist said. "I take our family down there and we have always attended. I hope that it just keeps generating interest as it changes with the times."
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Each year, the Summit County Fair features several home arts and 4-H exhibits, a carnival, live entertainment, demolition derby and rodeo, which Blonquist organized for the first time in 1993. The 2016 Summit County Fair starts today, Saturday, Aug. 6. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo will be held on Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13.
Over the years, organizers have worked hard maintain the rural aesthetics of the event while continuing to provide top-notch entertainment, Blonquist said, adding that he thinks they have succeeded.
"We have wanted to keep this a rural, county fair," Blonquist said. "We certainly didn't want this to turn into something that relies on commercial business and it doesn't."
Overseeing rodeo operations and serving many years on the fair board has given Blonquist a firsthand look at how the overall event has evolved.
"This used to be strictly a North and South Summit thing, but as we have started to grow we have started to have a lot of participation from Park City and the Basin," Blonquist said, adding "that's the idea."
"That is what this is all about and I never wanted to view it as strictly an East Side event," he said. "People want to be entertained and it's nice to see how each event brings out a different crowd."
However, Blonquist was reluctant to talk about his role and the impact he has had on the event. He said he doesn't want to take anything away from the other volunteers.
"We get a lot of great support for this and it's not any one person who puts it all together," Blonquist said. "It's a joint venture we have all undertaken to make sure we keep folks entertained."
Kellie Robinson, a previous fair coordinator, said Blonquist was instrumental in bringing a professional caliber rodeo to the county fair.
"Cliff (Blonquist) persuaded the commission to do the rodeo and since then they have added bleachers for more seating and it draws professional cowboys from the around the county," Robinson said. "It kind of really stepped up the rodeo and he is the one that makes that happen each year. We have to give all the credit to him on that.
"I mean he loves rodeo and if he isn't attending ours he is attending someone else's," Robinson said. "That's his love: rodeo."
Blonquist likened the county fair to Christmas. He said he looks forward to the event every year and once it happens, he's starts thinking about the next one. When asked why he has continued to volunteer, he said: it's the people.
"At one point during the fair, I'll usually stand and lean against the fence and look around at the people that are having a good time. That is what motivates me," Blonquist said. "That and the fact that we are still going after over 100 years and it is still a place people want to go.
"And that is the nice thing about it and it has maintained that level and it is still rural
The 2016 Summit County Fair starts today, Saturday, Aug. 6. The food booths open at 5 p.m. and the demolition derby begins at 7 p.m. The exhibits will be displayed beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 9. To view the entire schedule, http://summitcountyfair.org/.
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