Story by Baker Geist, Weld County Communications Specialist, photo from Chuck and Roni Sylvester
Seeing a bear in a cage.
That sight next to the gazebo where Chuck Sylvester played as a five-year-old saved him from an otherwise mundane first experience at the Weld County Fair. Watching his sister’s various projects get judged was more than his young attention span could take so he roamed around the fairgrounds longing to participate rather than sit still.
That mundane experience at the fair was forgotten a few years later, in 1947, when Sylvester became old enough to participate. He not only participated, he excelled at every opportunity. He showed steers in 1947 and 1948, before showing a Red Roan horse at the Colorado State Fair in 1949. A few years later, he showed another steer at the Weld County Fair and earned the opportunity to show that same steer at the National Western Stock Show in Denver in 1952.
The success in the fair didn’t change Sylvester’s personality. Fair participant Mary Kanode remembers Sylvester as being a big name in the fair and said his kindness added to her experience.
“There were people that I met at the time like Chuck Sylvester and Stow Whitwer and others that were big names in the area, and they were always very nice people,” Kanode said.
Showing animals with success takes dedication and a continued work ethic, but for Sylvester, his participation in the fair was never a burden.
“I’ve always had a tremendous passion and love for agriculture,” Sylvester said, mentioning his fondness for learning in the Big Bend 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America (FFA).
He enjoyed learning about agriculture as much as participating in the fair and decided to continue that passion throughout his professional career. As a youth agent for the CSU Extension Office from 1963 to 1969, he taught judging to different youth teams, believing that the skills learned translate to everyday life.
“I’ve always been a strong advocate of judging,” Sylvester said. “Every kid should be required to take judging because it teaches them how to make a decision.”
Following his work as an extension agent, he went on to work for the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, Colo. from 1969 to 1972, before becoming General Manager of the National Western Stock Show in 1978, a position he held for 25 years. According to Colorado’s 4-H website, Sylvester dedicated his time to “increasing attendance among the urban population of Denver through quality exhibits and increased educational opportunities for the consumer.”
While continually advancing his love for agriculture in different ways and in different venues throughout Colorado, he never forgot the value of the Weld County Fair.
In the 1970’s and ’80s, Sylvester also served on the Weld County Fair Board, and was its chairman for a few years. Sylvester’s involvement with the fair from an administrative aspect allowed him the opportunity to see it grow and change into an event that attracts people with a variety of different interests. Its willingness to do so is what has enabled it to last 100 years.
“I remember when we had the Weld County Harvest Fair which was for adults and how my mother was in charge of vegetables and how she loved that,” Sylvester said. “Things change over the years for a good reason. Interests change and so the fair has to change to keep up.”
Although Sylvester’s first experience at the Weld County Fair as a little boy wasn’t all that exciting, he’s certainly had his fair share memorable moments since. Although one would expect Sylvester to mention his success showing animals at the fair or his 2011 induction into the Colorado 4-H Hall of Fame as his greatest ag memories, they don’t even make the list.
His greatest memories are split between seeing the growth of the Weld County Fair and getting the honor of meeting and becoming friends with some great people throughout the agricultural community.
It’s okay that he can’t pick one memory. It sounds like a good problem to have.