But not in 2020. The Colorado State Fair is ongoing (it officially began on August 28 and concludes on Monday, September 7), but in a much diminished version owing to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19. And the impact of the ongoing pandemic that we witnessed in Pueblo during a visit on Saturday, August 29, was profound, widespread and undeniably sad.
Governor Jared Polis staged his September 1 update about Colorado's response to the novel coronavirus in Pueblo — a location chosen in part to emphasize the need for greater disease testing in southern Colorado, whose positivity numbers are considerably higher than in the state as a whole.
Unfortunately, most folks can only enjoy such fair staples virtually, if at all. As we learned upon our arrival on August 29, the only element of the fair regularly open to members of the general public are food services, which have been converted to a drive-up operation.
The set-up requires drivers to pay in advance for food at booths located near the grounds' entry point, then pull into the appropriate line to receive their order. But you can't dine at the fairgrounds; takeout was the only option.
Because ponying up $10 for a corn-dog basket didn't seem particularly appealing, we headed to downtown Pueblo. We'd last visited the area on a weekend during the 2019 Colorado State Fair, and while most people had headed straight to the fairgrounds that day, foot traffic in the downtown district was steady and healthy.
The contrast was even greater in the area of the Pueblo Riverwalk, one of Colorado's true gems of urban design, placed along a portion of the Arkansas River.
During the 2019 fair, the Riverwalk was bustling with activity: kids cavorting on a conveniently located playground, as well as families and visitors eyeballing statues, murals and other examples of Pueblo's art scene. And those who worked up an appetite covering the one-mile route along the water found plenty of food options nearby.
Our time in Pueblo was reminiscent of our July trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming, during the period when Cheyenne Frontier Days 2020, was supposed to have taken place. Both are towns where businesses rely on revenue bursts from a single annual event to help them get through the tough times.
With those happenings either eliminated or diminished by COVID-19, the times have become even tougher.